In a pickle

4 Aug


I’ve wanted to get into canning/making preserves for several years now. It just seems like such a “lost art,” and with as much as I love summer produce, it seemed like something I should do.

But there were always so many reasons not to – I didn’t know how, it seemed scary and time-consuming, and I lacked the proper equipment. However, I have now ventured into the canning world (well, technically not, as I did my pickling in rectangular glass storage containers) and my recipes come from a surprising source – Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes.

Mr. Flay has a whole section devoted to condiments in this drool-inducing volume. Two of which caught my eye – the homemade dill pickles and the pickled red onion. Both require minimal time (think about 20 minutes each), no fancy equipment, don’t require you to know how to properly seal a jar (that’s one thing that’s always scared me about canning), and don’t make ginormous quantities – how could I go wrong? I figured last weekend’s burger party was the perfect venue to try these recipes out.

Homemade Dill Pickles – from Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes

Makes about 1 quartIMG_2340

  • 4 Kirby (or large pickling – that’s what I used) cucumbers
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh dill (this is the time of year to make these – that mega bouquet was only $1.50 at the market!)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt (I used sea salt)
  • 3/4 teaspoon dill seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

*Spice note: I remembered that I had some pickling spices leftover from another recipe, so I just used 2 teaspoons of those instead of the mustard and coriander. Pickling spices include these anyway, plus Bobby says to feel free to experiment with spices, so I did!

Slice the cucumbers into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Put the cucumber slices into a medium bowl or other container with a fitted lid that is large enough to hold them.

Combine 1 cup water with all remaining ingredients in a small non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the sugar and salt dissolve, about two minutes. Bobby says to let this cool to room temperature before the next step – but I didn’t!

Pour the mixture over the cucumbers, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to a week, stirring the mixture at least once during this time (I found they had plenty of flavour after 48 hours). Drain before serving, discarding liquid and aromatics.



Water, vinegar and aromatics in a pot all ready to boil! When this mixture was boiling, I thought my house smelled like Burger King. Smile




Vinegar/aromatics mixture poured over the cucumber slices and into the fridge it goes!




These pickles are SO yummy – perfect for topping burgers and sandwiches all summer long (or just for straight-up snacking like I sometimes do). I like them so much that I made another batch yesterday (hey, I’ve gotta find something to do with all that dill).


The pickled red onions I made are also quite tasty. Basically, they still taste onion-y, but don’t have that strong bite that fresh onions sometimes can, and the lime juice and flavourings give them an added dimension of flavour, or, as Bobby says, “they add a level of intrigue that raw onion slices could never do.” And this recipe is even simpler – no boiling! I really like the sort-of neon, pinkish hue they take, but be prepared for curious guests. To quote my friend Heather: “What are those things and why are they that colour?”

Pickled Red Onions from Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes

Makes about 2 cupsIMG_2360

  • 1 cup fresh lime juice (I used a mixture of bottled and fresh – sorry Bobby)
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher (or sea) salt
  • 2 large red onions
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 whole serrano chiles or jalapeno chiles, slit down the center (optional)

*Spice note: I used 2 small jalapenos, and didn’t find the heat overpowering at all.

Whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, sugar and salt in a medium nonreactive bowl and let sit until the salt and sugar dissolve, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and halve the onions, and then cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Add the onions, oregano, and chiles, if using, to the lime juice mixture and stir well to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 2 days, stirring the mixture at least once during this time. Drain before serving.




Everything’s diced up and ready for action – let’s pickle some onions!






Soaking up the lovely lime liquid.




If you, like me, are experiencing preserve-a-phobia (that’s a very scientific term meaning fear of canning), you should take the plunge with these recipes. Another bonus of pickled vegetables? Since they use very minimal sugar, calorie content is basically the same as fresh veggies, which = guilt-free snacking and topping! And while I have not done an official/scientific/nutritional comparison, I feel like the homemade versions would be lower in sodium than store-bought.

Both my grandmothers canned a lot (my one grandma still does), so I grew up eating homemade canned deliciousness, so maybe that’s part of the reason why I have a desire to do it. My dad’s mom makes delicious canned peaches (always a favourite growing up) as well as many other fruits. My mom’s mom’s repertoire wasn’t as varied, but my personal favourite growing up were her homemade sweet pickles. It took me years to realize why they were such a deep emerald green – she added food colouring! It was a days-long process that I, regretfully, never got to learn.

What is your experience with canning/preserving? Have you done it? Do you have a mother/grandmother who did/does? If so, any good tips/tricks/recipes for me?

2 Responses to “In a pickle”

  1. Life of a Happy Blonde August 4, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    Look at you getting your pickle on 🙂
    I love pickled beets but since i hate dill i’m not a fan of pickles! (it all stems from a large bag of dill pickle chips i ate once and then go sick, lol)

  2. Jennie August 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Yay you!!! If you’re looking for more of a ‘bite’, “pickling vinegar” is a bit stronger (7% vs 5% acetic acid) and is yummmmm.

    Come can with me! I’m still trying to figure out Grandma’s peach recipe… we can experiment together. And bring your sister!

    Nothing says “I’m rich” like pantry shelves lined with colourfully filled jars of summer’s goodness. Mmmmmmmm!

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