Anyway, the second most exciting thing about having our garden was having pickling cucumbers. These are cucumbers made especially for pickling - and I really love them un-pickled in salads too - they have a different flavor from regular old cucumbers!
We discovered our first cucumbers in the garden last week and I was immediately ready to pickle them. I just finished my second batch this morning and decided I would share the recipe and process with you - do you understand how lucky you are right now? Well, after you try this and eat one - you will!
First you start with pickling cucumbers from your garden - or if you don't have a garden, you can pick them up at the grocery store or a local farmers market.
And of course since these are DILL pickles, you will need some fresh dill. Now, you can use the fresh dill that's found in the produce section next to all the other herbs, but to really make these good, you'll want to find some of the dill that has started to seed...it looks like this:
Some other ingredients that are good to help flavor the pickles are garlic, onion and some type of pepper, whether it be jalepenos or these red peppers (they look pretty in the jar):
Once you have all your ingredients, you'll want to decide how you want your pickles - sliced, spears or whole. This depends on the size of your pickles. My mother in law always has the perfect sized little whole pickles. Mine on the other hand where rather rotund this year, so I had to spear them and slice them. I did get a few of those cute little crooked suckers though.
One very important tip that you will want to follow is to make sure to cut off the ends of the pickle. If you leave the ends on, it will cause the pickles to turn soft and bitter. So please - listen up here!
The next important thing is your jar. I'm using quart mason jars that you can pick up at the local grocery store. These jars come with new lids and rings.
However, you can use quart jars that you already have on hand, but you'll want to make sure to buy NEW LIDS. This is very important because anyone who has canned before knows that lids can only be used once or they WILL NOT seal.
I wash my jars and then put them in hot water on the stove for several minutes so that they get sterilized. I also throw in the lids to sterilize too.
Once your jars have been sterilized and all your ingredients are chopped up and ready to go, you can start putting everything in the jars. I start out with a stem of dill, a couple garlic cloves, a few slices of jalapeno or red pepper and maybe a few onion slices
Then I start packing in the pickles. You'll want to make sure you're packing them in there a snug as you can - there's no sense in wasting a bunch of jars because you were afraid to strong arm your pickles!
Then, as you're building you can add more garlic, dill, onion, etc so that the flavor is defined for the pickles at the top of the jar too.
Once you're all done packing in everything, you'll want to pour boiling hot water over all the ingredients in the pickle jar until it fills to the top. Let the water sit for 5 minutes.
Once the 5 minutes is up, you will want to drain the hot water from the jar. If your ingredients are packed nice and snug, nothing should fall out when you pour out the water. However, if you want to be on the safe side you can hold a wide slotted spatula over the mouth of the jar to hold in everything. Oh yeah, and make sure to wear an oven mitt when you hold that jar - it will be HOT!
After you've poured out all the water, you will want to then pour in the hot brine mixture (recipe below). Make sure to leave about 1/2 of head room at the top of the jar, but also make sure that the brine mixture has covered everything in the jar.
Then, wipe the mouth of the jar with a towel and place the clean lid on the jar and twist on the ring. Now, don't twist the ring tight at this time. Twist the ring just until you have a little tightness - once the lids have popped and you know a seal has been created, then you can tighten down the ring.
Let the jars sit on the counter until the lids have sealed. You'll know this has happened once you hear a "pop" from the lids. If you press the lid and it clicks, your jar has not sealed. Once all jars have sealed and cooled - store jars in the refrigerator. Then you will need to wait 3-4 weeks before eating so that the brine and all the other flavorful ingredients can work their magic.
Homestyle Dill Pickles
2 quarts water
1 quart grain vinegar (should be 9% acidity)
1/2 cup pickling salt
Bring ingredients to a boil. While liquids come to a boil, prepare jars and stuff with fresh dill, garlic cloves, hot peppers and pickles. Pour boiling hot tap water over the ingredients in the jar. Let sit for 5 minutes. Drain off hot water. Once brine comes to a boil, pour brine over ingredients in the jar, making sure to cover everything. Make sure to leave 1/2" head room at the top of jar. Wipe mouth of jar clean and place a new lid on the jar. Place ring on loosely until jar has sealed by "popping". Pickles will be ready in 3-4 weeks. Please keep pickles refrigerated.
Any unused brine can be kept in the refrigerator until another use. Please make sure to store in a plastic or glass container.
So there you go - beautiful homegrown dill pickles - made to your specifications with your own two hands! Enjoy :)