Refrigerator Pickles

I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally's cellar—Thomas Jefferson

By Brenda McClain


how to make picklesPickles in History
The Well-Traveled Pickle
The pickle as we know it is thought to have originated in India, where cucumbers were first grown. The crisp, fermented delight gradually made its way to Egypt and the Mediterranean Basin. It's thought that the Romans introduced the first pickles throughout Europe, where they rapidly gained popularity. Pickles later went on to play an important role in Columbus's discovery of America in 1492: Transoceanic voyages were often jeopardized because crews suffered from scurvy—the result of a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. To solve that problem, Amerigo Vespucci—the explorer for whom our continent was named—made sure that the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria each had a cargo loaded with vitamin C-rich pickles, ones he may even have made himself: He was reportedly a fine pickle maker.

Who Knew?

  • Pickle brine has many uses: Some cultures use it as soup stock, while others swear by it as a hangover cure. The brine also makes a savory marinade and, when combined with olive oil, a tangy salad dressing
  • About 26 billion pickles are packed yearly in the United States. More than half the cucumbers grown here are pickled.
  • Though this fact is hotly debated, the pickle is both a fruit and a vegetable.
  • Along with vitamin C, pickles contain significant amounts of vitamin A, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
  • A "good pickle" crunch should be audible from across a room.
  • Americans eat around 9 pounds of pickles per person annually.
  • During World War II, 40 percent of all pickles produced were allocated to ration kits of the armed forces.
  • Because the density of commercial salt varied from year to year, pickle makers of old couldn't accurately measure the salt needed for making pickle brines. Hence, early recipes suggested using just enough salt "to float an egg" in the brine.
  • Julius Caesar thought pickles had an invigorating effect and shared them with his army.
  • Queen Elizabeth I loved pickles.
  • As far back as 850 B.C., Aristotle extolled the healing effects of "cured" cucumbers.