Homemade dill pickles are a must in our family. As far back as I can remember, someone in the family made jars and jars and jars of these homemade pickles which always lasted throughout the year.
Great Aunt Molly was one of those people. She had a cold storage room in the basement where the pickles were packed and then lived. She made dozens of jars of dill pickles (cucumbers) as well as a variety of other pickled vegetables. You can really pickle anything you can get your hands on, although not everything comes out as good as a pickled cucumber (in my opinion anyway).
Fast forward a few generations and we are still using her pickle recipe today. Homemade dill pickles are super simple to make and just taste so much better than store bought. Why you ask? Because you can tailor the taste to what you and your family like.
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What exactly is pickling?
“Pickling is the process of preserving or extending the lifespan of food by either fermentation in brine or immersion in vinegar.” We are going to use the brining method for making these homemade dill pickles. The brine in this recipe will be a solution of water and salt.
The salt acts as a preservative by encouraging the growth of a good bacteria and preventing the growth of the bad bacteria. Salt has been used for hundreds of years as a preservative for all types of foods and it works well!
Another way to make pickles is in the fridge. That brine is a different solution that often uses vinegar and is ready to eat much more quickly. They are sometimes also referred to as quick pickles. Quick pickles are ready to eat in just a few hours after being made. They must be stored in the fridge.
So what do I need to make these homemade dill pickles?
Here’s what you are going to need:
- Small cucumbers
- Spices (either whole spices or you can use McCormick Pickling spice blend. It’s as close to the original recipe as we have found and what I use.)
- Clean Ball Jars with new lids and bands
The Ball Jars are an integral part of the process.
You’ll need clean jars and brand new lids. The new lids are important to make sure that you get a good seal on your pickles and that they don’t spoil or spill once sealed. I like to use Ball Jar brand jars and lids. I re-use the jars every year, just run them through the dishwasher to sanitize before using them. Then, I can just buy a new set of lids.
While you can use small mouth jars for pickling, I like to use wide mouth jars to make it easier to fit all the ingredients in. The cucumbers must be packed in tightly and the small mouth jars can be a little bit tricky.
We like to grow cucumbers for homemade pickles in our garden, but you can just as easily buy them at the store or from a farmstand. You’ll want to look for cucumbers with the following characteristics:
- Small (about 4-5” long)
- Firm with no soft spots
- Bright green color
So how do you actually make pickles?
The steps are quite easy. First you mix up the brine. That’s the water and salt. You then stuff the cucumbers and all the spices tightly into the jar, then cover with the brine. Fill the jar up leaving about ½” space at the top. Put the lid on, put the band on and don’t twist to tightly. You’ll want room for the gases that build up to escape.
Store in a cool place for 2 weeks, checking and loosening the lid every few days. After that, your homemade pickles are ready to go. Leave them on the shelf to keep pickling, or put in the fridge to stop the process.
Now that you’ve got the jars put together, how do you store them?
We leave ours either on shelf in the basement or a shelf at the back of our pantry. Just as long as the storage space is cool-ish you should be good to go. These pickles are good stored for up to a year. Once opened, you'll want to store them in the fridge. You can also put them in the refrigerator sooner to stop the pickling process.
Alright, now you know what you needed to know. Let’s get to making those homemade pickles.
Tips and Tricks:
- Do not tighten the jars to tight at the beginning.
- You can add in hot peppers if you want spicy kosher dill pickles. I would start with one and see what you think. Place it in the jar before adding the brine.
- If you like more garlic or more dill, go ahead and adjust to your taste. There is no wrong answer here.
- If you have leftover brine, you can store it for a few days in the fridge until you have more vegetables to pickle.
- We like to make a lot of jars of pickles. Since they are so simple to make, we assembly line 4-5 jars each weekend and then put the date on them. This way we know which ones need “burping” when, and what order to eat them in.
- If you want to make a BIG batch of these, I would sanitize all of your jars at one time in the dishwasher, then line them all up next to each other and fill them assembly line style. This helps ensure you don’t miss a step.
- My parents work direct with a farmer from the farmers market each year to buy a bushel of small cucumbers. It’s super cost efficient and nice to know where your cucumbers are coming from. Talk to you farmers, make connections and go for it!
Simple Homemade Dill Pickles
- 8-12 smallish pickling cucumbers
- 2 tablespoons pickling spice from McCormick or homemade pickling spice blend (see below)
- 4-6 garlic cloves halved
- 1 bunch of dill at least two stalks per jar
- ⅓ cup kosher salt
- 1 quart of water
- 1 carrot cut into small sticks optional
- Home made pickling spice
- 1 bay leaf broken in half
- 2 whole allspice
- 10 whole coriander seeds
- Preparing the ingredients
- Sanitize jars in the dishwasher on in a pot filled with boiling water
- Make the brine by adding salt to the water and stirring well
- Wash and dry the cucumbers
- Cut off the very ends of every cucumber. You can then either leave them whole or cut into spears.
- Prepare garlic cloves by peeling and slicing them in them in half.
- Filling the Jars
- Start by placing some dill and 2 cloves of garlic at the bottom of the jar
- Then pack the clean cucumbers into the jars. We typically get 3-4 whole cucumbers into each jar, more if you slice them into spears.
- If adding carrots, stuff a 2-3 pieces into the jar
- Add the pickling spices, shaking to be sure they don’t just sit at the top
- Pack a few more sprigs of dill on top.
- Cover with the brine leaving about 1” space at the top of the jar
- Place on lid and then band and secure, but do not tighten.
- Repeat with the rest of the jars
- Put finished jars in a cool place to do their thing
- Checking on the pickles
- Every 3-4 days you’ll want to "burp" the homemade pickles
- Do this by loosening the lid to let the gases out and resealing.
- After doing this 2-3 times in a two week period seal the jars and let them enjoy their time on the shelf.
- The pickles are ready to eat after two weeks, but can last up to a year if stored in cool place.
Looking for other recipes to that use seasonal produce? Check these out!
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