Making Dill Pickles

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Introduction: Making Dill Pickles

In my garden I planted about six times as many plants of each type as was recommended, largely because I was too soft-hearted to throw away the less-hardy of them, and now have a ridiculous harvest and plants that are taking over the back yard and even trying to get into the house. This created a new problem: What to do with the excess harvest, above and beyond the produce my boyfriend and I could reasonably eat? We decided to pickle some of it, particularly the cucumbers, which lend themselves naturally to such processing. I picked a few green tomatoes as well to try the process on them. I used a recipe by Sharon Howard that I found online.

Note: You have to wait 8 weeks after pickling before you are supposed to eat the pickles. !!!

Ingredients:
8 pounds cucumbers (cut into spears if too large for the jars)
We also used green tomatoes.
4 cups white vinegar
12 cups water
2/3 cup pickling salt
16 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
fresh dill weed

Equipment it's helpful to have (though we didn't):
Boiling-water canner.

Step 1: Chill the Cukes.

Wash cucumbers, and place in the sink with cold water and lots of ice cubes. Soak in ice water for at least 2 hours but no more than 8 hours. Refresh ice when it melts. This took all the ice in my freezer and an additional bag that I had to run out to get.

Step 2: Boil the Brine.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, water, and pickling salt. Bring the brine to a rapid boil. Note: Although the ingredients called for pickling salt, we used regular table salt, and made sure it was completely dissolved in the liquid. This picture was taken when most of the brine was already in jars with cukes, btw; initially it filled the entire pot. But check out the briny goodness encrusted on the sides of the pot!

Step 3: Sterilize Canning Jars and Lids.

Wash 8 (1 quart ) canning jars, bands, and lids in hot soapy water and rinse. Dry bands and set aside. Place the jars and lids in 180-degree (near-boiling) water for at least 10 minutes. Also sterilize the tongs you use to put them in the boiling water and take them back out. Don't touch them with your hands after you sterilize them. Keep the jars and lids hot until used.

We did steps 3-4 in batches of two or three jars at a time.

Step 4: Load the Jars With Spices, Cukes, and Brine and Seal.

Right after you take the jars out of the sterilizing bath, place in each 2 half-cloves of garlic, some dill, then enough cucumbers to fill the jar (about 1 pound). Then add 2 more garlic halves, and some more dill. Fill jars with hot brine. Leave headspace of 1/4 inch. Make sure nothing is hanging over the side. Remove air bubbles by sliding a nonmetallic spatula between the jar and food. Clean rim and threads of jar with a damp cloth. Center heated lid on jar. Screw band down to "fingertip tight." NOTE: If they are too tight, the lids deform when the steam tries to escape during processing (next step).

We did steps 3-4 in batches of two or three jars at a time.

Step 5: Process Sealed Jars in the Boiling Water Bath.

Process quart jars for 15 minutes.
a. It's suggested to use a rack to keep jars from touching canner bottom and to permit heat circulation; we didn't have the right size rack, so we didn't do this.
b. It's suggested to put jars into a canner that contains simmering water. We just used the three biggest and heaviest pots we had.
c. After adding jars, add boiling water to bring water 1 to 2 inches above jar tops. We couldn't get water above the jar tops, but comments I read online said this wasn't necessary.
d. Bring water to a rolling boil. Set timer and process for recommended time.
e. Remove jars from canner immediately after timer sounds.
f. Cool for 12-24 hours on a rack or towel. Or on the counter, as you see here.
g. Do not retighten screw bands after processing.
h. After jars are cooled, remove screw bands, wipe jars, label and date.
i. Store jars in a cool, dark place.
j. For best quality, use within one year.

Step 6: Check the Seals.

To ensure lids are sealed, remove bands and try to lift lids off with your fingertips. Clean jars and lids with a damp cloth. Label and store jars in a cool, dry, dark place.

Wait 8 weeks (EIGHT WEEKS! THAT'S TWO MONTHS! ACK!) before eating for best results. Sorry for you instant gratification junkies, but the flavors won't have melded until then.

When I was checking the seals, I pulled too hard with my fingernails on one and it came off. If a seal comes off, they have to go right into the fridge, and you have to eat them sooner. Oh dang!

