there are several different ways to make pickles - through canning, fermenting, or through refrigeration. i wanted to use the biggest mason jars i have, but my largest pot isn't big enough to use in a canning process (you want about an inch of water above the jar lid when canning) so i tried out a new process - refrigerator pickling.
when using this method the pickles must be stored in the fridge at all times, so if you want to make several jars and store them at room temperature, you need to can the pickles the old-fashioned way (i.e. using a traditional canning process).
it's also really important to note that you can pickle most vegetables - don't feel limited to cucumbers. i've had the most amazing cherry tomato pickles from patrick's dad, and seen wonderful recipes for pickled zucchini and summer squash, peppers, beets, and cauliflower.
several cucumbers - you want small green cucumbers, with a warty, bumpy surface. once they turn white and yellow and have a smooth surface, they have over-ripened and have too much water and too many adult seeds to make good pickles. make sure you remove the blossom end if using fresh cucumbers.
to make brine use the proportions 8:1 water to salt. so for one gallon (8 pints) water you add 1 pint salt. put whole cucumbers into a large container and fill with brine. make sure the cucumbers are completely covered and don't disturb them for at least 24 hours.
2 cups white 5% vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 cup sliced onions
4 whole garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh dill
1/4 cup whole dried chili peppers
1 tsp. salt (kosher, if available)
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. celery seeds
1 tsp. black pepper (whole or ground)
either place whole cucumbers in jar or slice into quarters and place into jar. add whole stalks of dill into the jar.
pour vinegar to a non-metal pan and bring to a boil. slowly add sugar and stir until dissolved. add onions, garlic, chili peppers, salt, pepper, mustard seed, and celery seed and bring to a boil. pour the vinegar mixture over the pickles in the jar and fill within 1/2" of top. cover with lid and seal by hand. allow jar to cool to room temperature and place in the fridge.
this recipe does not require canning and so must be kept in the fridge. wait 1-2 weeks for best flavor. pickles should keep for about 2 months in the fridge.