pickles.jpgMy original recipe for this, passed down from my mom on a handwritten 3×5 card, is named “Ice Box Pickles” for the days when large blocks of ice were cut during the winter, buried in straw through the summer, and delivered house to house on a horse-drawn wagon. A modern-day, electric-powered freezer works just as well, though, for one my favorite ways of highlighting the season’s crisp cucumbers.

I used to make these in college, when canning was out of the question. Even my little refrigerator cube, hidden away from the dorm inspectors inside my closet and sporting only a tiny “freezer” shelf, could finish decent pickles. It’s an easy, low-maintenance recipe that’s perfect for lazy weekends.


Fresh seeds collected from the ripened heads of dill plants were a recent garnish for my latest batch of these crisp, cold pickles. But I also love fresh or dried dills leaves, whole mustard seeds, tiny celery seeds, or even a hint of gorgeous sumac.

Freezer pickles are perfect for accompanying sandwiches or, if you tend towards a sour palate like me, a refreshing snack spooned straight from the jar.

They’re super easy to make, so be sure to make a couple of extra jars that you can share with a neighbor or friend, bring to a potluck or picnic, or enjoy all the way through the waning days of August.

Freezer Pickles

Makes: 3 half-pint jars.

4 cups thinly sliced pickling, Japanese, or Armenian cucumbers
1 small, thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1-2 cups sugar (depending on your taste for sweetness)
1 cup white, distilled vinegar
2 tablespoons dill, celery, or mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes or 1 fresh chile, sliced thinly (optional)

1. Toss together the cucumber slices, red onion, and salt. Refrigerate this mixture overnight. Rinse well, then squeeze dry in a clean cloth or press well against a colander to remove as much moisture as possible.

2. In a glass, plastic or ceramic bowl, stir together vinegar, sugar, and spices. Add the cucumber and stir well with a wooden spoon or your hands.

3. Pack into glass jars, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace, and freeze at least 24 hours. Thaw pickles in serving bowl for at least 10 minutes just before serving.


Freezer Pickles 11 August,2008Thy Tran

  • I can’t wait to try this recipe. How long would you say they can stay in the freezer?

  • Leslie,

    I tend to finish them off pretty quickly, but I have kept them around for a couple of months. My guess is that you could push that to 3 or 4. The extra protection offered by thick glass is offset by thinly sliced cukes–not the hardiest of veggies out there. After one season, I think they’d become more soggy than crisp.

    Have fun “pickling” and eating!


Thy Tran

Thy Tran writes literary nonfiction about food, the rituals of the kitchen, and the many ways eating and cooking both connect and separate communities around the world. She co-authored the award-winning guide, Kitchen Companion, and her work has appeared in numerous other books, including Asia in the San Francisco Bay Area: A Cultural Travel Guide and Cooking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Fine Cooking and Saveur. A recipient of a literary grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, Thy is currently working on a collection of essays about how food changes in families across time and place.

Though trained as a professional chef, she works on cookbooks by day, then creates literary chapbooks by night. An old letterpress and two cabinets of wood and lead type occupy a corner of her writing studio, for she is as committed to the art and craft of bookmaking as she is to the power of words themselves. In addition to writing, editing, teaching and printing, Thy remains active in local food justice and global food sovereignty movements. Visit her website, wanderingspoon.com, to learn more about her culinary adventures.

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