Home-canned pickles are so much better than anything you get in the stores and SOOOOO much cheaper that it hurts me to buy them on the sad occasions that we run out. I try to avoid that by making large quantities every summer.
First off, I should admit that the recipe is not entirely my own–I started with a recipe out of the good old Betty Crocker cookbook. And while this recipe has its flex-points, you want to get the brine proportions right, or you end up with mushy pickles that don’t taste right.
To start with, you need about 12 quart canning jars, with accompanying lids and rings–clean them very well in hot soapy water, rinse, and let drip dry while you prepare your ingredients.
Next, you need a large canning kettle–I bought mine at an estate sale for $5–a big black spatter-ware pot with a wire tray and a lid. I’ve heard people sing the praises of pressure-canners, but since I don’t do any of the really heavy-duty canning, I’ve never used one. Fill your canning kettle about 2/3 or 3/4 full with water, and set it to boil.
Next, make the brine. I’ll give the mix first in the amount you need per quart, then the amount I used for my 12Q batch. You will note that I only multiplied the quart quantities by 8–it was plenty for 12 Q, with several cups leftover.
Brine: Bring to a boil the following:
- 1 3/4 c. water (large batch: 14 c. water)
- 3/4 c. cider or white vinegar (lg. batch: 6 c. vinegar)
- 1 TBSP pickling salt (lg batch: 8 TBSP salt)
IMPORTANT NOTE: You have to have light-colored vinegar if you want light colored pickles, and you must use pickling salt, not regular table salt!)
Each quart will take 5-6 pickling cucumbers, depending on how big they are, and how you slice them. I use cukes from the farmer’s market here in Michigan that are about 4-5 inches long, and usually 1-2 inches wide. For my 12 Quart batch, I used a half-bushel of cukes. We do long sandwich slices as well as round hamburger slices, and more rarely, quarters.
To pack the canning jars, you’ll need a large jar of minced garlic handy, plus several packages of dill seed. Pack the sliced cucumbers into the jars fairly tightly, filling the jar up to about 1 inch or so below the top. Add a dollop of garlic (how much is a dollop, you ask? well, how much do you like garlic?…..okay, not fair–let’s say about 1 TBSP of garlic.) Add about half as much dill seed. Pour in the hot brine over the cukes and spices, until the liquid reaches 1/2 inch below the top. Put a lid on, screw on the ring–not too tight yet.
Put the jars into the canning kettle, which is boiling by now, and leave for 15 minutes or so. Too long, and you have mushy pickles, too short, and you don’t get a good seal, which leads to spoiling.
After 15 minutes, take the jars out (you’ll need a pair of canning jar tongs for this–I don’t know what name they’ll be sold under at the store, but you’ll need them!) Place them on a towel or a wire rack in an out-of-the-way place to cool. Let them stand for 1 week before opening. Store in a cool dark place like the basement.
I should note that Betty Crocker calls for either fresh dill weed or dill seed. You can experiment with dill weed if you want–but it does give a VERY different flavor than the dill seed–think licorice and anise. I think if you want to make regular dills, the fresh dill would be more successful, along with a spoonful or so of mustard seeds added. But for these Kosher dills, the dill SEED is ever so much better.
Note: I should note that when I call these KOSHER dills, I am talking about a style or flavor of pickles, (Kosher is to pickles as German is to chocolate cake, for example). I am NOT talking about Kosher like it meets Jewish dietary restrictions, which would require special cooking equipment, kitchen set-up, and involvement of clergy. I imagine that Kosher dill pickles originally came from the kitchens of Jewish women, but the term has since come to mean a variety of style or flavor, and may or may not meet orthodox kosher requirements. Mine don’t. Just thought I should clarify.
If you’re really adventuresome, you can try pickling peppers.
Special thanks to my sister who did most of the heavy lifting on learning about making pickles several years ago.