I’ve been oddly addicted to dill pickles lately – as in, I’ve been eating my way through jars and jars of them, ice cold, straight from the fridge. Recycling last week was scary.
And so I did not procrastinate this time when I came across bags of knobbly thumb-sized pickling cukes at the market – I bought the biggest bag I could ($22 worth-I may have overdid it) and W and I turned them into pickles the other night, after coming home from his cousin’s birthday dinner, before going to bed. Even when you have that much to work with, making pickles isn’t an all-day endeavor – it really isn’t as big a deal as it sounds.
Start with the snappiest cukes possible – a bendy cucumber means a bendy pickle. Tuck a couple peeled garlic cloves and a big sprig of fresh dill into each clean jar (I like to run them through the dishwasher first), then pack in as many cucumbers as you can wedge – considering that they will shrink as they pickle. Kids love this – it’s like a culinary version of Tetris. While you do this, heat some vinegar, water and coarse salt on the stove to dissolve the salt. Pour the hot brine over the pickles and pop on the lids. The processing part is what tends to freak people out – it only requires lowering the jars into a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, then taking them back out. (Don’t go over 10, or they’ll start to cook and won’t be as crunchy.) Many dill pickles skip this step, so if you want to just keep them in the fridge, they’ll be fine – especially if you start with warm jars and hot brine.
(Amy has more detailed instructions on her site.)
Garlicky Dill Pickles
Most recipes call for regular white vinegar, which is 5% acetic acid, but Amy uses pickling vinegar, which is available in grocery stores and produces a more sour, pickley pickle. Adapted from The Canning Kitchen, by Amy Bronee.
5 lb (or howevermany you come home with) small pickling cucumbers
peeled garlic cloves – enough for a couple per jar
1 bunch fresh dill
4 cups water
2 3/4 cups pickling vinegar (7% acetic acid) or white vinegar
1/3 cup coarse pickling salt
Rinse your cucumbers and wash about 8 jars. Drop a garlic clove or two into each jar, and a few large dill fronds. Pack the cucumbers snugly into the jars, starting with the bigger ones and filling any gaps with the smaller. (You could also do spears – cut them into quarters lengthwise, then put the cucumbers back together before packing into jars to keep them crisp.)
Meanwhile, bring the water, vinegar and salt in a saucepan to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the salt dissolves and the mixture turns clear.
Ladle the hot brine over the packed cucumbers, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes – I of course didn’t read this part fully, and put them in for 10 minutes and then took them out, but Amy says to start timing when the water in the canner returns to a full boil. When the processing time is up, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Leave the jars in the canner for 5 more minutes.
Let them cool – you’ll hear the satisfying pop of each lid as it gets suctioned down, showing that it has successfully sealed. (If it doesn’t, store it in the fridge.) If you can manage, wait 3-4 weeks before you crack one open.
Makes about 8 500 mL jars.