Grandma’s Refrigerator Pickles

Before I had children, I had a garden. It was a big garden, and I did a lot of canning. In all honesty, I gave up my garden a couple of years before having kids because I had to relocate it due to a farm project that was turning half of it into a grass strip (that couldn’t be part of a garden), and I never got around to starting a new one because I was busy, and then I had kids and got busier, and…I digress.

One of my favorite canning recipes was lime sweet pickles that my grandma always made growing up, but she also had a good refrigerator pickle recipe. The lime pickles are a big commitment that (in my opinion) is only warranted if you’re going to put up quite a few jars to make it worth the effort. These refrigerator pickles are not as nostalgic, as I don’t really remember her making them, but Grandma shared the recipe when I started gardening for the times I had either limited cucumbers or limited time, and they are delicious.

I actually wanted to finally start the new (much smaller) garden this year with the boys, but it didn’t happen\. Dominic (my 3-year-old) LOVES pickles, though, so I decided maybe I could buy some cucumbers and make some of those refrigerator pickles. Since making that decision, it seems the universe has been opposed to my plan.

First, I lost the recipe. I had my mom send me hers, but it was the wrong one – it didn’t require salting the veggies beforehand and used celery salt instead of celery seed (two of the parts I remembered specifically), so I turned to google and found this one, which is at least really close if it’s not the same. I’m not sure why I didn’t just call or email my grandma, but it was after 9 pm, and I had a bag of cucumbers in the refrigerator.

Then we ate a couple of those cucumbers, and I realized I didn’t really have enough cucumbers or enough vinegar to even bother with refrigerator pickles. That week I bought two bags of mini-cucumbers (because I thought the seedless variety would make good pickles), and I went to make the pickles on day 4 or 5 after my grocery pickup, and the cucumbers were already moldy! UGH! I hate wasting food, but there went two lbs of cucumbers into my trash can….

Last week, I planned better. Since the mini-cukes molded so quickly (and this has happened to me with those before), I decided to use English cucumbers instead (still fewer seeds). I remembered that when making my grandma’s recipe, I usually came up short on liquid to fill the jars, so I planned to make 1.5x what the recipe actually called for. I’ve always used celery seed, but don’t really like celery, so I decided to make half the tried and true way (with celery seed) and half with mustard seed, as suggested in the linked recipe.

Sunday afternoon I sliced up and salted all my veggies, and started gathering things to make the “sauce”. I emptied my sugar canister and grabbed the bag of sugar I had stored in the back of the cupboard, except it wasn’t sugar….it was a bag of FLOUR! DOH! But this time, with some assistance, I persevered. David obtained three cups of sugar (in case I dumped a cup on the floor) from my mother-in-law (THANK YOU!!!), and finally, after two and half weeks of trying:


If you’re looking to make pickles without gardening, without spending days on the process, and without actually canning – THIS is the recipe for you!

What you’ll need:
  • Equipment
    • (6) Pint jars with lids
  • Pickle Ingredients
    • (3) Large English Cucumbers
    • (1) Green Pepper
    • (1) Red Onion
    • (2) TBSP Salt (+/-)
  • “Sauce” (pickling liquid) Ingredients
    • (1 1/2) Cups White Vinegar
    • (3) Cups Sugar
    • (1 1/2) tsp Celery Seed or Mustard Seed

Slice cumbers and medium dice onion and green pepper. Salt veggies generously and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours. Meanwhile, combine vinegar, sugar, and celery or mustard seed in a saucepan and boil until the sugar dissolves and the mixture turns from cloudy to clear. I let the sauce cool very slightly, and then combine with the veggies and add to jars. Refrigerate jars overnight. The pickles should last several weeks in the refrigerator. (Note: These are not truly canned, and should not be stored at room temperature, even if your jars seal from the heat).

As mentioned, I split this recipe and made half with celery seed and half with mustard seed. I used plastic screw-top lids instead of traditional canning lids for my wide-mouth pint jars. I used a canning funnel to fill the jars, which really helps (especially when you have boiling hot liquid).

We opened the first jar last night, and Dominic devoured his pickles and most of his brother’s. James liked biting the pickles, but didn’t actually eat many of them. He may have simply been full from the two helpings of jambalaya he’d finished off first, though since rice of any kind is his favorite food. I saved a few pickles for Dominic’s lunch tomorrow, and we otherwise wiped out the whole jar. I don’t think I’ll need to worry about exactly how long these could last at our house!

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