Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dead Simple Dill Pickles

I have been dreaming of old-fashioned, homemade pickles since last winter, when I picked out some pickling cucumber heirloom seeds to plant this year. The weather delayed the harvest, so when pickling cucumbers began popping up in the farmer's market last week, and my own crop had just begun to produce, I was too anxious to wait!

I have never made pickles before, and it strikes me as a wonderfully old-fashioned way to preserve produce. I decided I would first tackle the most basic thing possible: A simple dill pickle.

I found a recipe that sounded easy enough, but later when the jars were already sealed and stored, I began to worry. Most of the other pickle recipes I was seeing online included a lot of seasonings like mustard seeds, special ingredients to preserve the crunch factor, and so on... I became so worried about my humble pickles that it took me a week to crack open a jar and timidly do a taste test.

Fantastic! They are crunchier and crisper than anything I've had from the store or from a restaurant, and with a good balance of flavors between the dill and vinegar. If you're looking for an easy recipe for beginners and want to try your hand at homemade pickles, this is a great place to start. And you probably already have most of the ingredients in your pantry!

NOTE: After washing your cukes, sort them into piles by size. This uniformity of size will help your jars look nicer and the cukes will fit better into the jars.

Dead Simple Dill Pickles

7 wide-mouth quart jars, lids and rings
1 bunch fresh dill
25-30 pickling cucumbers, washed and scrubbed and halved or quartered, it's up to you!
7 garlic cloves (or more)


8 1/2 c. water
2 1/4 c. white vinegar
1/2 c. kosher salt

1. Wash the jars in hot, soapy water (or dishwasher); rinse and fill with hot water. Set aside.
2. Fill canning kettle half-full with hottest tap water; set on burner over high heat.
3. In a medium saucepan, fit lids and rings together, cover with water, bring to a simmer.
5. In a large saucepan, bring water, vinegar and salt to boil; turn off the heat; set aside.
6. FILL JARS: place a layer of dill and one garlic clove at the bottom of each jar. Then tightly load the cukes into the jar to the NECK of the jar. Squeeze cukes into the jar tightly. Uniform size helps; add a few spriglets of dill at the top, too. You can add another garlic clove if you like (optional).
7. Once jars are loaded, pour in the bring leaving half-inch head space in each jar.
8. Add lid and ring to each jar, tightening evenly.
9. Place jars into canned with water JUST to the necks of the jars.
10. Bring water ALMOST to a boil (about 15 min, depending on how fast it heats up).
11. Remove jars, set on a dish towel on the kitchen counter, cover with another dish towel, and let cool.
12. Check for seal, label jars, and store in a cool dark place.

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