Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Freezer Pickles Demystified

Conceptually, I've been weirded out by the freezer pickle. Pickles are fermented, or soaked in fermented products (vinegar), and freezers put a stop to fermentation. Great pickles are crunchy, and freezers can make watery veggies, like cucumbers, mushy by bursting their cell walls. A useful thing about pickles is that they can be stored at room temperature, therefore not using any energy. Freezers are all about energy.

So what is the deal with freezer pickles?

I picked a week where I was beyond busy to investigate. That turned out to be okay, because let me tell you the secret of why people make freezer pickles: it's the fastest, simplest way.

There are limitations, of course. There will never be a freezer nuka pickle. There will never be a deeply fermented spicy garlic dill, with all those naturally occurring probiotic bacterias that feel so great in your belly and have such great flavor.

But if you're a fan of bread & butter style pickles, or super crisp pickle chips, or sour flavors, the freezer isn't a bad way to go.

Again, here I tread in dangerous waters that show my lack of understanding of chemistry & other high school sciences, but, sugar & vinegar are necessary ingredients. The sugar keeps the cucumbers extremely crisp, and the vinegar keeps the cukes from freezing all the way. Where the freezing air comes in is this: it expands the cells enough to let the flavor of the vinegar & spices in, fast. Then the vinegar goes on duty, keeping the hard freeze at bay, and keeping the texture from going mushy.

If you've read this far, you've spent more time reading than it takes to make freezer pickles. I had a mental block against this pickling method, but I have to say, freezer pickles are sour and sweet supercrunch satisfaction.
Simplest Freezer Pickle Recipe Ever
  • 8 c small cucumbers, cleaned & trimmed
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 T coarse sea salt
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 c white vinegar
  • 1 T whole celery seeds
  • 1 T whole mustard seeds

Place cucumber and onion slices in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and stir to mix. Let sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature. (I'm a pickler, and solidly believe in this step. Still, mine only had time to sit for about 15 minutes.)

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, vinegar, celery seeds and mustard seeds in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then pour over the cucumbers in the bowl. Stir well, let cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours (more or less), stirring occasionally. (I skipped the refrigeration altogether.)

Transfer to individual freezer containers or zipper-top bags and freeze for a minimum of 24 hours. Defrost and eat, anytime.
I was a bit aghast, but my freezer pickles, from a simple recipe where I'd cut corners even further, got raves.

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