Updated on 09.27.10

A Simple Story About a Jar of Pickles

Trent Hamm

This isn’t a blockbuster post, just a simple story that illustrates how frugality runs through many aspects of our life.

When I was young, my father always had a giant garden. One vegetable that he always grew every year was cucumbers. They always seemed very easy to grow compared to the other vegetables in the garden – they practically grew themselves if you gave them plenty of water and sunshine. Plus, we often ate the cucumbers in various ways as they came to harvest.

Flash forward to my current home, where we’ve had a garden each year. Cucumbers have always been a staple in our garden, but in previous years, we’ve had a much wider variety of vegetables and the cucumbers have been relegated to a small spot.

Garden cucumbers

This year, though, the birth of our third child coincided with the key part of planting season, which meant that we focused heavily on the “easy” things in the garden this year. The cucumbers, unsurprisingly, were part of this, so we planted quite a few more cucumber plants than normal.

Of course, they produced like mad, giving us tons of cucumbers to use. We’ve used them in lots of ways, such as salad toppings and side dishes.

However, our favorite use of them is what we call our “refrigerator dills”:

Pickle jar

We simply have had plenty of fresh pickles in August and September this year thanks to those easy-to-grow cucumber vines, and the jar depicted above shows one of our recent batches where we used a package of pickling spices. However, our usual recipe is even simpler than that.

All you do is slice up two or three small cucumbers and put them into whatever lidded jar you have available. Put some dill seed and a bit of minced garlic in there, too (a teaspoon or two of each). Then, in a saucepan, boil together 1/2 cup vinegar, 2 cups of water, and 1/2 tablespoon of salt (get it to boiling for about a minute or so). Pour this mix over the cucumbers until the jar is full, put it in the fridge without a lid for a few hours, then put a lid on top of it. That’s all – just wait a few days and you’ll have tremendous pickles.

This saves us money in a lot of ways.

First, this jar of pickles is fresher, better tasting, and far less expensive than a jar of pickles from the store. The cost of half of a cup of vinegar, half of a tablespoon of salt, and a tiny bit of minced garlic and dill adds up to a few pennies. A jar of good pickles at the store is a few dollars (at least). Our homemade pickles are far fresher and taste better, too.

Second, we’re able to effectively use something we have an abundance of – cucumbers. Rather than letting them go to waste, we’re simply finding different uses for them. Cucumbers are just the start – we look for other uses for virtually everything in our home.

Third, because we now have a lot of pickles, we consume them instead of other options. We serve them with sandwiches, with chili, and often as an afternoon snack. Our children often take queues from their parents’ eating behaviors, so if we eat and enjoy particular foods (and don’t give them other options), they’ll eat and enjoy them, too.

It also teaches our children a lot about living frugally. They’re a part of this, too – they’re out in the garden with us, they watch us making the pickles in the kitchen, and they enjoy the product of the process, too.

Frugality isn’t something you flip on like a switch, then flip off when you want to be a big spender. It’s how you approach life, from the little things to the big.

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  1. grammarian says:

    (small typo towards end of article–you substituted queue for cue)

  2. DJ says:

    I know you moderate these comments, so I feel comfortable leaving this information for you here. The use of the word ‘queue’ is incorrect. Taking “cues” from people is the correct usage. Of course, if my understanding of the term is incorrect, you win this round.

  3. omgstfu says:


  4. DJ says:

    Wow, I was thinking you checked them before they were submitted, my apologies. On a related note, we also grow cucumbers, and have had excellent luck with making our own pickles. There aren’t too many things that taste as good as a homemade pickle.

    Next year, we already have discussed greatly increasing our cucumbers plants simply because we so quickly ran out of our pickles this year.

  5. M. says:

    Our children often take queues…

    You mean cues, right?

    :) Love your blog, BTW!

  6. Interested Reader says:

    This sounds interesting if you like pickles and growing cucumbers.

    However, I think that you mean children take “cues” from their parents.

    Otherwise you are saying children stand in lines or braid their down their back from their parents’ eating behaviors.

  7. Sarah says:

    Those would be great on your homemade hamburgers!

  8. Wesley says:

    My parents did something similar with apples. They have 5 big apple trees at their house which results in TONS of apples every fall. Pretty much everything in our house from August til October was made in some way involving apples. And then through the winter came an endless supply of applesauce and apple pies (YUM!). Not exactly the same thing as what you have going on here with the pickles, but similar.

  9. Matt Jabs says:

    My wife and I make our own pickles too. After experimenting with different vinegar types we found mixing half ACV with white vinegar yields a flavor we prefer over white vinegar alone.

    I don’t even heat the mixture, I simply add the spices to the jar, pack in the cukes, pour over the vinegar/water mixture, and let sit at room temp for a few days before putting in the fridge. Delicious. I will try your recipe out.

  10. John says:

    Sometimes the simple posts are the blockbuster ones, Trent.

