Home Canned Garlic Dill Pickles

Yesterday was my first day of the year full of the manic joy that is canning season.  My garden unexpectedly delivered a colander full of pickling cucumbers.  Some of the cucumbers had been doing a good job of hiding and were pretty huge.  My job was clear.  Pickle them while they’re fresh!  The large ones were sliced thin for hamburger dill slices in order to make them fit into jars. I was rewarded for my work with two quarts and four pints of Green Garlic Dill Pickles.

 

Two pints Hamburger Dill Slices and one quart Green Garlic Dill Pickles.

 

I know a lot of folks out there are intimidated by canning.  I understand it…  The food police have scared us with their constant semi-subliminal message that the only food safe to eat comes hermetically sealed in jars and boxes barely touched by human hands.  Look at all the things that can go wrong, botchulism, salmonella, mold, etc…  The truth is, though, that canning is an incredibly safe and economical way to provide outstanding food for your table. 

 

I’ve put together a little primer on making garlic dill pickles; by far the easiest thing outside of jam to can.

 

Dill Pickle Recipe Primer

 

There are really only three things you need to do to ensure successful pickles. 

  1. Keep everything clean.
  2. Use the freshest produce available. 
  3. Keep your hands impeccably clean.  As in Howard Hughes clean.

 

For starters, you’ll need intact glass canning jars that come with new two part lids.  The ones with hinge lids are pretty, but they don’t seal as consistently… For now, leave those for short term storage.  How many will you need?  That depends on how many pickling cucumbers you have.  One peck of pickling cucumbers yields approximately 12 quart jars of pickles.  I’ll give the recipe in a “per quart” format.  That will make it easy for you to scale up to however many cukes you have available.

 

…And forgive me if this sounds obvious, but to make sure you’ll get nice, crunchy pickles you need to buy pickling cucumbers.  Salad or slicing cucumbers, while delicious, don’t hold up to the canning process as well and yield softer pickles.  They’re not bad, they’re just not as good as they could be.  How do you know you’re in possesion of pickling cucumbers?  If you slice one open you should not see many seeds; if there are seeds they should be small.  The skin of a pickling cucumber is more delicate than a slicing or salad cucumber.  When perfectly fresh, the pickling cucumber’s skin should yield easily to a knife or your teeth.  (Well, you have to test the quality of your product, don’t you?)

 

Garlic Dill Pickles

 

For each quart of pickles you will need:

For the spices:

  • 3-4 heads fresh dill (or 1 Tablespoon dried whole dill seed- not weed.)
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 12 whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 a small bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole mustard seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or 3 dried habaneros (optional)

For the brine:

  • 1 cup cider or white wine vinegar (Cider gives you a more classic pickle flavor, white wine gives you a more delicate pickle.)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon pickling salt (That’s basically any non-iodized salt.  Kosher salt works well here.)

 

Clean and sterilize your jars, lids and rings and a ladle or heat-proof measuring cup with a handle, and  a chopstick or butterknife.  You can do this one of two ways.  Either wash in your dishwasher and use the heat dry cycle or immerse jars and rings, ladle and butterknife in boiling water for five minutes and hold in the hot water while preparing the cucumbers.  To sterilize the lids with boiling water, place them in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them.  I opt for the dishwasher.  Getting a dishwasher changed my canning life! 

 

To make the pickles, scrub the cucumbers and take a small slice off the blossom end of the cucumber.  Taking off about 1/16″ from the end of the cucumber is a little more crunchy pickle insurance.  If left intact, the blossom end can release a compound that causes soft pickles.

 

If needed, trim cucumbers down to a size that will fit in your jars. 

 

Now for the fun part (and I mean that!)

 

Eyeball your cucumbers and make a rough estimate of how many jars you’ll be filling.  Line your jars up on the counter and into each of them put the spices and garlic listed above in the quantities given.  Pack the cucumbers in on top of the spices and garlic.  Don’t squish the cucumbers when packing them in, but you don’t have to be shy about trying to make the most of the space available in the jar, either.  Leave 1/2″ of space between the top cucumber and the rim of the jar.  This is called headspace and it is important in creating the seal that stands between your delicious food and nasty bacteria and mold. 

 

Scale the brine recipe to the appropriate level (Are you making 4 quarts?  Use 4 cups cider vinegar, 8 cups water, 4 Tablespoons pickling salt, etc…)  Add all brine ingredients to a large stockpot and bring to a boil.  While still boiling, pour (I use a ladle for the job) into cucumber filled jars.  Again, respect the 1/2″ headspace. 

 

You may find that you need to pour a little more brine in after it settles into the spaces.  This is fine.  When you’ve brined all your jars, gently insert your sterile chopstick or butterknife down the sides of the jar to release air bubbles.  If you need to add more brine at this point to reach the 1/2″ mark, do so.

 

*If you have leftover brine, don’t sweat it.  You can save it in the fridge for your next batch of pickles or use it to cook beet greens, or any number of other things.  It’s better to make more than you think you need so that you don’t have to scramble to prepare more brine before processing your pickles!

