The truth: I am an amateur. However, it is pretty safe to say that I developed a bit of an addiction with preserving all of my garden harvest last year. Really, how could I let all of that fresh produce go to waste? It all started with my grandma’s dill pickles and ended with my kitchen looking like a disaster zone…a bit of a dysfunctional, yet highly productive mess.
My grandma is the best cook around, not joking. She can make ordinary taste delicious and the disgusting taste edible. The best part is that she shares her goods and her recipes, which is how I came across the most delicious dill pickles my mouth has ever tasted…I’m talking, eat half the jar in one sitting, good.
So, if there one thing I believe in, it’s passing on those great recipes, especially the fairly easy ones, for all to enjoy. Here it is…the recipe and the process for Grandma Jo’s Dill Pickles.
Grandma Jo’s Dill Pickles
In the jar:
4 lbs. cucumbers (rinsed & sliced)
14 heads of fresh dill (big head of flowers & some green leaves with each head)
Bring to a boil:
1/4 c. pickling salt
2 3/4 c. white vinegar
3 c. water
Prepare jars & lids. Put cucumbers, peppercorn, & dill into jars. Pour boiling mixture on top leaving a little space (1/4 in). Place lids on jars and attach ring. They should seal within an hour. If they don’t, try reboiling the liquid and repeat process. Store in your refrigerator.
Now, for the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way to make this easy…
Everything of course can be purchased at your grocery store, however, if you want it garden fresh, you need to make sure a bush cucumber plant (or two) and dill are found in your garden plot. Actually my dill is planted along my garage in the backyard mixed in with the landscaping. The one thing you need to know about dill is that it spreads year to year. I thought I understood that when I planted it last year, but didn’t fully grasp the concept until this year when I found 5 or so extra dill plants growing around the ones I planted last year along with a random one or two growing next to our driveway (which is on the other side of the garage)…so yeah, it spreads. However, they are easy to pull out and get rid of if they land in a not so desirable location. Plant the dill, it’s worth it.
After those two ingredients, I’ve used a variety of different kinds of peppercorns and then just got the vinegar and pickling salt at my nearest Wal-Mart.
So, here’s my step-by-step, tricks, & tips…
Step 1: Place all clean jars into your empty dishwasher. Push the sani-rinse button (if you have that option) and hit normal wash. This is how I sanitize the jars before filling. I don’t even add detergent. I just count on hot water to do my sanitizing. My dishwasher takes quite a while, so I have to do this step first thing. Now, the downside you can see in the picture is that my normal dishes take a backseat to the jars and fill the countertop. I’ve come to accept that a productive kitchen is never a clean one;). Welcome to my home.
There’s the “Sani-Rinse” button (3rd from the right…has to be pushed 1st). Push that and then my “Normal” wash to get those jars ready…
Step 3: Fill your stock pot with the vinegar, pickling salt, & water. Cover & turn burner to med-high to get it boiling. (Yesterday I multiplied the “bring to a boil” ingredients by 5 to fill 22 pint jars and use 12 1/2 lbs. cucumbers…liquid use can vary based on how full you fill the jars with cucumbers. My advice: stuff pretty full.)
I didn’t get a picture of my ingredients boiling, but here’s a shot of a lot of the equipment I used. My 8 qt. stock pot is in the back left, 2 qt. saucepan in the front right, the two green ones are my canning tools (funnel and magnetic lid grabber…clearly the technical term;), and then a scraper to stir, dish to keep peppercorns easily accessible, and ladel to dish out the liquid.
Step 4: Slice cucumbers. The best thing I purchased for this purpose is Pampered Chef’s Ultimate Mandolin. It slices evenly, the quicker the better, and there is almost no way to slice a finger as long as you are following the directions. It makes the process quick and easy. I start by slicing off a little bit of each end, then cut each cucumber into 3rd, maybe even 4ths if it’s a large one using about this much at a time… Stab the cucumber with the mandolin grabber (see picture of mandolin)…put it in place and slice away. All slices I place in a large, easily accessible bowl. This is 12 1/2 lbs. of cucumber :)…
Step 5: Start your small saucepan of water simmering to sanitize jar lids. Don’t place lids into the water yet as they should only sit in there a few minutes.
Step 6: When jars are sanitized, water is boiling, and cucumbers are sliced, it’s time to get going. Place 4 jar lids into your simmering water one at a time. Grab 4 hot jars out of the dishwasher, place cucumbers, a few at a time (so they lay flat), into the jar until almost full. Add peppercorns and dill. Place jar funnel onto full jar. Use a ladel to scoop boiling brine into the jar slowly & carefully until liquid brine reaches about 1/4 in. from top of jar. At that time, use your magnetic canning tool to grab a jar lid out of the simmering water and place onto your full jar. Screw on jar ring and set aside to seal. You will hear a pop when it seals. Repeat with all jars until cucumbers are gone.
Once they have cooled off, into the fridge they go for 3 or so weeks when you can take them out and gobble them up. Enjoy!
One small minor note: Although the jars I used are super cute AND they were on sale :), I found that I maybe should’ve saved them for another project as they don’t stack on top of each other, which means 22 jars are now filling prime real estate in my refrigerator. Well, now I know :).