How to Make Dill Pickles from Cucumbers
We make pickles most years from our backyard garden cucumbers. Here is how I do it and a few tips along the way.
Tip: When you pick the cucumbers (and believe me they grow overnight!) be prepared to make pickles ASAP. If that isn't possible I recommend waiting to pick until you are ready or it does work to soak the cucumbers in ice and water until you can get to the task....but no longer than 6 hours in the ice cold soak and keep it cold with lots of ice but also water...you don't want to freeze the freshly-picked cucumbers!
This recipe is one I have tweaked over the years and they are very zesty and flavorful--some may even say spicy? So if you are not about zinging your taste buds then just leave out the peppery spices. They are super crunchy--who likes soggy pickles?
Tip: I always refrigerate them and keep the opened jar chilled. Nothing better in summertime than sitting on the front porch swing chilling with a pickle for a snack!
Preparation & Supplies:
Clean sterilized glass quart or pint jars. New sealing lids and jar rings (the rings can be re-used year after year.)
Large stainless steel pots
Canning Jar Funnel (so helpful in filling the jars with hot brine!)
MARMEE'S CRUNCHY ZESTY DILL PICKLES
Apple cider vinegar
Dill seed or fresh dill
Whole peppercorns (optional)
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Dried onion flakes
Alum powder (food-grade)
To make the brine:
6 cups white vinegar + 3 cups apple cider
1 1/2 cups pickling salt (if you use table salt - the brine may become cloudy)
19 cups water
Add all to a very large stainless steel pot. Do not use aluminum as it will have a reaction with the vinegar! Do not stir with any aluminum utensils. Allow brine to come to a rolling boil and keep on a low simmer while filling jars with spices and cucumbers. Do not allow the brine to simmer for long periods of time as it will evaporate away during the simmer.
You will need a very large pot that is deep enough to hold at least 3 quart jars that can have water covering the tops of them by 1-2 inches. Fill this pot 3/4 full of water and set on medium high heat to begin to come to a boil. You will need this pot of boiling water to process your jars to cause them to seal. If you do not have a canning pot with a bottom rack--I have made-do by using a very large stock pot and place a small folded towel on the bottom so the glass jars do not touch the bottom of the pot.
Into each clean and sterilized quart jar put:
1 heaping tsp. dill seed or 2 bunches fresh dill heads
5 peppercorns -optional + 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes - optional
1 Tbsp. onion flakes
1/8 tsp. alum powder (must go in there or they will be soggy!)
2 whole garlic cloves - peeled and cut in half
1/8 tsp. tumeric
(To make your pickles in pint jars - simply half the ingredients)
Next load your jars with cucumbers--cut into 1" thick chunks, spears, sandwich slices, or tiny whole ones. Do not peel - always cut off both ends (the ends can cause spoilage) don't use cucumbers with large seeds. (If you have a very large cucumber you can split it lengthwise with a sharp knife and cut out the seedy part and still have enough cucumber flesh to make into pickles.)
Pour hot brine over the spices and cucumbers that fill each jar--leaving one-inch headspace at the top of the jar. As soon as I pour the boiling brine into each jar--I seal them up after wiping the rims with a fresh new lid and screw ring on tightly but do not wrench.
Place filled and sealed hot jars into the large pot with boiling water. Water must cover the sealed jars by one inch. Keep it on high heat and let them stay in the pot 10 minutes. If you over process them they will become soggy. Mine have always sealed in this time period if I have put them directly from filling with hot boiling brine. They always seal and they taste best after 2 weeks in the jars for flavors to meld. I refrigerate each jar as I open it to get them extra cold before eating.
Pickles keep well but you can tell OBVIOUSLY if they did not seal well or preserve and are spoiled. Watch for a broken seal on your quart or pint jar, sogginess, discoloration, etc. DISCLAIMER: Do NOT eat any home canned foods that are questionable re: their freshness.
- Martha Greene