dan koshansky’s refrigerator dill pickles

ONE HIGH-SUMMER DAY 30-something years ago, 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 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 otherwise 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”). See the link in the box at the bottom of this story on brands of salt and their relative saltiness. 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 (a link on what’s in pickling spice is in the box down below, too) 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 slit 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 about pickling

  1. Mike says:

    Here is a question in regards to the Brine. I have used this recipe over the past year and it works great. In regards to the Brine, I have always gone out and bought the distilled water as suggested, however, I now have a water softener attached to the main water line in my house, I was wondering if you have ever addressed whether water from that source could be used in making the brine?

  2. Vickie Eldridge says:

    Hello, I was wondering if you could use dried dill instead of fresh. Our summer here has been over 100 for quite awhile, and my dill is finished, all I have is what is in the jar. Thanks for this recipe as my family loves pickles.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Vickie. I think a better choice would be to get some fresh at the green grocer or farm market, but yes, you could also use dried. Nice to see you! Hope everyone’s weather relents and cools down.

  3. Vickie Eldridge says:

    I have one more question, Could you put the vinegar and kosher salt in each jar and then fill with the boiled water? I’m not quite sure because when the jar is full of cukes, you don’t use a full quart of water. Thanks..

  4. Vickie Eldridge says:

    I have one more question, Could you put the vinegar and kosher salt in each jar and then fill with the boiled water? I’m not quite sure on the directions because when the jar is full of cukes, you don’t use a full quart of water. I sure don’t want to add to much salt and vinegar. Thanks..

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Vickie. Make your brine separately first so that the solution is the exact concentration of acid, salt, liquid in the ingredients list. Whatever size jar or number of cukes you then use matters not — you have a consistent brine solution to pour over, whether a cup or a gallon is needed at any instance. Don’t try to mix it in the jar. I put extra brine in a big jar int he fridge (doesn’t really need to be cold, but I do) for later use, as cukes come ripe.

  5. Anita says:

    This looks like a good recipe which I would like to try. One thing I have noticed is that most recipes don’t specify how much dill? Should the flower head have seeds? How much head and leaves..etc

    Thanks for the input – from a fellow Long Islander

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Anita. I think it’s really “to taste,” and I like both seeds and foliage (Dan Koshansky used lots of foliage as I recall).

  6. Marjorie says:

    My Mom would pickle anything that she had left over, she didn’t like waste, carrots, watermelon rind, green tomatoes,etc….the enzymes in the vegetables are good for digestion, pickle juice is great for heartburn…I love your website

    1. margaret says:

      Thanks, Marjorie. I don’t think we eat enough old-fashioned food that’s cultured/fermented, etc. So important, as you point out. Nice to see you, and thanks for the very kind words.

  7. Angela says:

    Hi there,

    I grew pickling cukes for the first time this year, and this was by far the most appealing recipe I’ve found!

    My first couple jars have just spent their days on the counter and gone in to the refrigerator … do I need to wait to eat them, or are they ready to go at that stage? I am having a hard time holding off the little pickle monsters in the house who are super excited to try our homegrown/ homemade pickles!!


    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Angela. It’s a matter of taste-testing! Depending on cuke size and temperature and so on, they can sour up slow or fast. So try one and see.

  8. Jules says:

    Hello Margaret- I can’t wait to try this recipe, but I have a question. Do you use Diamond kosher salt or Morton Kosher salt when using this recipe? As we know, the measurements will differ depending on which brand you use. Thanks for all your great advice!

  9. Brenda says:

    just put up 3 jars yesterday. Got pickling cucumbers in my last order from Greenling. Very excited to see how these turn out. Hard to find Mammoth dill in Texas. Just too hot. The dill that is available in farmer’s and regular markets is only the fernleaf.
    Also, just a question on adding the brine. I assume that you pour it in the jars hot?

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Amy. You can slice them but they will “pickle” faster and stronger, and last a shorter time at peak flavor (before they get too sour and then soft). Since they are not hot-packed it’s not as if the pickling stops inside the jar — so yes, I have done them sliced, but eat those soonest.

