These pickled cucumbers are a quick and easy intro to pickling vegetables at home. These simple cucumbers are crunchy, tangy, a little sweet, and easy to customize to your own tastes!
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My mother learned to cook from her grandmother, so she naturally collected a number of Ma-ma’s recipes over the years.
This recipe for quick pickled cucumbers is one of the first recipes that I really recognized as being a family recipe as a kid.
Even now, when I think of our family recipes, my first thought isn’t necessarily of her fruitcake cookies or angel food cake – it’s of these simple little cucumbers.
Perhaps that’s because my momma made them so often. They were one of the first things she’d make the minute fresh cucumbers hit the farm stand, and you were almost guaranteed to find a bowl of them in the fridge at all times until late September.
Pickled cucumbers may not be anything fancy, but one bite takes me back to my great-grandmother’s kitchen, to my grandmother’s kitchen, and to my mother’s kitchen. And that’s a pretty special thing.
MY GREAT-GRANDMOTHER’S PICKLED CUCUMBERS
I know that you’re probably looking at the name “pickled cucumbers” and thinking, “Isn’t that redundant?” After all, pickles are made from cucumbers.
And yeah, you’d be right about that. But these aren’t dill pickles or bread and butter pickles – they’re simply…well, pickled cucumbers.
Here’s what I mean: These are the simplest pickles possible. There aren’t any spices or fancy vinegars or herbs added. (Although you can add things if you like. Skip down to “Recipe Variations” to learn more!)
These are a totally simple, dressed-down cucumber pickle. The vinegar brine is incredibly simple, letting the cucumbers really shine.
I am weird about most pickles; I don’t really like a lot of pickles and I really don’t like dill pickles, but I can never get enough of these pickled cucumbers.
They are super crunchy, super tangy from the vinegar, a little bit sweet, and super refreshing.
Oh, and super easy to make.
HOW TO MAKE PICKLED CUCUMBERS
Think of this as your introductory pickle recipe. Once you make these, you’ll be less intimidated to try recipes like pickled garlic scapes, pickled peppers, or pickled green beans.
4 simple ingredients
You only need 4 ingredients to make my great-grandmother’s quick pickled cucumber recipe:
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- 1-2 sliced cucumbers
As you might suspect, this is not a recipe you need to be especially precious about. We aren’t going to process (can) these, so you can play it a little more fast and loose with how many cucumbers you add.
I usually use 1 large cucumber or 2 small-to-medium cucumbers for the amount of brine listed in the recipe.
What kind of cucumbers should I use?
Again, this is meant to be a simple recipe, so you don’t need to be particular about what kind of cucumbers you use here.
My great-grandmother and mother always used regular ol’ American cucumbers. You could also use English cucumbers or pickling cucumbers if that’s what you have on hand.
Whether or not you peel the cucumbers is up to you. I would give the cucumbers a taste first; if the skins are bitter, definitely peel them. If not, leave them on if you want!
Do I need any special equipment for these?
I’ve got more good news for you: You don’t need any special equipment to make these pickled cucumbers.
You’ll need a small saucepan, a clean glass jar or bowl with a lid, and a couple of measuring cups.
I will often use a mandoline slicer to get uniform cucumber slices, but you can use a sharp knife if that’s what you have.
That’s the beauty of making refrigerator pickles: you don’t have to worry about getting special canning equipment! Like I said, it’s a great primer to making more advanced pickles.
Making this recipe
Slice your cucumbers as evenly as possible. I usually like to slice mine just a bit thicker than ⅛-inch using my mandoline.
Place the slices in a clean glass jar or bowl with a lid. A jar is best for storage, but my mom always kept hers in a big bowl. Use what you have!
In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and vinegar and bring this to a boil. Give it a quick stir to make sure the sugar has dissolved, then pour the hot brine over the cucumbers.
Cover loosely and cool to room temperature. Tighten the lids and refrigerate.
You can eat these within a few hours, but they’re best if you let them sit for a day before enjoying. They really just get better with time!
Since these are not processed pickles, they need to be stored in the refrigerator.
How long will pickled cucumbers last? Honestly…a very long time.
Use a clean fork to remove the pickled cucumbers from the jar and make sure the edge of the jar stays clean and they’ll last almost indefinitely in the fridge, although I find that they’re best within the first couple of months.
Ok, so my Ma-ma’s recipe is super straightforward: cucumbers and vinegar and not much else.
But that doesn’t mean that we’ve never gotten more creative with these!
