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 our homemade Garlic Dill Pickle recipe.
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, botulism, 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.
- Keep everything clean.
- Use the freshest produce available.
- 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 possession 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?)
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.
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! Grandma was so right!
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 otherwise foul or bad.
Garlic Dill PicklesRate Recipe
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.
For the pickles:
- 2 pounds pickling cucumbers
- 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.
Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.
did you make this recipe?
Make sure to tag @foodiewithfam on Instagram and #hashtag it #foodiewithfamily so I can check it out!
How long will these pickles last in the fridge once opened?
Hi Lindy- Once opened, a jar should be consumed within a month when it is stored in the refrigerator.
I forgot to put in the dill. Will theses taste bad now. Thank you
Hi Jessica- It’s such a bummer when you realize you left something out when you can! I’ve done similar things before. Unfortunately, I’ve never omitted the dill, so I’m not sure how it will taste. I’m sure it’ll be edible, but different! Please let me know how they end up tasting!
I’m here to thank you for this amazing recipe! Your instructions are so user friendly! You make each step so simplistic for us beginners! I really cannot wait to try one of these! The smell when I lift off the lid to the canner is astounding! So fresh !
Judy Grant Rehak says
Loved them. I can all the time and I appreciate the small batch recipe. Thank you.
Thanks so much for taking the time to rate the recipe and let me know you love it, Judy! I’m so glad you do.
Donald E Morgan says
I can some pickles according to the recipe above. After about 4 days or so a white foam light substance started at the bottom of the jar it look like mold but it was kind of foamy. I asked some people about it and they said it was because it was too much water. I lost a whole case of pickles this way so I’m a little concerned about what it may be and how to fix it thank you
Hi Donald- It’s really tough for me to know without being there and seeing your pickles. There may be an explanation that doesn’t involve the case of pickles being ruined. Did you perchance use table salt? That can cause a sediment or white presence at the bottom of a jar of pickles. If you did use table salt or another iodized salt, this could be your issue. It does not ruin the pickles, so to speak, but they may be a bit softer and discoloured plus you’ll see that sediment at the bottom of the jar.
In most cases, spoilage or mold would be at the top of the jar rather than at the bottom. The other thing you should check is the acidity of your vinegar. It should be clearly marked on the bottle or jar. You want a vinegar that has between a 5 and 7% acidity. Anything below 5% is not sufficient for pickling.
I was always told to never dilute the vinegar by more than half, so if there is 1 cup of vinegar in a recipe there should never be more than 1 cup of water, so I was really surprised to see twice the water than vinegar, doesn’t that cut the acidity down?
Hi Helen- My grandma’s recipe uses the exact same vinegar/water ratio as the Ball Complete Book of Home Canning which is extensively tested for safety and considered the gold standard for current recommendations in canning. That said, I’m confident in the ratio because they are. 🙂
I should also add that the poundage/quantities of low-acid vegetables/spices/add-ins to the ratio of vinegar and water is also the same so it does not warrant changing the ratio to 50/50. 🙂
I don’t have any quart jars available at the moment. Would this still work with pints or would they be too strong?
Hi Lily- You can definitely can them in pints, just put half of the spices/garlic in each pint jar that you’d put in a quart! 🙂
Nicely done, instructions were very helpful for beginners to the canning process. Pickle recipe is a great “base” recipe, too – can alter from there. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much for rating the recipe and letting me know you love it, LB! Happy Canning!
Dan Landis says
Thanks Rebecca. I had a refrigerator dill pickle recipe but I needed to do future batches with the full canning process (because my fridge is full!). Your instructions for canning are well written and easy to follow. I still used my own recipe for the brine, but I will try yours next time. I also saw a gyro recipe that I can’t wait to try. Thanks!
Thanks so much, Dan! Welcome, and I’m glad to have you here!
Kevin maher says
One of my four jars broke in the boiling water. Any suggestions as to why this happen? I’ve been picking for 8 years and this is the first time a jar broke.
Hi Kevin- Sometimes jars become stressed and have invisible weaknesses that show up when we can food in them if the jars are used repeatedly over the years or have hairline fractures we can’t see. It’s always frustrating, but it just happens from time to time. You’re very lucky this is the first time it has happened to you in 8 years! You likely did nothing wrong at all. That said, some other common causes of breakage include over-tightening lids, over packing jars, or placing jars directly on the base of the canner without a rack or towel between the jars and base of the canner.
Hi there, if my jars don’t seal properly and I stick them in the fridge, how long are they good for? And should I still wait 6 weeks before eating them? Last question, do you remove the seeds from the cucumbers or leave them when during the prep? Thanks!