 

Using a clean paper towel, gently wipe the rims of the jars, place a clean lid on the jar and thread a ring onto the jar to keep the lid in place.  Don’t crank on the ring with brute force.  It’s not the ring that is protecting your food.  The ring merely holds the lid in place until a good seal forms.  Just turn it until it provides resistance.  This will hold the lid on tight enough to prevent water from entering the jar, but loose enough that air can be forced out of it during processing.

 

When all your jars are filled, turn your attention to processing.  You’ll need a pot with a tight fitting lid deep enough to allow boiling water one inch higher that your tallest jar when full of jars.   To test this, place filled jars (with tightened lids and rings) in the pot.  Fill with water to one inch higher than the tallest jar.  Leaving the water in the pot, carefully remove jars.  Place pot over burner, cover, and bring to a full boil.  When water reaches a rolling boil, carefully place jars in the pot.  (It is helpful, but not strictly necessary,  to have a spiffy rack for raising and lower jars in the pot.  You can also make due with a long silicone oven mitt or a jar lifter- another nifty canning gadget.)

 

Put the lid on your pot and bring water back to a rolling boil.  Once it reaches a rolling boil, start timing!  For quart jars you process them for 20 minutes.  For pints, process for 15 minutes.  Do not underprocess these jars.  The processing time is your safety mechanism.  It kills nasties that might be on or in the jars and it kick-starts the melding of the flavors.  Contrary to what seems might happen, underprocessing can result in mushy, soft pickles.  Ewwwww.

 

When processing time is up, carefully remove jars to a sturdy cooling rack over a dish towel.  As the jars cool, you’ll occasionally hear a “pop” sound.  Don’t freak out.  This is a good thing.  This is the sound of the jars sealing.  Allow the jars to cool overnight.  In the morning, use a damp paper towel to wipe down the jars and check the seals.  If you press gently in the center of the lid it should not give at all and should not pop back up.  If you have some seals that failed, don’t worry.  Just store those in your fridge!  They’re still good to eat, they’re just not shelf-stable.  Label your jars with their contents and the date they were made.  They will be ready to eat in 6 weeks.

 

To store the pickles, put them in a single layer on a shelf in a cool, dry place.  A closed cupboard or basement shelf is perfect.  Homemade pickles are at their delicious best when served super cold. 

 

Don’t panic about that bent ring! I’ll explain why…

 

Now I’m going to tell you another thing that seems contrary to common sense.  Remove the rings from the jars when you set them on your shelves to store them.  Remember I told you the rings are there just to hold the lid in place?  Left on the jar they can actually prevent you from knowing a problem exists both before and after storage.  After processing, the ring has performed the duty it was meant to do.  It held the lid in place long enough to form a seal.  Removing the ring allows you to inspect the seal before storage (and refrigerate any jars with questionable seals.)  It can give you an obvious sign that things inside the jar have gone awry.

 

In ten years of canning, I’ve only had one item go bad.   It was a jar of blueberry jam.  I had laughed at my Grandma’s advice to leave the ring off, but had  listened to her and done it anyway.  I went down to my basement to retrieve a jar of something-or-other and saw that the lid had blown off of a jar of blueberry jam.  That is an indicator of a bad thing.  Now, there was hairy mold and it was slightly off-smelling, too, but I might not have checked it over so carefully had that lid not blown off.   Save yourself some trouble and do what my Grandma said!

 

Which brings me to what most people fear about canning; contamination.  Pickles are pretty fool-proof with their super high levels of vinegar and salt, but ever so occasionally, things can go wrong.  I’ve never had a problem with pickles, but I am not fool enough to think I’m impervious.  Thankfully, it’s pretty obvious when home-canned goods go bad.  If you see any of the following signs, or you even suspect a problem, throw it out.  Don’t be a martyr!

 

Signs your canned goods have gone bad:

  • The lid has popped up and/or makes a clicky sound when pressed down in the center.
  • The lid is off the jar entirely.
  • When removed, the lid offers no resistance and/or makes no sound.
  • There is hairy growth on top of the food in the jar.
  • The contents of the jar smell off or foul.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Greetings!
    Robert-Gilles from Shizuoka in Japan!
    Pickles!
    The Japanese do make a lot of them and I eat quite a lot with the Missus’ food.
    The style and method are completely different, though.
    Now, as we have them here, the garlic and dill pickles definitely interest me!
    The fact I’m French means I’m biased in favour of garlic anyway. The Missus is going to complain about the smell! LOL.
    Cheers and my regards to all!
    Robert-Gilles

  2. Rebecca says:

    Robert-Gilles, you know the solution to others complaining about the smell of garlic, right? Get them to eat it , too! If you try these, let me know how it goes for you!

  3. True, canning is somewhat intimidating to me… i used to remember my mother pickling green papaya with carrots, red bell pepper, onions.. yummy! my hubby likes picked cucumbers… i should try this.. we’ll see.

  4. Thanks for such an informative post. I’ve been wanting to try canning for a long time but it seems so intimidating to me. I think I’ll start with these pickles. Thanks again!

