Classic Dill Pickles
I recently hosted the entire Morris side of our family for a short weekend family reunion. The now young adult cousins hadn’t seen each other all together in over 5 years, and it was a gathering their grandparents would have loved to have seen. That meant I didn’t have a chance to get in my garden for nearly a full week, and by the time I did, my little cucumber plants had gone into overdrive. When will I learn that 1 cucumber or zucchini plant is really enough?!When I just have a few small cucumbers I “cheat” and just slice them up and add them to a jar of pickle juice left over from a commercially produced pickle company. But with this many on hand I had to break down and actually can them. (If you’ve been reading this blog for any time now you know I’m a lazy sort of gardener and prefer simpler techniques to preserve my food like freezing!)I used the recipe from Peg Lehr in the Monroe Organic Farms CSA cookbook that I put together a couple of years ago. It’s a classic spicy dill pickle recipe, and I must say it was much easier than I thought. Soak the cucumbers in water in the refrigerator overnight to make them crisp (mine absorbed 1/4 of the bowl of water, in case you’re wondering if this step is really necessary). Then slice in disks or lengthwise (or leave whole if they are small enough – mine weren’t as they were largely overgrown) and pack very tightly into jars. During the processing the pickles shrink a bit, so pack them as tightly as you can. Cover with the vinegar mixture and add the seasonings, cover, and process in a water bath for 10 minutes. All my jars sealed up perfectly – you know you’ve done it right when the canning lids suck in and seal tightly – if you press on the lid after they have cooled and it still makes a dimple sound, then it didn’t work right and you should just place that jar in the refrigerator to be eaten right away.The rest of the perfectly canned pickles can make their way into your pantry to be enjoyed throughout the winter.
Don’t feel like canning but don’t know what to do with all of your excess harvest? If you live in Denver and have an excess of produce from your garden that you’d like to share with those in need, please consider the Produce for Pantries project!
- 24 4-inch cucumbers (see note)
- 1 quart distilled white vinegar
- 1 cup salt
- 3 quarts water
- 1 teaspoon powdered alum
- 16 garlic cloves
- 16 dill heads
- 16 small hot red peppers
- 16 grape leaves
- Wash cucumbers and slice if you are not pickling them whole. Place in a large bowl and cover with cold water and place in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, combine the vinegar, salt and water in a large pot and heat to boiling.
- While the vinegar mixture is heating, drain the cucumbers and pack into 16 sterilized pint jars, making sure to pack the cucumbers very tightly. Add a pinch of alum to each jar.
- Pour the hot vinegar carefully over the cucumbers and use a knife to work out any trapped air in the jars. Place a garlic clove, dill head, red pepper, and grape leaf on top of each jar and seal with canning lids and rings.
- Working in batches, Process for 10 minutes in a traditional hot water bath. Carefully remove jars from the water bath and allow to cool fully. Inspect seals before storing in the pantry.
If your cucumbers are overgrown, slice them lengthwise into spears, but cut some of the excess seeds off of each spear.