My friend Rosie first taught me how to make pickles a few yeas ago from her father’s recipe and I have made them every year since. They are much easier to make than one might think yet still achieve a hearty wow factor from friends when shared at gatherings.
One of the things I like about pickles is that there is a specific time to make them (late summer into early fall) helping remind me that food does have seasons and all things aren’t available at all times. This intimate knowledge of our food is largely lost on my generation, myself included until I started to garden and really think about the natural food cycle.
Rosie’s Dill Pickles
Start with pickling cucumbers. While I do grow pickling cucumbers, or as I like to say, I grow pickles, it is actually more efficient to purchase cukes all at once to make a large batch. Using them out of the garden requires diligence to make more small batches.
For 12 quart jars of pickles, I start with a large mixing bowl full of pickles – yeah – this isn’t super helpful – I sound like my grandmother whose recipe cards say things like, “Start with $.25 of ground beef” – what is that? A pound of beef in 1935? But I digress.
The farmer’s market stand that I like to buy my pickling cukes from – hands out the plastic bags that 10lbs of potatoes are sold in and I fill one of these to the rim – for $10, by the way – what a deal! The pickles in the photo are from my garden, which highlights one of the benefits of getting them at the farmer’s market. When I get them out of my garden, I get a variety from big to small based on what is ready to pick. At the market you can pick more consistent sets of sizes.
The critical ingredient is the dill weed – if you can’t find dill weed – go home and call it a day. So my pickling day(s) revolve around when I can find dill weed. Dill weed is different than dill and can be found at your farmer’s market for just a few weeks each season and usually at major grocery store chains during the same time period.
- 10-15 lbs. pickling cukes – firm, dark green (no yellow), and not too large (seeds get too large and skin gets too tough
- 1-2 bunches of dill weed (it’s ok to buy it and chop it up and store in plastic bags for a couple weeks – it’s ok if the weed dries out)
- 5-6 large onions
- 3-4 large bulbs (not cloves, but entire bulbs) garlic
- 1 Quart White Vinegar
- 1 cup Kosher Salt
- 4 Quarts water
- Optional: hot peppers (jalepeno, habenero, etc.) to add a bit of heat
The above list gives me about a dozen quart jars, give or take. Be sure to have enough brining ingredients on hand in case you come up short on brine. This is driven in part by how packed your cucumbers are and what shape they are cut into. This recipe also works well for pickled cauliflower, peppers, and carrots.
I prefer to prep all my ingredients first, then stuff the jars, then pour the brine, then can.
- Peel all the garlic cloves, leaving them whole.
- Peel and slice the onions
- Wash and slice (or leave whole if not too big) all the cucumbers. A mandolin slicer is great for this if you desire slices
- Chop the dill in 2-3 inch segments
- Slice hot peppers (if using). A single slice of jalapeño per jar, gives a nice bit of zing without being ‘hot.’ Add more slices/different peppers to make hot, if desired
- Jar rings can be re-used year to year, but always buy new lids to ensure a proper seal
- I like to wash my jars before pickling by running them through a cycle in the dishwasher. I start with an empty dishwasher and run a cycle with just jars and remove the jars as I fill them
- Place jar rings and lids in a saucepan, covering completely with water; bring to a simmer and hold there while packing the jars
- Bring water, salt and vinegar to a boil in a large stockpot. Stir to ensure that salt is dissolved
- Brine is ready to use once it has come to a full boil
- Use a large measuring cup as a dipper for distributing the hot brine
Filling the Jars:
- Pack the cloves, onions and dill weed at the bottom of the jar
- Add pickles, packing as tightly as possible without unduly squashing the cucumbers
- Fill each jar with brine high enough to cover the pickles, but leaving head room in the jar for expansion while canning. I generally fill to top of the jar stopping just before the straight neck of the jar starts.
- Using tongs, remove the lids and rings one by one to close the jars and hand tighten each ring
- There is a lot of debate about how long is required to properly seal the jars and kill anything that might otherwise grow in a jar left at room temperature
- I don’t have interest in getting into a heated debate on proper canning times, so I recommend picking the right canning time based on your altitude from the Ball canning website or from your local extension agent
- In my house we like our pickles crunchy, so we water bath for only about 10 minutes (less than required for my high altitude) and then keep the jars in spare fridge in the basement. (My husband is convinced that the fridge helps them stay crispy, I’m not convinced, but it’s not worth arguing over 😉
This is the hard part – from the time of canning, wait a minimum of 3 weeks before eating your pickles to ensure the brine and spices have had time to impart sufficient flavor into your pickles.