One of the easiest ways to customize your quick pickled cucumbers is by using different vinegars.
While white vinegar is the go-to for pickles and was the vinegar we always used growing up, there are more interesting vinegars you could try that would add more flavor to your pickled cucumbers.
Some of our favorites are:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Red wine vinegar
- White wine vinegar
- Rice vinegar (aka rice wine vinegar)
Rice vinegar is especially beloved around here for this recipe!
You can also add other veggies or herbs to your pickled cucumbers.
Thinly sliced white onions or thinly sliced green bell peppers were always popular with our family. Simply replace some of the cucumbers with either or both of these and add them to the jar.
You could also add as much fresh dill as you like or even throw in a garlic clove!
WAYS TO USE THESE SIMPLE PICKLES
Growing up, my family always ate our pickled cucumbers straight out of the bowl as a side dish, more like a cucumber salad than actual pickles.
As an adult, I still eat them straight from the jar, but I also love them on burgers and sandwiches as well. I love the crunch and tangy bite they bring without competing with the flavors of the sandwich.
They are also right at home on a charcuterie platter alongside your favorite cheeses, homemade mustards, flatbread crackers, and nuts.
If you’ve been looking for ways to use your bounty of summer cucumbers, I hope you’ll give my great-grandmother’s pickled cucumbers a try. This is a family favorite that is worth sharing.
Yep, you did. Tears are streaming down my face. I wish you could have cooked with her, too.
This is so sweet, & such a precious way to remember your Ma-ma. I love the magic way that food & special recipes help us stay connected to important folks long after they have left us. I still think about making homemade peach ice cream in the summertime with my Papaw, then being rebellious with him & eating it out of a big cup instead of a bowl like normal people.
Thanks for sharing this!
What a fun memory, Candace!
Aww, Steph! So sweet!
I have a feeling that your Ma-ma and my Meemaw are making pickled cucumbers in heaven right now 🙂
You know she’s with you right now. Who else is fueling your love of the kitchen? 🙂 xo
Ma-ma would have been QUITE relieved to find a fellow southerner, you know. I’m pretty sure that even in Heaven she would not be particularly interested in kicking it with yankees. 😉
Thanks for sharing this sweet memory with us Stephie. Your great-grandma sounds like a wonderful woman, and I know she was right there munching them beside you!
She was definitely a firecracker, and boy did she love her grandkids. 🙂
YO! My next Tahoe Quarterly article is about the health benefits of fermented foods, so I’m totally following your pickeling instructions and getting on my cucumber….errr…I mean getting my cucumber on? 😉
And reading about your grandmother made me teary-eyed. I loved your heart-felt post…I meant to say that earlier, but I got distracted. 🙂
Well, who wouldn’t get distracted by getting on a…er…nevermind. 😉
Oh, I love this post. Your memories remind me so much of some of my own family with whom I miss sharing the kitchen these days. Ma-ma sounds like a special lady. And these pickled cucumbers? NOM.
Can’t get enough of those pickled cucumbers. I actually don’t like pickles (go figure) but I loooove these.
Aww Stephie. I am sure she was right there with you saying eat some more pickled cucumbers! These look so simple and perfect for right from the jar snacking.
I feel like my head’s in a little fuzzy place right now. I miss my great grandmother too (but, since we’re English, she was just ‘great grandma’) and in the corner of my mind, I’ve travelled back to my ten year old self, sitting right across the table from her playing ‘Consequences’ for hours (a pen and paper game that I’ve continued playing since). She made trifle with a condensed milk jelly, the recipe for which has been lost in the dark of time somewhere. My grandfather, her son, has now also passed on. I feel like there’s a big hole in my heart where they used to be. No more dancing in the kitchen with tea towels to Frank Sinatra, or giving stifled hugs near the fireplace like only the English can. I loved them, so much. Now only letters and memories remain. I’m so glad that you can uphold beautiful traditions like this. Recipes and meals are treasures that can transport you back in time. I know that your grandmother met you right there by the window, crunching on cukes by your side xxx
Thank you so much for sharing those lovely memories with me. Having those recipes really does transport us back to our loved ones, doesn’t it?
can I can these?
I don’t actually do any canning, so I don’t feel comfortable telling you yes or no on this. You might google similar recipes to see if anyone has canned them before.
Your recipe sounds great. Would you tell me exactly how YOU make it? First timer on something like this. Don’t want to put too much of anything in it ….like the dill. Thank you so much
I make it exactly as written, with just the cucumbers and the vinegar brine. I’m a purist. 😉