Whip Smart Kitchen

Recipes, methods & musings for the whip-smart home cook


Easy make-ahead recipes for Memorial Day: slow-cooker Italian roast beef and dill pickles

Slowcooker, Italian, RecipeLeannda CavalierComment

This post was originally published on my old blog. This version may contain minor edits and updates. The original is preserved at Recipe Repository

Just found out you have company coming for Memorial Day? Scrambling to find something to make?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you.

I have one of the easiest roast recipes in the world, with a flavor that skips no corners: Slow-cooker Italian Roast Beef. Tender, tangy, slow-cooked perfection.

There’s a kick other than the flavor though: this recipe is far more American than it is Italian. It follows the classic Italian-American formula of using tenderizing agents and strong flavors to cover up the fact that a cut of meat isn’t exactly prime rib. 

To be fair, a bottom round roast isn’t a terrible cut, but it is pretty lean, which can make it a little tough depending on how you cook it.

This simple method is going to make it melt like cotton candy in a rainstorm.

I got this recipe from my Mom and Ya-ya, who have taught me a lot about the principles of food and cooking. If you know the basics, you can change just about any recipe to suit your needs without royally screwing it up. I’m pretty sure that’s what they did here.

I’ve seen similar versions elsewhere, but they generally rely on seasoning packets and other similar ingredients I’m not a fan of using. The giardiniera (Italian-style pickled vegetables) is about as “fake” a food as I want to use. My family turned this into a four-ingredient crockpot of tender heaven that can easily feed a small party or me and my husband for half a week.

What more could you want? Oh, you do want more? Good, because I have it:

PICKLES. Impressive ones, ‘cause you made them yo’self!

I adapted this recipe from Alton Brown’s fermented dill pickle recipe.  I was watching the “Dill-icious” episode of “Good Eats” the other day (definitely not for the fifth time since it’s been on Netflix, that would be crazy…) and noticed he said you could skip the fermentation process and make refrigerator pickles.  

I saw that as a challenge, so an experiment I started.

I am posting the recipe instead of just linking it because I made a few adjustments and elaborated on it for those who have trouble cooking without following a recipe exactly (p.s., we’re gonna work on that later, you and me!).


First, I pared it down a little. This was a late-night experiment, after all. Second, whether or not you reduce the ratios, you need less salt when you’re not fermenting. Third I actually upped the garlic because I love it. Fourth, I added some vinegar just in case the other flavoring agents weren’t enough. Looking back, I don’t think the vinegar was necessary, but I will continue using it because I like the little zesty something it adds. Finally, I replaced dill seed with dried dill weed because either the Morristown, Tennessee area has no use for dill seed, or there is a vast conspiracy among the local grocers. I’ll let you choose your own adventure there.

Back to Monday. Pair these recipes with staples like grilled corn and fruit salad and tell your guests they’re welcome to bring a covered dish. You seem like you’ve got it all together, friend.

So are you really going to make burgers and hot dogs again this year?

Slow-Cooker Italian Roast Beef Sandwiches

(Serves 8-10)

Prep: 5-10 minutes

Passive cooking: 10 hours

Shredding: 5 minutes

Total active cook time: 10-15 minutes


  • 3-4 lbs bottom round (rump) roast
  • 16-oz jar of Italian giardiniera, packed in vinegar
  • 16-oz jar of mild pepper rings
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Bread of choice for serving (I recommend toledo rolls)


  1. Place beef roast in the center of your slow-cooker.
  2. Pour jar of Italian giardiniera over the roast.
  3. Drain off half of the juice from the pepper rings and discard. Pour the rest of the jar’s contents over the roast.
  4. Add garlic cloves to the mixture.
  5. Put the lid on, set the slow-cooker to low and cook for 10 hours. 
  6. Remove from heat, shred with two forks.  Drain off excess juice—and save it!
  7. Serve warm on toledo rolls or Italian sub rolls. To take it to the next level of comforting deliciousness, serve it with little cups of the juice for dipping. 

Refrigerator Dill Pickle Spears

Prep: 10 minutes

Refrigerate: 3-4 days (2 minimum)

Total active cook time: 10 minutes


  • ⅓ cup pickling salt
  • 1 tsp dried dill weed
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 4-5 pickling cucumbers (4-6 inches), quartered lengthwise*
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ large bunch fresh dill
  • Several cups filtered water


  1. Combine pickling salt, dried dill weed, black peppercorns, red pepper flakes, white vinegar and one cup of filtered water in a quart-sized mason jar.** Stir until salt dissolves.
  2. Place as many cucumber spears as you can fit into the mixture.
  3. Place fresh dill and garlic cloves in between and around the cucumbers, using a butter knife to help you push them down if necessary.
  4. Top off with filtered water, making sure to cover all of the pickles. Seal tightly and give it a shake to combine.
  5. Leave the jar in the refrigerator for at least two days, preferably 3-4. Eat within 10-14 days.

*If you like your pickles thinner, you can always halve any large quarters.

**I actually used a deli container this time that I had from buying grape leaves. You can really use just about any air-tight container that holds about a quart. Just don’t use anything that’s going to hold the smell of the vinegar or pass on smells from other foods.