When I was a kid, my mom would use the extra cucumbers from the garden to make jars and jars of dill pickles.
The problem was that they always turned out mushy and none of us kids wanted to eat them. So they would sit on the shelf taking up space until we finally threw them away. What a waste!
My philosophy as I started canning my own food is “it better taste better than store-bought and/or save me a lot of money or it’s not worth the effort to can it.”
When I started growing my own garden and had a lot of cucumbers, I wanted to make dill pickles (but definitely NOT sweet pickles because those are disgusting! Sorry, not sorry, if you like them) but had no desire for them to be mushy like the ones I remembered.
Yuck!! No thanks!
So I set out to figure out how to make a crisp dill pickle at home.
The pickles at the store – and many other canned foods for that matter – have “firming agents” added. Whatever those are.
Not only do I not know where to buy “firming agents” but even if I did, I still wouldn’t want them added to my food. It defeats the purpose to make something at home that has the same ingredients as what I can find at the store. Part of the beauty of homemade is that I get to control what goes into it, right?
My favorite pickles from the store are Kosher Dill – they have a lot of garlic flavor in them. So I was looking for a recipe that had a big garlic flavor and was super crunchy.
I found 4 recipes online that had slight variations in them as far as the ingredients were involved. I made all 4 of them that summer. Then a few months later, I opened all of them and did a taste test.
One of them used apple cider vinegar, one used white vinegar but had a little sugar added, one used white vinegar but called for a grape leaf to be included (interestingly enough my grandma used to make them this way), and another one only used white vinegar. They all used garlic and dill and salt in pretty much the same proportions.
I was surprised that the slight differences gave DRASTICALLY different flavors. The one that was closest to the Kosher Dill flavor with lots of garlic was the most simple one. The one that only used garlic, dill, salt and white vinegar.
Simple and clean. Nice!
I also found a technique that made the pickles get and stay crispy. Canning them soon after they were picked was important. But even if I couldn’t get to them right away, I could still make crispy pickles. The trick is to soak the cucumbers in ICE WATER for 2-6 hours. I would just fill up one side of my kitchen sink (after washing it out of course) and soak the cucumbers in there for several hours. Something about the cucumbers being ice cold before the boiling water goes in the jars made them really crispy. Who knew?
I have used this technique for many years and it always makes crispy pickles.
Once you make pickles, remember not to eat them right away.
They need to sit in the brine for at least 6 weeks – preferably longer. I like to shoot for at least 2 months.
The great thing about making homemade dill pickles is that you can make a bunch all at once. Especially if you have a lot of plants producing cucumbers.
If you need/want instructions on how to grow cucumbers in your own garden, check out my post on that very subject here.
Dill pickles are one thing that I have been self-sufficient on for a very long time. I haven’t had to buy pickles at the store for many, many years because we always have more than we can eat. Mind you, we don’t eat pickles very often but I would think that even if your family does eat a lot, you could still easily make most of what you would need.
I encourage you to try this dill pickle recipe out the next time you have a bunch of cucumbers on your hands.
And if you plant a cucumber plant or two…
you know you are likely to have a bunch of cucumbers on your hands. 🙂
Enjoy the dill pickles!
Cruchy Homemade Dill Pickles
- 1 pound 3-4 inch long pickling cucumbers
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 heaping Tablespoon pickling salt
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 1 heaping Tablespoon dill seed
- Wash cucumbers and place in the sink or large container. Fill with cold water and LOTS of ice cubes. Soak in ice water for at least 2 hours but no more than 8 hours. Refresh ice as needed. Sterilize (1-quart sized) canning jars and lids in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.
- In a large pot, combine the vinegar, water, and pickling salt. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat.
- In each jar, place 2 sliced cloves of garlic, dill seed, then enough cucumbers to fill the jar. Fill jars with hot brine. Wipe rims of jars and seal jars with lids.
- Process sealed jars in a boiling water bath. Process quart jars for 15 minutes. Adjust as needed for elevation changes.
- Store pickles for a minimum of 8 weeks prior to eating. Refrigerate after opening. Pickles will keep for up to 2 years if stored in a cool dry place.