      Hi, Doreen. I pack them in tight so they can’t really float. :) As for too salty, different brands of pickling salt (or kosher salt) are heavier and saltier than others, so read here about that.

  10. Valery Saunders says:

    OMGoodness!!! Can you see me on top of the soapbox? Can you hear me yelling to everyone who goes by that they must make these pickles immediately? Do you see me handing out copies of the recipe? Bless Dan and bless his mother, this is the best pickle I’ve ever eaten. So now I have six jars in my fridge, with room for little else, so I will have to make more that I can keep year round. Can I use this same recipe, just pop the lids on and throw them in the water bath?
    Thanks so much.

    1. margaret says:

      Thank you, Valery — Dan’s hand-me-down truly is wonderful. Waiting for my cukes to provide the raw materials over here…

  11. Valery Saunders says:

    I just love your blog – so many amazing ideas, recipes and advice. And readers’ comments are terrific too. One question, can I take a batch of these pickles and put them in a hot water bath to seal them and keep them longer?

  12. Cindy E says:

    I hardly get these in the refrigerator before my husband and sons start eating them. They practically disappear overnight. I’ve taken to making them in large glass pickle barrels just to keep up with the demand. Can’t have too many! Thanks for sharing this fabulous recipe!

  13. Keryn says:

    Does anyone know how long these pickles will keep in the refrigerator? Were hoping that the children could harvest the pickling cucumbers in the garden in September. And then make their own pickles. But they are ready for harvest now in August. So I will have to make up the pickles a head of time. So just need to know if the pickles will keep in the fridge until Sept 22 or should I can them?

  14. Doc says:

    A better for you pickle is the lacto-fermented ones. No vinegar. great tasting, crunchy if you use oak leaves. Good bacteria for the gut. Use vinegar for cleaning windows.

  15. cheryllk says:

    These pickles are the best ever. Thanks, Dan. Thanks, Margaret. Everyone in my family loves them, and we’ve spread the recipe far and wide. If I don’t have it with me, I just suggest that people google: dan’s refrigerator pickles. Comes up first every time.

    1. margaret says:

      Hooray, Cheryllk. I agree. Dan was generous to share this all those years ago, and I am happy to do the same in his honor.

  16. Linda Hall says:

    This year I started making microwave refrigerator bread and butter pickles. They are fabulous, and you only microwave the cucumbers in brine for 7 minutes or so! Very quick and very delicious. I make a few changes to the recipe, such as less sugar, red pepper flakes. Also, if you cut the cukes thicker, your pickles are crisper!

  17. Fat Junie says:

    Yee-haw, this version of dill pickles is just what I wanted! Mine 4 jars are only 24 hrs old and already taste great, and were made with beautiful dill and garlic from my very own garden. Thank you!

  18. Claire says:

    I just tried my first batch of these pickles 3 days ago and I’m a bit nervous because they all look very fizzy and carbonated after just a few days sitting out. Almost all of the lids have popped up in a dented sort of way. I live in New Orleans so I’m wondering if the temperature may have affected them or if this is okay/normal? I stuck all the jars in the fridge once I noticed. Still edible??

    1. margaret says:

      Perhaps you put the lids on tight right away? I usually just lay plastic wrap over so while the souring happens for a couple/few days or so, the gases don’t build up inside the jar. I don’t think there is anything dangerous, but were the screwed lids on when the pickles were on the counter getting started?

  19. Dianne says:

    As I read this it sounds like these are fermented pickles, which is a little different from plain old refrigerator pickles, and better for you as you get the benefits of probiotics. Now with all the different kinds of salt other than the two kinds of kosher salt, I’d like to know the difference in saltiness between the major brands and varieties of salt. For instance, Himalayan salt is not as salty and is coarser. Since there are no additives I presume it is okay to use for canning and fermenting, but what would be the ratio difference? It would be good to have a ‘salt chart’ with brands, varieties and percent of saltiness. Wonder if there is such a thing.

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