We love dill pickles. Actually, we LOVE dill pickles. Little Miss could eat a jar in a week if I let her. I made a paltry 6 half pint jars last year. I don’t know what I was thinking. They were gone by the end of summer, but after cucumber season, of course.
I’m not sure the 10 litres I’ve got now will be enough, but it’s a start. 6 jars have no garlic, because I forgot to buy any when I was picking up everything else. The 4 I’ve just made have lots of garlic. A couple of large cloves per jar.
Trimming the blossom end off of the dills helps keep them crisp, since there’s a apparently an enzyme in that part that can cause them to go soft. I can’t always tell which end is which, so I cut off both. I try to save the smaller cukes for the top of the jars. Laying one or two slices crossways helps keep the rest from floating. I’ve heard that grape or even horseradish leaves can be used in place of calcium chloride as a crisping agent. I’ve yet to try this, even though I have a large horseradish plant in the back yard. If I do another batch, I’ll try it and report back.
I’m not sure what the mustard seeds do, but my mother added them, and I always have as well. I’ve used black and yellow with equal results. Some day I’ll omit them in the jar and check for a flavour difference. Using both fresh dill and dill seed punches up the flavour immensely, making these pickles taste bright and lively. In previous years I’ve tossed a dried chili into a few jars. After a couple of months the tingle is nice. After 6 months the peppers have a pronounced but pleasant bite.
3L (quarts) pickling cucumbers, scrubbed, trimmed at both ends and cut into desired pieces (I quartered mine, but you can do rounds or even leave them whole)
4 C white vinegar
4 C water
4 Tbsp. pickling salt
1 Tbsp. sugar (optional – omit if you like a really sour dill)
1/4 tsp. turmeric (optional)
For each jar
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1/4 tsp. dill seeds
1-2 large cloves of garlic, halved
Bunch of fresh dill, flowers and fronds
Crisping agent (calcium chloride – as per directions on jar)
Optional – dried hot peppers
Place 4 washed 1L (quart) jars in your canner and bring to a boil. Heat water in a small pot and add the snap lids to soften the seal. Don’t boil them.
Combine the brine ingredients in a pot, cover and bring them to a boil.
Remove hot jars from canner. Divide the fresh dill and garlic between the jars, and add the dill seed, mustard seeds and crisping agent to each.
Pack in the cucumbers rather tightly. Adding a few shorter ones across the top will keep the rest from floating. Pour boiling vinegar mixture over cucumbers to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of rim (head space). Apply the lids and screw bands (fingertip tight). Process for 15 minutes for 1L jars (10 minutes if you’re using pints).
Allow to cool. If a lid doesn’t curve downwards after 24 hours, refrigerate those pickles. Let them sit at least 3 weeks to develop flavour. Longer if you’ve left them whole. I find that they taste better if I put the pickles in the fridge to chill before eating them.