How to Make Dill Pickles
What happens when a clueless gardener plants 8 cucumber plants in one season? Pickles. Lots and lots of pickles. It was a beginner’s mistake really. Last year I tried growing cucumbers but my soil was poor, the sunlight lacking, and I only watered the plants occasionally. It should come as no surprise that my efforts yielded nothing but a few pretty yellow flowers on sickly vines. This year we vowed to fix our shortcomings and grow something other than weeds. I raised tiny cucumber plants from seed and then planted all eight of them into rich sunny soil. As the plants grew I hoped they would produce enough cucumbers to make a few dozen jars of pickles. Ha! 50 pounds of cucumbers later and I was starting to see pickles in my sleep.
Luckily I have a family recipe for dill pickles so delicious that I could face the mountains of cucumbers with a vision of enough savory sour pickles to last all the way to next summer. Handed down from my great aunt Wilda (a master of farm-style cooking), this pickle recipe is flavored with fresh dill, grape leaves, and pungent garlic cloves. You simply fill each sterilized jar with the seasonings, add in sliced or whole cucumbers and then add a hot boiling mixture of vinegar and water.
The jars are topped with a lids and then processed in a hot water bath for about 25 minutes (depending on your elevation). Once sealed and cooled, the waiting game begins as you leave the jars in a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks before enjoying your first pickle. As with many pickled goods patience is well rewarded. The longer you wait the better they taste as the dill pickles reach their full flavor after about 3 months.
After the cucumber plants finally started to slow their crazy growth and aroma of vinegar faded from my kitchen I cracked open a jar of the pickles and took a bite. Sweet, sour, and a little spicy- they put grocery store pickles to shame. Nestled alongside the ultimate buffalo burger or a classic reuben sandwich you will start to wonder if 50 pounds of cucumbers was enough!
4 lbs of 4-inch pickling cucumbers, washed, blossom ends sliced off and discarded
3/4 cup canning salt (non-iodized) plus 1/2 cup canning salt (non-iodized) (divided)
1/4 cup vinegar (5 percent)
2 gallons of water plus 8 cups of water (divided)
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dill seed
4 to 5 heads fresh or dry dill weed
4 grape leaves, rinsed
1 Water Bath Canning Pot with Rack and Lid
4 Quart Size Canning Jars and Bands
4 New Quart Size Canning Lids
Fill a large basin with cucumbers, 3/4 cup canning salt, and 2 gallons of water. Stir to dissolve the salt and let the cucumbers sit in the mixture for 12 hours or overnight. Drain the liquid reserving the cucumbers. Cut the cucumbers into thick wedges or leave whole as desired.
In a large pot combine 1/2 cup canning salt, 8 cups of water, and 1/4 cup of vinegar. Heat until the brine is boiling.
While the brine is warming up, fill each canning jar with 1 clove of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon dill seed, 1 head of dill weed, and 1 grape leaf. Gently pack the cucumber slices into the jars. Fill each jar with the boiling brine, leaving 1/2 inch head space at the top of the jars. Cover each jar with a lid and a band. Tighten the bands until they are finger tight but not hard to unscrew.
Place the jars in a water bath canner filled with water until it covers the tops of the jars by 1 inch. Heat the water until it reaches 180-185 degrees. Use a candy thermometer to make sure that this temperature is maintained for the entire 30 minute processing time. After 30 minutes, use a jar lifter to remove the jars from the hot water. Dry the jars off and set on a counter to cool overnight. The next day remove the bands and push on the tops of the lids to check the seal. The lids should not move. If the lids move up and down the jars did not seal properly. Store any unsealed jars in the fridge and consume the pickles within a few weeks. Store sealed jars in a cool dark place and wait 2-3 weeks before enjoying your pickles.