Pickles 101

Reader Contribution by Stephanie Bishop
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It’s pickle time in Wisconsin! Bumper crops of gorgeous green and gold vegetable torpedoes elegantly dangling from the vine are ripe for the picking. The farmers markets are filled with brimming baskets in case you didn’t grow your own.

I picked a lot of pickles as a kid. After what seemed like a hundred bushels we got some pocket change to go get Popsicles or root beer. I remember the little ones were worth more but it took so long to fill the basket. The work was hot and dirty but we made our own fun. We rode our bikes to and from the patch. Somebody would always find a giant yellow over ripe cucumber and start a pickle fight.

Growing up, my family made a lot of pickles. The basement walls were lined with jars. Giant stoneware crocks I could sit inside filled corners of the cellar. These were mainstays to get through the winter. Everything harvested from the garden was preserved.

I spent many warm summer afternoons in the kitchen with my grandmother and aunt, assisting in assembly line pickle production. There were crock pickles, hot water baths, pressure cookers and giant cauldrons bubbling on every burner. The smell of vinegar, onion, dill and garlic permeated the steamy air. They taught me well.

As an adult, one of the greatest compliments I ever received was from my father. He came to visit when I was making pickles. He breathed in and said “Ahh! It smells just like Ma’s in here!” I felt proud and smiled inside.

Many are intimidated by the thought of canning. Many pickle recipes do require knowledge of hot water baths and the like, but this recipe is super easy. Anybody can do it. If you can boil water, you can make these pickles.

Never fear! The pickle busha is here! Grab your babushka and let’s get to it! I’m sharing my favorite family recipe from my grandmother, Grandma Ski. The only equipment you need is a large kettle and a crock or jars to put your pickles in. You can use whole cucumbers of any size or slice them any way you please. Make my grandma proud! Enjoy!

Grandma Ski’s Refrigerator Pickles


2 C white vinegar

1/4 cup canning salt

1 quart water

Pickles to fill crock

4-5 sprigs of dill (heads)

Medium onion

2-3 garlic cloves (I use a whole head-YUM!)


Pack pickles, garlic, onion, dill in crock.

Bring brine to boil

Pour brine over pickles

Put on lid or cover crock with a plate


Wait 4 days


1. Gather your ingredients: Cukes, onions, garlic, dill, canning salt, vinegar and water

2. Boil full kettle of water

3. Wash your hands

4. Wash your jars (and lids if using) or crock; sanitize them in the boiling water

5. Scrub your cucumbers in plain water

6. Coarsely cut onions (you can also use tiny ones)

7. Peel garlic

8. Pack cucumbers, onion and garlic in crock

9. When crock or jar is almost full place more onions, dill (heads only, not stems) and garlic on top

10.Combine brine ingredients in kettle

11. Bring brine to a boil

12. Pour brine over cucumbers *If you don’t have enough brine to cover, make another batch*

13. Cover (“plate” in the old days because they used a plate to cover them)

14. Cool and put in fridge (crock in a cellar in days before refrigerators)

14. Wait 4 days and you have the best pickles you ever tasted! Mmm! Fantastic!

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