  11. chris says:

    I’m sooooo envious! We planted cukes this year with pickles in mind, and then one day the vine borers got them and all our vines died in less than a 24-hour period. Same thing happened to our zucchini and yellow squash, too. :(

  12. Gal @ Equally Happy says:

    The first vegetable plant I had was a cucumber plant. It produced so many cucumbers that I was quickly overwhelmed. I’m not sure why I never thought of pickling, but thank you for the idea. Maybe I’ll devote a few more spots to cucumbers next year.

  13. If you have an almost-empty jar of store pickles, save the brine and jar and pop cukes into it. (You can do this in the winter, too, assuming you find decent cukes in the market.)

  14. Dee says:

    Nice post. What’s the best typebof vinegar to use?

  15. Brenna says:

    You can basically do the same thing but use extra sea slat and let them sit at room temp for a few days. Fermented pickles, full of good bacteria! Sort of like sauerkraut :)

  16. Carole says:

    In reply to #6 I have done just the opposite–pour the brine off store bought pickles and put homemade brine over them. This gives you the taste of homemade pickles which I prefer. This is for people who like homemade pickles but don’t have access to fresh grown cucumbers.

  17. Grammar Nazi says:

    A queue is a line. A cue is a signal for action.

  18. Siti Kamariah says:


    Have you tried cucumber juice in the summer? My parents run a food catering business in Malaysia and it has proven to be a hit! All you need to do is grate the cucumbers separating the juice and then add sugar water. Decorate with some peppermint leaves and add some ice! Walla a refreshing summery drink :-)

  19. alex says:

    In this case, the correct word is “cue” not “queue.”

  20. Julie says:

    Hope the pickles were better than Aunt Bee’s in one of the funniest Andy Griffith episodes ever! I couldn’t help but think of it when I read your article.

  21. Stacy says:

    I know you have kids and everything, but a local bar I go to (to eat, mostly) has cucumber infused vodka, which is just about the most refreshing alcoholic drink I’ve ever had. They make it in house, and I imagine it wouldn’t be hard to do at home.

  22. Sami says:

    So how long do the pickles last if not sealed in a canning method?

  23. Dee Kumar says:

    It is so great that you are growing your own stuff! My father used to do it a lot back when we were younger but I sort of didn’t find it cool enough until recently when i have a new found appreciation for quality non-pesticide products. Maybe its time to green these fingers again.

  24. Matt says:

    Makes me sad that the squash bugs and beetles got my cucumbers this year. Also lost my squash to vine borers, only have tomatos and root vegetables left. :(

  25. littlepitcher says:

    Try sun pickles. Instead of heating the vinegar, set the pickles and vinegar in the sun all day.

    I prefer my pickles with fresh thyme, a little fresh cilantro, and some sweetener, or with just slightly sweetened white vinegar and plenty of Vidalia onions in the mix.

    New discovery: you can speed up pickle fermentation by straining whey off plain yogurt, then using that whey for a culture medium. I’m planning to try this on homemade kimchi.

    @SK–I will try the cucumber juice with fresh mint. Thank you!

  26. landielou says:

    Thank you once again Trent.I have done this when a store-bought jar of dills is empty. Just add more cukes to the juice in the jar.

  27. Julie says:

    Will this work for green tomatoes? My cucumbers got eaten by something this year (cucumber beetles, I think). I was soooo looking forward to having pickles. All is not lost though … the tomatoes are still going gangbusters.

  28. deRuiter says:

    We LOVE the commercial “Mrs. Fanning’s Sweet Pickle Slices.” Every time we finish a jar, we slice up a cucumber and a bit of onion and put them in the jar in the brine which remains. In a week you have a good pickle inexpensively. It’s not the same as the original store bought pickles, but it’s really tasty, and cheap! “Waste Not, Want Not”!!

  29. Courtney says:

    We had a great cucumber crop this year but we’re not big pickle fans. Instead, we had lots and lots of cucumber sandwiches – so good!

  30. Adam P says:

    These pickles that are homemade might be okay, as you are only using a half teaspoon of salt per jar if I’m reading this right? But keep in mind that store bought jars of pickles are sometimes very high in sodium and in that case are not a nice “healthy snack”. All things in moderation!

  31. Roberta says:

    I am going to make these, even though I don’t have a garden yet, because my local farmer’s market sells small pickling cucumbers so cheaply.

  32. Helena says:

    You don’t need to heat the brine, just place in the frigarator and a week or two later you have pickles and I find them krisper and that’s the way I like them!

  33. lynne powell says:

    Like another reader, I use the brine from store bought pickles to pickle fresh cucumbers. I boil the leftover brine & wash the jar before re-using. We like these pickles better than the store ones. I make my own pickles when I have an abundance of cukes, though it has been a couple of years. Side note, why are some of you so picky, have you never made a grammatical error, or spelling error? Sorry, but sometimes it seems as if people are just looking for a mistake so they can jump on it and point it out.

  34. Courtney says:

    In addition to high sodium, most brands of store-bought pickles also contain artificial coloring.

  35. Sarah says:

    I am now craving pickles! No garden, but I’m going to look at my farmer’s market for small cucumbers like Roberta mentioned!

  36. Katrina R. says:

    I would definitely urge people to heat the brine, or else you’re risking the chance of botulinum toxin formation during storage.

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