I know my blogging (or rather, lack thereof) has been atrocious lately… I still haven’t done the post about my chicken coop that I wanted to do (although in my defense, it’s not completely done as we still need to do the nest boxes). But, last weekend I spent Saturday up at my mom’s house, and we turned 35 pounds of pickling cucumbers into 34 one-quart jars of garlic dill pickles! Thankfully, my mom took pictures (which I liberated from her cell phone), because I sure didn’t!
I thought it was pretty funny that I was teaching my mom how to can pickles. She used to make pickles from my dad’s mom’s recipe back in the early 1980s, but after they failed horribly one year, she gave it up. Looking at my grandma’s recipe, I figured out why they failed – that recipe calls for roughly half the vinegar that the recipes in my cookbook call for. My dad did some googling – my grandma’s pickles also failed two years in a row in the early 80s, at which point she gave up, too – and my dad found out that vinegar off the grocery store shelf used to be 10% acidity, whereas vinegar you buy now is only 5% acidity. My grandma’s recipe also was written so that there would be variations in each jar of the vinegar to water ratio, and the “canning method” was “top off with boiling water, screw lid on tightly”. Yikes! I’m aware that it worked for her, but I’ll stick with 15 minutes in a water bath canner, thanks! (Because of this change, also be wary of any cookbooks from the mid-80s or older: even my mom’s cookbook is based on 10% acidity vinegar, but doesn’t clearly specify that. Most modern recipes seem to have a ratio of about equal parts water and vinegar.)
So, Saturday morning we headed out to Carpinito Brothers in the Kent valley, and picked up 35 pounds of pickling cucumbers, and 6 bundles of fresh dill. We were able to find garlic cloves pre-peeled in the refrigerator section at Costco, so that saved us some time! We also ended up going through over 2 gallons of apple cider vinegar!
Mom washed the pickles and chopped off the ends… and after the first set of 7 jars of whole pickles (which we topped off with pickle coins), my mom also chopped the remainder of the pickles into coins with a wiggle cutter, since we discovered we could fit far more pickles in a jar coined up! Plus, they end up just bite size for snacking, too. With 35 pounds of pickles, it was a race to see what we would run out of first – pickles, jars, or dill! We actually ran a jar and a half of pickles short on dill heads, so my mom decided to try those with dill leaf instead… and we ran out of pickles at 34 jars! Whew, lots of pickles!
Only 12 of the jars were “mine”, but I also hope to do a second batch here soon… and I really want to try making jam or jelly again this year. Spooner Farms has some killer blackberries – “Kotata” variety – with really good flavor and little seeds that would make some excellent jam or jelly. It sure made some excellent blackberry crisp, which I unfortunately (ha!) had to eat all by myself since Destin doesn’t care for pie or crisps.
The recipe we used for the pickles (which I used last year and they turned out delicious) is from the plaid Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (12th Edition, copyright 2005). This year we tried adding alum like my grandma used to, for crisper pickles, and used quart jars instead of the pints it calls for… (especially because mom can annihilate a pint jar of pickles in one sitting quite easily). Check out the recipe:
Garlic (Kosher) Dill Pickles
Wide mouth quart mason jars
Approximately 1 pound of pickling cucumbers per quart jar you plan to fill
2 cloves garlic, halved, per quart jar
Approximately 3-4 large dill heads per quart jar (I tend to use 4-5 if they’re small)
1/4 tsp alum per quart jar
Per three one-quart jars(ish) – multiply as necessary:
3.75 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
3.75 cups water
1/4 cup pickling salt
For anybody new to home canning, check out general canning steps here.
You will also want to simmer your lids (but not rings) in a saucepan for at least 10 minutes to soften the rubber ring.
- Thoroughly rinse cucumbers. Cut a slice off both ends to remove stem and blossom end, and use a knife or crinkle cutter to slice pickles however thick you’d like them. In a large stainless steel pot, combine water, vinegar, and salt. Bring to boiling, stirring occasionally.
- In each hot, sterilized quart jar, add garlic, alum, and dill heads. Pack cucumbers into jars. The recipe book calls for “pack loosely”, but I’ve really crammed them in there and it works out fine. Just be sure to tap the jar on the counter/jiggle it to get any air bubbles out as you add liquid.
- Pour hot vinegar mixture over cucumbers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids.
- Process in a boiling-water canner for 15 minutes. Adjust for altitude if you are above 1000 feet. Do not start timing until the water returns to a boil. Remove jars, and cool on racks. Store jars without bands. The recipe book states to “let stand 1 week”, but my grandma’s recipe stated “Thanksgiving”. We know from last year that mid-summer pickles are good at Halloween, for sure. Immediately after canning, they are still only cucumbers in vinegar!