Did you ever have one of those memories as child that for some reason or another, always stayed with you? Sometimes you have no idea what is so special about it, but you can feel within your soul that it is. For me, one of those moments was standing in my grandmother’s kitchen after I had just eaten practically a whole jar of pickles when I was just a kid. She looked over at me and declared, “We should really just call you the Pickle Queen.” Something silly. Something meaningless. But yet, I can remember it as clear as day.
My grandfather loved pickled beets and my grandmother would make them for him often, so it’s no surprise that she loved my love of pickles as well. I wish that I had the opportunity to know my grandfather longer, but he unfortunately had an aneurism when he was in his early sixties and I was just a little girl. The night he died, my grandmother made him meatloaf. From that night forward meatloaf was banned in her house because it was deemed killer meatloaf…
Back to the pickle queen…My love of pickles has never faded and in my adult years, it’s grown into enjoying more than just cucumbers pickled. Beets. Garlic. Green beans…oh green beans! Since cucumbers were bountiful in the garden this summer (around 10-12 a day), I took the opportunity to try out several different types of pickling spices and methods.
Here is what I learned:
-Don’t smell boiling vinegar to test if you have enough spice. You will have no nose hair left when you’re done and you’ll smell only vinegar for days.
-Boil your spices with your vinegar brine. I tried it both ways. The batches where I boiled the spices with the brine more evenly distributed in the jar after canning. The batch that just had the spices in the jars with the cucumbers…well…all of that dill and garlic is just hanging out at the tops of the jars.
-I have no patience (or time!) for letting vegetables sit in salt for hours on end to ensure they stay crisp. Ball makes a wonderful product called “Pickle Crisp” that allows you to skip that step and still have crunchy pickles after you can in a water bath. Call it a short cut, but it helps the canning process going smoothly and quickly for pickles.
Here’s my recipe for Dill Garlic Pickles:
-one and a half cups of white distilled vinegar in a saucepan*
-one and a half cups of water
-enough dill to cover the top of the of the vinegar in the saucepan with a thick coat so you can’t see through
-4 tablespoons of garlic. If you like a bit more bite to your dill pickle, keep on adding**
-three pint jars, processed and warm
-Cucumbers, your choice of cut. I’m not a master slicer, so I can fit more chips into a jar than spears.
-A pinch of cayenne (if you like an extra kick)
-1/8 tsp. Ball Pickling Crisp per pint jar
Prep your Jars:
If you haven’t sanitized your jars, this is an important step if you plan on keeping them for more than a week or two in the fridge.
Bring a large pot of water to a roaring boil. Submerge your jars and lids in the water, at least an inch under the water. Keep them there for 20 minutes to sanitize them.
Once done, add your cucumbers to the jar, leaving a half an inch space at the top of the jar. Then add 1/8 tsp. Ball Pickle Crisp into the jars. If you’re using larger jars, just follow the instructions on the jar for amount of Pickle Crips to use.
Prep your Brine:
Add your vinegar, water, dill and garlic to a saucepan and bring the mixture to a full boil. Boil for 10 minutes to give the flavors time to infuse into the vinegar.
Ladle your brine into your pint jars, leaving half an inch on the top. Using an oven mitt on your hand (I promise you’ll be sad and possible drop a hot jar if you don’t), pick up the jars and tap lightly a few times on the counter to get the air bubbles out.
Once you have all of the air out, seal the jars using a finger-tip tight strength. The canning will vacuum seal them for you.
Bring that big pot of water that you used to sanitize the jars back to a boil. Boil the jars of pickles for 20 minutes.
I let them sit a couple of weeks to really soak in the flavors. Once you’ve canned them, they don’t require refrigeration until you open the jar.
*A note on vinegar-you’ll find major differences ratios of vinegar vs. water in pickle recipes across the board. Here’s my non-scientific advice for finding your ratio. Doing 50% water, 50% vinegar will get you a nice smooth pickle-BUT these don’t keep for very long outside of canning them. You’ll need to eat them within a few weeks. The more vinegar you add to your mix, the more bite you are going to get. I don’t claim to be any expert on this.
**If you’re not that into garlic, you may want to cut back on the garlic you use, or don’t use any!