Wednesday, August 22, 2012

THE Best Dill Pickle Recipe Ever, Includes Tweaks (and Shhhh - It's Easy!)

So, I have to give credit to my sister-in-law for hooking me on making home-made pickles!  I've made them for a few years now, and each time they turn out great.

I've made them using two different recipes, so I'll share the basic one and then tell you some of the variations and you can craft your own recipe and make it YOURS!

I'm going to assume you know how to do basic canning, or that you can find the basics online.  I'll tell you what I do, but I am by no means an expert!!

Disclaimer: I'm not a canning expert!!

Ball's website has a very nice section on canning, so if you want additional information visit them here to get started... but don't let NOT knowing what you are doing hold you back - it is EASY and FUN!!

:)  Did I make that clear?  I'm sharing what I do to make my pickles, I'm not an expert at all, so keep that in mind please.

What you need (the basics):
- Pickling Cucumbers (general rule of thumb seems to be 1 1/2 to 2 lbs per Quart canning jar)
- 2-3 Heads of Dill per jar
- 1 tsp Mustard Seeds per jar
- 1/2 tsp Peppercorns per jar
- 3-5 peeled garlic cloves per jar (hubby loves garlic, so I tend to put 7+ in)
- 1/4 cup of chopped sweet onion per jar
- Brine (recipe follows) to fill jar to within 1/4 inch of top

Brine Recipe:
- 4 1/2 Cups Water
- 2 1/4 Cups White Vinegar (you can use Apple Cider Vinegar instead)
- 1/2 Cup Pickling Salt or Celtic Sea Salt (I use Celtic Sea Salt)

Put all ingredients into a pan and bring to a boil.
Set aside until you have filled your quart jars with ingredients, then fill to within 1/4 inch of the top of the jar

Note:  I find that this brine recipe fills about 6 quart jars, so make it in multiples, ie, if you are going to do 2 dozen quart jars of pickles, start with a quadruple (4x) batch, so 18 C Water, 9 C Vinegar, 2 C Salt.

Basic Instructions: 
1. Wash your cucumbers.
2. Prepare your jars (wash/sanitize - using clean jars, I generally run them through the dishwasher using just water for 10 or so minutes and get them really hot, I also do this when making jams too)
3. Get your canning pot out, fill it with water and get it heating.
4. Fill a small pot with water and bring it to a simmer, you will use this for your quart lids
5. Pull all your ingredients out and organize them in your workspace so it is easy to fill the jars

Assembly Line Style of Filling Jars With My Helpers!
Filling the jars...note the flipped jars that were done the day before.

Fill the Jars (measurements are per jar, set them up assembly line style): 
1. 2-3 heads of Dill (the nice flowery yellow part of a bunch of dill)
2. 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
3. 1/2 tsp Peppercorns
4. 3-5 peeled garlic cloves
5. 1/4 Cup chopped onion
6. Cucumbers to fit
Here is where you need to decide the types of pickles you want: whole, spears, rounds for hamburgers, a combination, etc.  I personally put a combination of whole and spears.  I can generally fit 4-5 cucumbers in the jar, then add 5-10 more cut spears (make spears by cutting the cucumbers in quarters the long way).  Do not overfill the jars (not above the neck of the jar) as it will possibly cause your jars to not seal correctly during canning.
Sometimes it is easier to put the jars on their sides when filling them with cucumbers.
7. If you still have room in the top of the jar, you can add smaller pieces of cucumber, more garlic, more dill, more onions, etc.  Just do not overfill the jars.
8. Fill the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top with the Brine

Process the Jars for Preserving:
(Hopefully your canning water has come to a gentle rolling boil)
1. Make sure the tops of the jars are clean (wipe off any spices or ingredients so you get a good seal)
2. Take a lid from the simmering water and place it on the jar mouth
3. Take a ring and tighten it on the neck, keeping the lid in place
4. Do this for a "set" of jars, or the amount that will fill your canner
5. Make sure the water covers the top of the tallest jar by 1-2 inches
6. Boil for 15 minutes
7. Remove carefully and let cool on a counter or table

When completely cool, the jars should have a tight seal.  To check the seal, you press down on the middle of the lid.  If you hear a click, the jar did not seal, so you will have to re-process or store in the refrigerator.  If the jar lid is solid (no click), it is ready to be stored.

Now the tricky part - I flip the jars daily for 2 weeks to distribute the spices really well before storing them.

And now the fun part... Variations!!  The above makes a really good basic Dill Pickle.  You can add the following in order to tweak the taste and make the recipe your own:
1. Pickling Spices (follow the instructions on the spice jar/box)
2. Add Jalapeno peppers
3. Add Spicy Red Peppers
4. If you love garlic or onions (or okra, etc) fill a jar with those instead of cucumbers

Pickles made with Pickling Spices and Jalapeno Peppers, just before Canning.

Note: The cucumbers are slightly "cooked" during the canning process, which can make them a little less crisp.  To help crispness, wash the cucumbers the night before and store them in ice water or a clean cooler filled with ice.

Some people are able to do a quick batch of pickles in a little over an hour.  I tend to do 3-6 dozen quart jars at a time, and it generally takes 4 hours or so.


Cheap Is The *New* Classy said...

I started canning a few years ago. I have never canned upside down, though. Interesting. As long as it is a method that is proven safe, I will try anything! They look good. :)


Nikki said...

I've never canned anything, but this looks delicious! I love the pictures of your little ones helping out!

Crazy Coupon Mommy said...

OMG - you had me at Garlic and Jalapeno. I can't wait to try this!!!

Jeannette said...

My son loves pickles! He eats them with everything! I'm going to have to try this out!

About A Mom said...

These look amazing. A friend of mine makes her own pickles and they are so delicious. I totally need to try this myself!

Erika Bragdon said...

Wow, those look really good! I've never done any canning before, but I'd love to try one day.

Opal Stevens said...

Oh wow, that's so awesome!

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