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    59 Comments

    I made this the other night and some in some of my jars the brine has turned kinda pinkish. I think it's from the dill as some was a little dried out? Do you have any answers to this? Thank you33

    5 replies

    I just read that if you use table salt instead of pickling salt, there will be a chemical reaction creating the color change.

    DenellJ, there is no chemical difference between table salt and pickling salt. The main reason you use pickling salt is because it is very fine, so there is more of it in a measure than there is of table salt in the same measure. The fineness also assists the pickling salt in dissolving more quickly.

    I believe there is a big difference in the salts. Table salt has Iodine in it to prevent clumping and to supply our bodies with the minute amount of iodine we require to be healthy. Pickling salt is much larger and has no iodine. At least this is what my Nana taught me.

    It's probably the garlic - just a chemical reaction that changes the color but does no harm.

    I don't know what could have caused it. I have made them with fresh dill and dried. I have seen the garlic change colors, and wouldn't be surprised if the brine did too. If you are worried, you might want to store those jars in the fridge. I'm not a pickles expert and would welcome other thoughts on the subject!

    Table salt usually has iodine in it that can adversely affect some pickle recipes. Pickling salt does not.

    1 reply

    Actually, it's usually marked as such when you buy it; we always buy non-iodized salt for cooking.

    I am a food science teacher. You must submerge the jars under 1 to 2 inches of water, in a water bath canner. Never can anything like this! There are so many recipes out there on the Internet which are not safe. Here are some of the offical sites you can refer to for safe methods of home canning. The reason many of these sites exist is because many people died in times past from home preserved foods. Please see links below:
    http://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/home_canning.html
    http://nchfp.uga.edu/
    http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/nutrition/components/dj0516section1.html
    http://www.freshpreserving.com/getting-started.aspx

    1 reply

    Thanks! Botulism should be taken seriously as it is deadly! I am glad I didn't get it.

    If you add a slice of green bell pepper and a dried bay leaf to each it's even better

    1 reply

    Sounds great! Thanks for the tip - I'll try it in my next batch!

    Do you have to take the screw bands off? Once you test the seal, couldn't you put the screw band back on to ensure that you don't break the seal later?

    1 reply

    I have read that it is actually best to leave the bands off. If there is syrup or whatever residue left under the bands, they can rust and actually break the seal. I have never had this happen, and sometimes leave my bands on & sometimes take them off.

    FOLKS...This is not the correct way to water bath can! Don't use this method and start bad canning habits.

    I'm with purdyme on this one! Granted it is vinegar based and will most likely not be a problem BUT....anyone reading this may think that every recipe for a water bath canning can be done this way.

    Poor example to set, sorry.


    I did however try your brine and good job on that. :-)

    These dill pickles are the closest that I could find that are like my Mama's receipe. Very good.

    1 reply

    Thanks! I can't really take credit for the recipe (see link, above), but I'm glad you like them!

    I have a question! I want to make dill pickles but am not crazy about using white vinegar. Are there any other vinegars that are maybe a little more healthy for you that I could use? I use apple cider vinegar in most my recipes that call for vinegar. Would this work as a substitute?

    1 reply

    they all are about the same health wise, which is, not at all unhealthy. acetic acid, vinegar, is present in the human body all over. it's a byproduct of some kinds of metabolism processes. anyway, you can use apple cider vinegar, wine vinegar, or another flavored vinegar, as you like.

    And that would totally be true is this weren't pickles. The amount of acid in pickles makes a boiling water bath safe. Citing your own sources:

    "Whether food should be processed in a pressure canner or boiling-water canner to control botulinum bacteria depends on the acidity of the food. Acidity may be natural, as in most fruits, or added, as in pickled food. Low-acid canned foods are not acidic enough to prevent the growth of these bacteria. Acid foods contain enough acid to block their growth, or destroy them more rapidly when heated. The term "pH" is a measure of acidity; the lower its value, the more acid the food. The acidity level in foods can be increased by adding lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar.

    Low-acid foods have pH values higher than 4.6. They include red meats, seafood, poultry, milk, and all fresh vegetables except for most tomatoes. Most mixtures of low-acid and acid foods also have pH values above 4.6 unless their recipes include enough lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar to make them acid foods. Acid foods have a pH of 4.6 or lower. They include fruits, pickles, sauerkraut, jams, jellies, marmalades, and fruit butters."