Here we go – the start of “Pickle Week”!
I’m fairly new to pickling, so I had to spend a bit of time researching things like techniques, brine ingredient ratios, etc. Usually I’m really “freestyle” in the kitchen – even with baking – but my background in microbiology did instil a healthy fear of botulism in me. (That’s a nice way to say that I’m probably OVERLY paranoid about it, right?)
So, with all of that straightened out, I got right on pickling all kinds of different things – recipes are coming.
I can’t see ever buying pickles again, of any kind. I’m not even kidding. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved pickles, but now that we’ve had homemade… I just don’t see any way of going back. These taste so much better – cleaner? – than store bought pickles! Probably far healthier, too!
Even beyond the basics, pickling them at home means that you have full control over the way they are presented (slices? spears?), and seasoning. It’s been fun to develop recipes, honing everything to our personal tastes. My Hoppy IPA Pickles went over so crazy well, I actually had to put on a second, MEGA batch of them this weekend!
So, here’s my recipe for basic dill pickles. These are great as-is, but feel free to alter the “per jar” ingredients used. (Don’t alter the brine recipe! This one is safe, and changing water/salt/vinegar proportions can screw with that!)
A few notes about pickling:
1. The amount of jars / brine you’re going to need will vary widely depend on the shape and size of your cucumbers, the size of jar you use, how you prepare your cucumbers, and how well you pack them into the jar. Have a lot of extra vinegar on hand, and either make more brine than you think you’ll need, or be prepared to make more as you go.
2. Pickling salt is usually available with the canning supplies in any grocery store. You’ll want to use this, rather than regular table salt – the anti-caking additives in table salt can make your pickle brine go murky and ugly.
3. Use pickling cucumbers specifically, as they’re best suited for this. Pickle them within a day or two of them being picked, for crunchiest results – your best bet is to buy them at a farmers market. Use pickles that are crisp, not soft or mushy.
4. While you can use previously-used jars for canning (when WELL washed and sterilized!), you need new lids for each new batch. Safety first!
Homemade Dill Pickles
~ 4 lbs pickling cucumbers, washed/scrubbed well.
8 cups vinegar (5% acidity)
8 cups water
1 cup pickling salt
Per pint jar (2x for quart jars):
2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 head fresh dill (or 1 tsp dill seed)
1/4 tsp pepper corns
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 – 1/2 jalapeno, sliced (optional)
Clean, sterilized canning jars & rings
New, never-used, sterilized canning lids
LARGE pot to process them in
Jar lifter (nice to have, not necessary if you can handle pain!)
Slice your cucumbers into whatever form you prefer – we like to do spears for both pint and quart jars, selecting pickles that perfectly fit the height of each.
Fill your LARGE pot with at least 6″ of water, put on medium or high heat to bring it to a boil as you prepare your brine.
In another pot (NOT the canning pot!), combine vinegar, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring well to dissolve the salt. As the brine heats up, measure your “per jar” ingredients into your sterilized jars. Arrange your prepared cucumbers into the jars, packing them tightly.
Once brine comes to a boil, use a canning funnel to pour brine into prepared jars, leaving about 1/2″ head space. Wipe off the top edges of the jar with a clean, wet towel, top each with a new, sterilized lid, and carefully screw on a clean lid ring. I like to use a kitchen towel for this, the jars are HOT! Carefully place your jars of pickles into the boiling water pot, allow to process for 15 minutes. CAREFULLY remove them, allow to cool overnight.
The next morning, check to make sure that all of the jars achieved a proper seal – try to push down in the middle of each lid. If it “pops”, it did not seal. Any jars that didn’t seal should be put in the fridge and used in the next few weeks.
Leave the jars alone for at least a few days, to allow the flavors to permeate the cucumbers. Store in a cool, dark area (ideally) for up to 1 year, chill well before eating.