dan koshansky’s refrigerator dill pickles

TWENTY-SOMETHING YEARS AGO ALMOST TO THE DAY, I ate pickles for breakfast with lovely Dan Koshansky, a retired railroad conductor and an organic gardener in suburban Long Island. I was garden editor at “Newsday” newspaper then, and the beat included many a recipe tasting at harvest time. It’s how I learned to garden, and to cook from the garden: from people like Dan. I want to share his recipe for how to make dill pickles, refrigerator style, with you. Enjoy.

making dan koshansky’s pickles

THESE PICKLES were a hand-me-down recipe from Dan’s mother. And they couldn’t be simpler. Those in the photo (top) are from a batch I made many years ago (photo by Kit Latham).

the recipe:

Wash jars: Run gallon or half-gallon canning jars through the dishwasher or wash thoroughly.

Prepare your brine: To each quart of water that has been boiled and brought to room temperature, add ¾ cup of distilled white vinegar and 4 Tablespoons Kosher salt (Dan would say “heaping Tablespoons”). Estimate how many quarts to make depending on how many jars you will pack with pickles. Note: Do not use reactive pots (like aluminum) for making brine. Stick with stainless and glass equipment for pickling tasks.

Wash and pack small cukes (or green tomatoes or peppers) into clean glass jars, into which fresh dill has been layered on the bottom first.

Add 1 Tablespoon of pickling spice and lots of chopped garlic. (Trust me, I can still recall the garlic-for-breakfast experience. Up to you how much. And frankly I never chop it, as you can see in the photo. Creative license!)

Add a dash of crushed red pepper flakes, or 1-2 small hot red peppers slitted open lengthwise, plus more fresh dill. I love having the flowerheads from a variety like ‘Mammoth,’ instead of just the foliage of ‘Fernleaf’ for this task, but you’ll want plenty of both.

Cover with plastic wrap and let stand out until soured, perhaps a couple of days, then refrigerate with lids on.

I think of these unprocessed pickles as a seasonal treat, so I make enough for a few months only. If you want to store pickles all year, use a recipe that calls for water-bath processing (meaning vacuum-sealed lids). It’s not that refrigerator pickles go bad, but they lose that special quality. It’s the crispy freshness that makes Dan Koshansky’s Refrigerator Pickles so fantastic, a real rite of the harvest season, so enjoy them summer-into-fall and then (as gardeners know how to by necessity) start looking forward to next year.

added notes

July 31, 2008


  1. says

    Thank for your these summer Food Fests. I enjoy reading both A Way to Garden and Everyday Food’s Dinner Tonight. I’d like to contribute a recipe for Crock-Style Kosher Dill Pickles. Another refrigerator pickle recipe, yes, but we had fun experimenting with using grape leaves in this one.


  2. says

    Welcome to all of you new faces! I promise to come back and give proper hellos once I go zooming around and see what’s up on all your blogs…

  3. Kathy says

    Margaret, Mea Culpa, what was I thinking whining about cooks and receipes. The website today, as always, is fantastic. Here’s to cucumber vodka!

  4. says

    Wow! Talk about a bounty.
    Welcomes, first: To Nancy O (I’m so glad the pickle conjured good memories; and Laura (grape leaves is a great addition, thank you!); and Josh (I am jealous of your vegetable set-up, to say the least…not to mention that CASTLE), and Brenda (thank you for making a recipe just for us). I hope to see you all regularly, or at least next Thursday for green beans…

  5. says

    This sounds like a wonderful recipe. Thanks for sharing it. This is my first year growing cucumbers and I have a small climbing variety. Great for pickles. Can’t wait to try this.

  6. Nancy says

    Mmmm, cucumber vodka! Now I know what to do with all those too-big-to-pickle cukes that are in my fridge. I make bread and butter pickles, not dills, but this year I may make up a batch and just keep them in a big jar in the fridge. I did that once before and they were good to the bottom of the jar (about 6 months around our house).

  7. Peter says

    I’m a little late to the conversation, but wanted to share an interesting bit of pickle trivia. The wonderful cook who taught my mother and I to make pickles (Charlotte Goldstein) told us not to pick any cucumbers from the garden before she arrived on the day of our pickling lesson. She believed they should go from vine to brine as quickly as possible, and never be refrigerated prior to pickling. More importantly, she showed us how to harvest the cukes carefully and handle them gently to preserve their almost invisible powdery coating of fine white dust. She was adamant about never washing the cukes, and she poured the brine slowly as she filled the jars. She swore that this coating was a kind of natural preservative that kept the pickle crisper and brighter and tastier if left undisturbed. We never did double blind tastings, but her pickles were legendary and always had an especially fresh crisp bite. Modern standards of hygiene probably make it difficult to publish a recipe telling people not to wash their vegetables but organic gardener’s may want to try this with their own harvest……..

  8. says

    Welcome, Peter. You know, I believe every word that you wrote. I think my old friend of years ago, Dan Koshansky, would have said yes, yes, yes as well. Oh-oh, we will have the FDA or UDSA or RDA or DDT or ABC or BBC or somebody after us!

  9. says

    Hi, Gina. It’s a mix of things all packaged into one product, like dill seed I suppose, probably bay, pepper and red pepper, etc. Look for it in the spice section of the grocery store. It reminds me of how “poultry seasoning” comes pre-mixed, or the stuff I can’t recall the name of that you use to boil shrimp. Have a look next time you’re in the grocery. Just bought some tonight…

  10. says

    Gina, I had to google it, too. It’s a mixture of things like peppercorns, allspice, juniper berries, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, etc. Presumably you can buy it labeled as such, but I just threw together my own, since I had most of that stuff in my spice rack already.

    I was coming back to post that I made some fridge pickles today, inspired by this post. (Photo here.)

  11. says

    Well, I bought a bunch of little cucumbers at the Great Barrington Farmers’ Market today, so refridgerator pickles here I come. Thanks for the inspiration.

  12. Kerry Nolan says

    I made my own pickling spice for the refrigerator pickles..was very easy:

    1 tablespoon coriander seeds

    1 tablespoon mustard seeds

    1 tablespoon black peppercorns

    1 tablespoon cloves

    3 or 4 dried red chilies

    1″ (2.5 cm) piece dried ginger root

    1″ (2.5 cm) piece cinnamon stick

    3 dried bay leaves

    I tied it all up in cheesecloth and infused the brine. Will let you know how the recipe turns out!
    And hellos as well to “by proxy, Brent” !

  13. Kerry Nolan says

    As always, I post before I’m truly finished. In the above recipe, I backed off on the cloves (to about a teaspoon) and amped up the heat (put a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes in the jars).

    Your mileage may vary.

  14. Eat Me Outta Here says

    Oh I just got some pretty jars from some jarred brandied cherries we used at work. I was JUST thinking about making pickles in them when I spotted your blog. It’s perfect! I’m going to make them today. I love pickles!

  15. says

    Welcome Eat Me Outta Here. Glad to suggest the recipe at the right time…but wish I’d been around in time for those brandied cherries. Yum.

  16. says

    Welcome, Christina. Depending on size of cukes, freshness, how long you kept them out before refrigerating…all these factors will affect the taste. Taste-test: I bet they’re already good, and will evolve as they age. Unlike hot-packed, vacuum-sealed pickles, they don’t stay at a consistent stage of taste/texture. So try some, and note when you think they’re best so you can have that information on hand next year when you use the recipe.

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