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Apr 23, 2014 1:28am

Julia Usher baking in her home kitchen
Blog Recipes and Tips From Julia Usher

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

To the uninitiated, pickles can be off-putting. Any food that vies for blue ribbons at the state fair automatically implies a certain level of complexity. Couple this award-winning potential with the lore of champions relinquishing titles over softness, cloudiness, or God forbid, spoilage, and the intimidation factor is enough to cause seasoned cooks to gasp at the sight of a Mason jar. Immediate gratification determines the winner for me, which is why I often opt for simple refrigerator pickles like these dill spears. They don’t require lengthy fermentation or any fussy boiling protocol; plus, the pickles will end up greener and crisper for having avoided the sterilizing bath. Note: This recipe hails from my James Beard-nominated column for Sauce magazine.

Yield: About nine 1-pint jars

Prep Talk: Because the jars do not undergo processing in boiling water, they must be stored in the refrigerator at all times. For best eating, allow the flavors to meld about 3 weeks.


  • About 12 pickling cucumbers (5 to 6 ounces each), ends trimmed (I like Bush Pickle and Carolina varieties.)
  • 3 cups pearl onions (about 3, 6-ounce bags), blanched and skins removed
  • 5 tablespoons pickling or Kosher salt, divided
  • About 2 trays ice cubes
  • About 18 sprigs fresh dill (each about 5 inches long, 2 per jar)
  • About 18 whole cloves garlic (2 per jar), peeled
  • 4 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 4 1/2 cups water


1 | To fit the cucumbers in pint-size jars, cut them in half cross-wise; then quarter each half lengthwise. (For full-size dill spears, simply quarter the trimmed cucumbers, without cutting them in half first. And, use quart-size jars to allow adequate room.)

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