I finally found the jars and want to make these pickles. What is the shelf life if made correctly?
Hi Cheryl~ If stored correctly, the shelf life is 1 year for optimal results, 2 years for still reasonably decent, 3 for okay. 🙂
Great recipe! I had lost my tried and true pickle recipe during a recent move and was happy to find a recipe that had all the same spices as my old recipe. One problem though, I didn’t boil my brine before canning. I used the ratio indicated and canned according to your directions. I never remember boiling my brine before. Can you think of any reason why I should toss my 23 quarts of pickles because of this?
Thanks a bunch!
Hi Dana- I wouldn’t toss it at all! It helps dissolve the salts and maybe makes the brine a little stronger in flavour, but that’s it!
Hello! Do I have to wait the full 6 weeks to eat them? I am really excited to try them, they look amazing!
Hi Heather! They’ll definitely taste best if you wait the full 6 weeks, but I wouldn’t fault you for sneaking a jar open earlier. 🙂 I have definitely done that myself.
Alexandra V. says
I’m trying this recipe for a ton of my pickles and quart (32 oz) jars. One thing I was hoping to get clarity on is the vinegar to water ratio. Some say a 1 cup of water to 1 cup of vinegar. But with this recipe I went with 8 cups of water to 4 cups of vinegar (had 4 quart jars). Is this ratio still safe for pickles in the pantry and being eaten throughout the year?
Thank you so much!
Hi Alexandra- I can’t answer for other writer’s recipes, but I know this one passes the acidity test. It also happens to be the same ratio as that in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving which has been extensively tested for safety. As long as you have processed these according to instructions and stored them as directed, you should be fine.
Alexandra V. says
Great thank you! I just wanted to find the right recipe and stop bouncing around. I appreciate the recipe and the help.
Loretta Potts says
Hello, I also just made a double batch and then saw the recommendation for 1:1 5% acidity vinegar to water ratio. I went to my Ball canning book ( one you mentioned) but can’t the recipe with 1:2 ratio. Would you mind listing the recipe from the ball book that has the 1:2 ratio? Thanks so much because your recipe is excellent!
Analiese Jones says
So, what I’m seeing in my Ball canning book is a recipe for Grandma’s Dill Pickles (p. 328) that shows 12 c water to 6 c white vinegar. HOWEVER, 4 of the 12 c is for brining the cucumbers prior to canning. That puts the ratio at 1:1.5
Maybe that’s where some of the confusion is coming from?
Alexandra V. says
Oh! And I used distilled white vinegar (5% acidity). If that matters.
Question : I buy fresh dill in a big bunch, when you say 3-4 heads of fresh dill. Do you mean large sprigs . ( I can’t imagine using 3 bunch’s in one quarts jar )
Hi Cheryl- I mean the actual flower/seed head… 🙂 You don’t need to put the whole stem of dill in, but three seed heads crammed down in the bottom of the jar takes up much less room than you might think. Use your judgement, though. If the seed heads are massive, you can reduce the number to 1 or 2.
Dan Landis says
Hi Rebecca, Cheryl has a great question – one that I looked into today before canning my own pickles. In central Ohio, where I’m from, groceries that carry fresh dill this time of year usually only carry the dill leaves in bunches, like parsley (no flower heads). I was confused when I found a grocery that had actual flower heads, because I had not seen them before. If you had to provide a quantity to use per quart of just fresh dill leaves, what would that be?
Hi Dan! In that case, I’d recommend using the amount of dried dill seed I recommend as an alternative in the recipe plus a sprig or two of fresh dill per jar.
I am so excited to try these. I made 2 quarts last night with my first batch of cucumbers and fresh dill. I have never made pickles before and my mom used to use white vinegar so I’m interested to see how the apple cider vinegar does! I think I’ll make these in 2 quart batches as my cucumbers are ready and play around with the vinegars. I’m going to do next batch white vinegar only, and then a 3rd batch 1/2 white and 1/2 cider. I also tripled the amount of garlic because I love that stuff! Thanks for the recipe, can’t wait to try in 6 weeks and I love that it’s a per quart brine recipe so I Can make it as my stuff grows!
Hi Lindsay- You’re a lady after my own heart, tripling the garlic like that! 🙂 I hope you love these as much as I have my whole life!
This recipe was awesome! We cut the pickles to make dill ‘chips’. It all worked out perfectly.
I am so glad you loved them! Thanks for taking the time to let us know!