Tue Feb 19, 2013
I eat a fair amount of grilled and barbecued goods in the winter months, but my little secret is that a lot of those required no dealing with cold, wind, or darkness that makes winter a less than ideal time for grilling. I'm not a big leftovers guy, but I do like to cook a little extra 'cue each time I have the smoker going over the summer and then freeze those leftovers for later consumption. This has mainly been in the form of pulled pork, but getting more canning thanks to my explorations in barbecue sauce, I found this grilled pickles recipe from pitmaster Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q to be a great way to enjoy a grilled treat no matter what the weather.
Whenever I mention grilled pickles, most people imagine me pulling a spear out a brine, grilling, then eating. The process is actually the complete opposite—the cucumbers are grilled prior to pickling.
Sliced cucumbers spears were cooked until they had light grill marks on each cut side. At this point, they were a little soft around the edges that were in direct contact with the grill, but still pretty crisp in the center.
Making further use of the flames, onions were cut into rounds, skewered, and grilled until charred as well. These would later be sliced and added into the cans with the cucumbers to add some extra flavor to finished pickles as well as eating on their own.
The original recipe had a simple brine of vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Then there was crushed red pepper placed in jar to add the heat, but since I am a fan of hot pickles—or anything spicy for that matter—I decided to boil the pepper in the brine to infuse more heat into the liquid. If you're not as big on spicy, you can go with the original way, but I'm an advocate for getting as much heat as possible in these pickles.
With the cucumbers, and onions all done, they were divided evenly between three pint jars, along with a couple sprigs of dill and some minced garlic, and the brine was poured in to cover the vegetables.
Technically all these need are a few days rest in the fridge to fully develop their flavor, but going the quick pickle route means that they should also be eaten relatively soon. Taking the extra step and sealing the jars in a water bath preserves the pickles, which can then be stored at room temperature in a dark place, instead of the fridge, until opened. If enjoying a summer treat in the dead of winter is a requirement, this step becomes essential.
The final grilled pickle was something quite special. Cooking the cucumbers and onion over the flames added a bit of grilled flavor, but mainly created a spear that is both crisp and soft—great middle ground to settle any dispute between people at opposite ends of that pickle debate. The pickling liquid struck a nice balance between sweet and spicy, with dill and garlic playing more minor roles. There's a lot of contrast of flavor and texture packed into these incredibly delicious spears that offer a little taste of summer anytime of the year.
Sweet and Spicy Grilled Pickles
Adapted from Chris Lilly.
- Prep Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 30 Minutes
- 3 1-pint jars
- For The Brine
- 1 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
- 5 large cucumbers, cut into 4 to 5-inch spears
- 1 medium white onion, cut into 1/2-inch disks and skewered horizontally
- 6 sprigs dill
- 3 teaspoons minced garlic
- 3 sanitized canning jars with lids
- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and red pepper, whisking until sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place cucumbers and onions on grill. Cook cucumbers until lightly browned on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Cook onions until charred on both sides and slightly softened, about 4 minutes per side. Remove cucumbers and onions to tray. Quarter onions.
- Place 2 sprigs of dill and 1 teaspoon of garlic in each jar. Divide cucumbers and onions equally between each jar. Pour in pickling liquid, leaving 1/2-inch of headroom between liquid and top of jar. Refrigerate for 1-2 days before eating for quick pickles, or process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes to seal lids, then store in a cool, dark place.