When the dill weed flowers in our garden in mid-summer, I head to the farmers market in search of the right sized baby cucumbers to make dill pickles. This family recipe is so popular and surprisingly simple. Many cooks are often intimidated by the whole preserving process, but the compliments you’ll receive make the effort worthwhile. While you’ll be tempted to eat them right away, you’ll have to be patient and let them pickle for at least 4 months.
Choosing the right cucumbers
Choosing the right size cumbers makes all the difference for this recipe. About 5 ½ inches long by 4 inches in circumference is perfect. This is about the size of those wonderful little Lebanese cucumbers. If your cucumbers are the right length but too thick, you should cut them in half or quarters lengthwise. The idea is to pack them tightly into the jars before adding the brine. Small cukes allow for tighter packing and less brine is required to fill the jars.
Canning and food safety
This is an old family recipe that uses basic canning methods. There is a possibility that the jar lids may fail to make a tight vacuum seal. In that case, your preserves will be unsafe to eat. I strongly recommend that anyone who has never made preserves before do a little more research about the canning process. Please be aware that there are health risks if your preserves become contaminated due to improper canning procedures. Never take a chance in eating any preserves if the jar seal is not concave and tight or the brine has become cloudy over time.
For additional information and best practices about home canning, the mason jar makers at Bernardin offer plenty of advice. Another great resource is The National Center for Home Food Preservation. They offer canning guidelines and comprehensive answers to many FAQs.
Dill Pickles with Garlic
- 6, 1-quart wide-mouth mason jars with rings and new lids
- A Canner or a large stock pot with room for the six jars
- A wire rack for the bottom of the pot
- Potholders or oven mitts
- 4 quarts small cucumbers about 8 lbs
- 6 heads of dill weed
- 6 garlic cloves
- ¾ cup pickling salt
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 10 cups water
- Wash the jars with soap and water.
- Sterilize the jars and lids by placing them in a stock pot with a wire rack at the bottom.
- Add enough water to cover at least 1 inch above the top of the jars. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare the brine by adding the salt, vinegar and water to a pot. Bring to a boil.
- Remove the jars with tongs, drain off the water and place the jars on a tea towel. Keep the lids and water in the pot.
- Add the garlic and dill to the jars.
- Tightly pack the cucumbers into the jars.
- Carefully pour the brine over the cucumbers, leaving ½ inch head space at the top.
- Centre lids on the top of the jars and secure with the screw rings. Do not over-tighten as air bubbles will need to escape in the next step.
- Return the jars to the stock pot (or put in a canner) add extra water if needed to cover at least 1 inch over the jars. Boil (process) for 15 minutes.
- Using tongs or a lifter and oven mitts, carefully raise one jar at a time out of the water bath and remove from the pot.
- Set the jars on a tea towel and allow to cool at room temperature, undisturbed for at least 6 hours.
- Check that all the lids are well sealed. If they are, they will be concave (curved down) and feel tight. If not, they will be slightly convex and make a popping sound when pressed upon. To remedy this, remove the lid, check for dirt or chips on the jar lid, use a new lid, reseal and repeat the 15-minute boiling process and subsequent steps.