Monday, 23 July 2007

Dill Pickles by the Jar

This was the first recipe for dill pickles I ever made, and it's still a favourite. I like the technique of making the pickles right in the jar instead of in a crock - it's easy, clean and compact, and it produces excellent pickles. I consider it well worth while to pay extra to get the smallest cucumbers I can find. They take longer to pick - that's why they cost more - and they take longer to wash. However, you end up with a more conveniently sized pickle in the end.

The recipe makes 1 quart (litre) of pickles - multiply it by the number of quarts (litres) of cucumbers that you have. I also use this brine to make pickled mixed green beans, wax beans and carrots cut in pieces the same general size and shape as the beans.

1 quart (litre) pickles
6 weeks - 1 hour prep time per quart, but 8 quarts will take about 4 hours

Scrubbing cucumbers to make dill picklesFirst the cucumbers must be scrubbed - well scrubbed. Every bit of limp old blossom, grit and dirt must come off. I've heard more than one person say they put their cucumbers in their washing machine to wash them. I haven't tried it. All I can say is if I do try it, it will need to be a top-loading machine and I will stop it before it goes through the spin cycle. The problem is it isn't worth it unless you are doing a lot of cucumbers, and I would be nervous about putting $20 or $30 dollars worth of cucumbers in the washing machine.

Once they are scrubbed, they are stuffed into sterilized jars with the dill and any other spices you choose to add.

Ladling brine into jars to make dill picklesThe hot brine is ladled into the jars filled with cucumbers.

Finished jars of dill picklesThe capped, finished jars of cucumbers quickly turn from a brilliant emerald green to typical pickle khaki. They will be ready to eat in 6 weeks.

1 quart small fresh cucumbers

1 1/2 cups filtered water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons pickling salt
2-3 sprigs fresh dill seedheads
1-2 cloves of garlic (optional)
1 dried hot pepper (optional)

Scrub the cucumbers throughly; be sure to get every bit of dried-out blossom and grit off of them.

Put however many quart (litre) canning jars that you think you will need (the number of quarts of cucumbers that you have bought) into a canner and cover them with water to an inch above the rims. Bring to a boil and boil them for 10 minutes.

Make the brine with the water, vinegar and salt; put them in a pot and heat until the salt is dissolved and the brine is steaming.

Put a couple of good heads of dill seed (which should be fully formed, but still green) into each sterilized jar. Add a clove of garlic and/or a dried hot pepper if desired.

Pack the jar with cucumbers. I find it easiest to start with the jar on its side, laying some of the larger cucumbers along the bottom, then stacking on top of them. Use the end of a large wooden spoon or chopstick to gently push in more cukes once it gets snug in there. Then repeat with a second row of stacked cukes, picking up ones that will fit in without sticking too far up in the jar. There may then be room to lay a couple very small cucumbers on top.

Pour the hot brine over the cucumbers and cap at once with a sterilized lid.

Do not hot water process. Store the jars on newspaper, in case they overflow while fermenting. They can be opened in 6 weeks, but will continue to improve for a while. However, they should be eaten within the year.


Kevin said...

Those look really good. I am a fan of pickles but I have never tried making my own.

Ferdzy said...

Kevin, they're really quite easy!

kawcor said...

Are there any disadvantages to hot water processing the pickles. Everything I read seems to say its much safer? On the flip side I would think with all the vinegar and salt that it shouldn't matter. Confusing.

Ferdzy said...

Kawcor; yes, there are. You should NOT process the pickles.

Firstly, they must ferment in order to BE pickles. Premature hot water processing could actually produce an unsafe product as the ingredients are not really appropriate for hot water processing (not acidic enough).

Secondly, if you wait until they are properly fermented, there is no reason to hot water process them. Not only will you destroy the beneficial pro-biotics, but you will also end up with mushy cooked pickles.

People have been fermenting vegetables for thousands of years. Use good sanitary practices and some common sense and they will turn out perfectly safe and good.

kawcor said...

so should i not process any pickles in general, or just these pickles?

Ferdzy said...

Kawcor, it depends on the method to make the pickles. Pickles which are FERMENTED, such as this recipe, should not be boiling water processed, at least not until after the fermentation process is done, and I don't recommend it then either. (I just ate the last of last years dill pickles today. They were fine.)

If you are making pickles where vegetables are just soaked/cooked in brine, such as bread and butter pickles, then yes, they must be hot water processed, and the recipe will indicate that.

If it is a fermentation recipe, that should be clear from the recipe as well.

kawcor said...

Last question, will it matter if I quarter the cucumbers and use a smaller jar?

Ferdzy said...

You can do both of those things, no problem.

Steph said...

Hi, a friend and I tried your pickle recipe and only some of our jars have sealed. Is this an issue? Someone suggested we re-boil our brine and re-sterilize our lids. We used both Bernardin seals and caps as well as re-used commerical pickle jar lids. Any advice is really appreciated. Thank you!
ps. LOVE your blog!!

Ferdzy said...

Hi Steph, thanks for the feedback!

You do not have a problem, the jars do not necessarily seal, as they are not boiling-water processed. As noted, these pickles are a fermented food, rather than a "canned" food.

Pickles can go bad, if they are stored in too hot of a spot, but basically, if they look, smell and taste good, they are successful pickles.

Steph said...

Hi, thanks for the feedback on the pickles. I must confess I tried one (okay, four) tonight. I couldn't wait! Simply fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe.

Good luck with moving that mountain.

LJH said...

Hi Ferdzy, We love your canned Salsa so much that I decided to try these Dill Pickles. I have a couple questions though. 2 of my jars didn't seal and I see from the comments that that is okay. But I have noticed that the brine in them has gotten cloudy and there is a white sediment on the bottom of the jar. (It does dispurse when you turn the jar over a few times.) The brine in the jar that did seal is still clear and there is no sediment. I am wondering what the signs are that the pickles have "gone bad". Smell/taste/texture? What should I be looking for? Thanks for all of your great recipes. PS I also canned your Beet and Red Cabbage Salad (Relish) this year - It looks fantastic, can't wait to try it! thanks again.

Ferdzy said...

LJH, thanks for all the kind words.

Your pickles are probably just fine. Heat is the main thing that may damage them and cause them to go bad.

Basically, you can tell if they are okay by sniffing then tasting (assuming they pass the sniff test.) They should be firm in texture, and taste like, well, pickles. If they smell or taste "off" they should be discarded. I can't describe how they would taste if bad, but I assure you it should be quite obvious.

Like I said, I think yours are fine. Mine go cloudy pretty regularly. I think the cause is most likely minerals in the water.