Just like my grandmother and my mother before me, I've been "putting up pickles" for as long as I can remember. Over the years, I've tried a lot of different recipes and spices but I always come back to this recipe, our family recipe. It's a traditional dill pickle recipe that is not too tart, or too salty, or bland.
Head to the farmers market now, this week! "Pickles", which are cucumbers that are not fully grown, are in season but won't be much longer. Look for cucumbers that are ideally no more than 3 inches long and were freshly picked that day or the day before. 12 pounds of cukes will yeild 10 quarts of dill pickles. The cukes should feel firm and crisp, not limp or rubbery, which indicates they were picked several days ago. As soon as you get the cukes home, fill your sink with cold water and submerge and wash them. If you are not going to preserve your pickles right away that day, refrigerate them for up to 2 days.
You also need to buy fresh dill, do not even bother canning pickles without fresh dill or I promise, you will be disappointed. Dill is also in season right now and easy to find at the farmers market. You will need one head of dill for each jar of pickles.
Let's do this!
Purchase a case of quart size canning jars. It will include the "bands" and "lids". Prepare the jars by running them through the dishwasher to sterilize, or hand wash them in hot water. Fill the water bath "canner" 3/4 full with water and get it on the stove; it takes a good half-hour to one hour to reach boiling.
Prepare the Brine:
13 cups of water
6 cups of 5% distilled white vinegar
1 cup of canning salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
Place that brine on the stove and bring it to a boil. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve and then keep the brine at a low boil.
Prepare the Bands and Lids:
Place the 10 lids into a saucepan of water and bring to simmer to keep them hot until you're ready to use them. The bands do not need to be heated.
Prepare and fill the Jars:
Line your 10 jars up on the counter and into each jar, place:
1 clove of fresh garlic, cut into 4 pieces
3 rings of sliced white onion
1 large head of dill
(see the first picture, those are my jars, filled)
It's time to fill each jar with cukes. Insert the cukes upright as the first layer and then crosswise to fill the jar - pack them in as tightly as possible. Do not let cukes sit above the neck of the jar.
Ladles the hot brine into each jar,
filling up to the neck, submerging the cukes.
Place the lids on the jars, and screw on the band, but not too tight!
The purpose of that band is simply to hold the lid in place so that it creates a seal. You will remove that band later.
Process the Cukes:
Place the wire basket into the canner so that the lip on the handles is holding it onto the edge of the canner, it is not yet submerged. Place your filled and sealed jars into the basket. Submerge the basket into the boiling water inside the canner (careful, this is all very hot!) Cover and boil for 15 minutes.
Left the wire basket partially out of the canner and again rest the basket on the rim of the pot so you can lift your jars out of the canner. I hightly recommend buying yourself one of these jar lifter gadgets - those jars are hot, slippery and heavy! Let the hot jars sit on the counter overnight. Then remove the band and confirm that each lid indeed sealed (I have never not had a lid seal).
Your cukes are now pickles!
Wait a minimum of 3 weeks to eat them. They get better the longer they sit so I try to hold my family off at least 6 weeks, but I have to hide the jars of pickles to pull this off. Then open the jar and insert a perfect pickle into a Bloody Mary to congratulate yourself on a job well done!
Use a marker to date the lid and eat your pickles within one year. No worries there, homemade dill pickles are a big hit and you'll be lucky if 10 jars last until the New Year.