How to Make Dill Pickles

A dill pickle recipe that keeps the dilly punch in the crunch.

Canning dill pickles.

Canning dill pickles.

Water bath canning dill pickles.

Summer is underway and the crops are coming along nicely in my little garden here in the piedmont of North Carolina. We take a beat, perhaps enjoy a tomato or two fresh from the vine, and then it’s time to get down to business. That business is pickling, and it’s already booming.

If we grow it, there’s a pretty good chance we’ll pickle it. Pickling is a great way to preserve the harvest so it can be enjoyed all year long and, not for nothing, pickles taste gooood. And when it is time to hit the salty brine, most beloved is the cucumber. Firm skin with tender flesh within and just the right size, cucumbers accept the brine beautifully. Sweet or spicy, any brine will do, but none is better known or more appreciated than the iconic crunchy dill pickle.

Pickling cucumbers is easy to learn and even first-timers will have no trouble finding success, but chasing down the elusive crunch of the well-made pickle requires some attention to detail. As with any preservation, starting with good produce is key. A soft or overripe cucumber isn’t going to improve in the brine. Another pitfall comes during the water canning process. Keep an eye on your timer and remove jars as soon as the required process time is complete.

Other tricks can be employed to ensure a crunchy pickle. Commercial additives are available or grape leaves can be added to the jar that will release tannins to inhibit softening enzymes. Those enzymes are generated from the blossom of the cucumber and the easiest answer of all doesn’t require any additions to your pickle recipe. Identify the blossom end of the cuke (it is the end without the stem) and cut an eighth inch or so from that end. This is not an uncommon practice, but I was pickling for years before someone kindly shared this tip with me. It makes all the difference.

Now that you’re ready to pickle like an expert, try this simple recipe for the classic dill pickle. The recipe may be adjusted to any volume. For garlic dills, two cloves of garlic can be added to each jar before sealing or you can try throwing in a small chile pepper for a spicy dill.

Dill Pickles

  • 8 cups water
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 6 large heads dill
  • 5 pounds pickling cucumbers

Wash six 1-quart canning jars in a dishwasher set to hot. If not canning immediately, place in oven at lowest heat to warm before canning to avoid breakage during water bath.

Place lids and bands in a pot of water and simmer before sealing jars.

Combine water, vinegar and salt in a pot and bring to boil then remove from heat.

Place a head of dill in each jar and then pack cucumbers tightly into each jar.

Pour brine into jars, leaving ½” of space at the top, but making sure cucumbers are completely covered.

Close jars with lids and bands. Bands should be snug, but do not over-tighten.

Process jars in a boiling water for 15 minutes.

Store in a cool, dry place at least three weeks before eating. Refrigerate after opening. Unopened pickles may be stored up to a year.

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