  5. Now this is something I actually considered doing. I though it would be kind of fun. :) Really great and informative post on it.

    Side note: thanks for the method for the beans in the crock pot. I will be using that when I make my chicken tacos, Spanish rice and fresh pinto beans this week. Thank you!

  6. the little sister says:

    Ummmm…yeah. I’m gonna have to take a few of those pickles in the car on the way to Beantown this summer. Perfect car trip fare. Last summer you and jess hooked me up with so many canned goods I appeared as though a pickle-smuggler; a dozen jars of perfectly preserved produce wrapped in a variety of sweatshirts and jeans, nestled into various corners of my vehicle. I love you and everything you do.:)

  7. Rebecca says:

    Jescel and Madeline- If you like pickles (or someone you love likes them) I really encourage you to try making them. Once you do it’ll be hard to buy pickles again. The homemade ones are sooooo much better (plus no nasty food coloring and funky preservatives!)

    Melissa- It IS fun. It’s manic fun when you start canning on a huge level, but it’s fun! And have fun with the beans. When I discovered how easy they were to cook a la crockpot I never did the soak, rinse, boil thing again!

    Huwwo little sister. I had to laugh when you drove off with your vehicle crammed with pickles. I imagined what it would look like if you were pulled over and the officer wanted to search your trunk. What would that explanation sound like? Not that I wanted you to be pulled over, but I got a few giggles imagining that. I’ll hook you up for the Beantown roadtrip if you’ll try to get Big Papi’s autograph for the boys…

  8. Thanks. I’m pickling at the moment, but haven’t really had the confidence to move away from fresh, short-term, pickles. But this is exactly the sort of sound sensible advice I need to build that confidence!

  9. Kate Fitzpatrick says:

    Thanks, for such great and detailed information. I searched all day and found this just before I was to begin my process. I finished with 7 quarts of pickles and leftover brine which I refridgerated and will use in the next couple of days as I have a whole new batch of cucumbers to pick! Great info and definately bookmarking this website.

  10. Tom- I hope you do try them. They’re so much fun to have in the basement/closet in the middle of winter.

    Kate- Yippee! Come back in 2 months when they’re ready to eat (well, before then, too…) to tell me how you like them.

  11. it was superclever of you to tell us to NOT PUT WEED in our pickles. you is teh smartz.

    • Maybe I missed it in the instructions, but when processing your jars, they should not be on the bottom of the pot or you may run the risk of cracking the jars. My canner has a grate-baskety type insertion that keeps the jars from contacting the bottom of the pot directly.

      • You didn’t miss it because there aren’t processing instructions in there! :-) This is a fresh pickle/fermented pickle recipe and is intended to be stored in the refrigerator and not on the shelf. Your advice is good, though!

        • dok9874 says:

          But, but…the instructions talk about processing for 20 minutes! :)

          This summer in my garden it’s the Year of the Cucumber. I’ve already pickled twice, and given away a bunch of cucumbers. I’ve got a new crew hanging on the vines right now and am gathering my ingredients to try this recipe today. BTW – I love your site! I find myself just wandering around reading your recipes. :)

          p.s. – it was the Candied Jalapeno recipe that brought me here!

          • Yes this is the recipe that uses canning/processing and I thought the same thing too when I read that you don’t need a rack. You don’t, but you do need something between the pot and the bottom of the jars. In a pinch a friend of mine threw some of her silverware knives in and she said it worked just fine. This is the first canned pickle recipe I’ve found that looks like it might really make great pickles, can’t wait to try it. Also, I’ve read that grape leaves can help with crunch, but not sure if that works in canned pickles or not. If anyone knows I’d love to hear it and…do you just use the grape leaves in a jar?

  12. Hi! (o:
    You mentioned that intact jar and lids are necessary. is it possible that I use ones that were used before if I sterilize them with boiling water?

    Thank you!

    • I know some folks do that, Fernanda, but I follow the safety recommendations and use new lids each time. The rings I reuse, but I don’t take a chance on the lids. I’d hate to put the work, time and resources into it and then lose it because of an old lid!

  13. Thanks for this lovely recipe! I just made my very first pints of pickles!
    Can the leftover brine be used to can dill green beans?

  14. Crystal says:

    We made this last year for the first time! It goes so fast my whole family lives it! Going for a whole bushel next year! Long live the yummy-ness!

  15. Jessica says:

    Just wondering if one could use this recipie with no salt and possibly more vinegar then water?
    Thanks

  16. I followed your site to the tee. My pickles taste like vinegar can you help

    • Well? As I wasn’t there when you made it, it’s really hard for me to trouble shoot what the issue is. Homemade pickles often taste more vinegar-y than store bought ones…

  17. Hi – I know this is an old post, but was hoping I might still be able to get an answer or two…I would like to use pickle crisp when I make my pickles, do you know if I am supposed use that in addition to the pickling salt or in place of it? Also, would it help the pickes maintain firmness if I let the brine cool down before adding it to the jars, or does it not make a difference? Thanks so much, I love all of your pickle and pickling posts!

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