Wednesday, August 1, 2012
When it comes to canning, I'm a bit lazy and a total cheapskate, so I have not made the leap and purchased a canner or canning tools. If you'd prefer the more traditional canning methods, there are fantastic tutorials online, but if you like to take a few shortcuts like me, I've given step-by-step directions for Sweet and Sour Dill Pickles here.
This recipe is from my husband's grandmother--I believe she got it from a friend of hers. It produces pickles (and onions too) that are like pickle-lover's candy, but plenty garlicky and dill-flavored as well. They're the best of both worlds. Being one of those wonderful old recipes passed from friend to friend, the amounts of ingredients are very, shall we say, flexible.
canning jars, lids, and bands (wide-mouthed jars have worked well for me)
onion, cut into chunks
garlic cloves (optional)
1 quart vinegar (white)
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup salt
2 quarts water
First, prepare your cucumbers. I'm guessing I used about 2 pounds, but like I said, things are flexible. Cukes are getting to be a bit large by this point, but choose the smallest you can find. Most will need to be sliced into about 1-inch chunks.
If you're lucky enough to find some true baby cucumbers at this point, you won't have to cut them. However, this recipe does specify that you are to cut the cukes into chunks and I've never used the baby ones in the past. I'm not sure whether the babies will soak up as much brine as the sliced larger ones will. Try it anyway! Be adventurous with me!
I also love garlic in anything, so I also add one large or two small garlic cloves to each jar. Some people like to eat the pickled garlic straight up, but I haven't been so brave yet.
Wash and dry your jars thoroughly, even if they're right out of the package. This will ensure that your pickles are more sterile, and therefore should last longer. I made nine jars this year.
Next, place a few pieces of onion, a garlic clove or two, and a section of dill in the bottom of each jar. You'll need the bristly flower part of the fresh dill, not the feathery leaf part--if in doubt, look for "pickling dill" at your grocery store or farmer's market.
Add enough cucumbers, more onions, and more dill to the jar, leaving 1/2 inch headroom.
Seriously, don't skip the onions. They're delicious on brats, hot dogs, and hamburgers once they're all pickley and sweet.
Finally, you're ready for the stressful part. You'll need counter space for the jars and the hot pot of brine. You'll also need pot holders to set the pot on and to hold the hot jars while you screw the band on. It also helps to have two sets of hands ready. My husband sacrificed to assist me, as he hates pickles. In his words, he did it because he loves me.
Anyway, mix up the brine ingredients in a very large pot and heat until boiling. Ladle the hot brine in over the veggies, again leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace, but making sure everything's covered.
I fill and seal the jars one at a time. Before putting each seal and band on, wipe the edge of the jar clean. If there's any moisture on the edge, the seal may not take properly. Then, center the seal over the jar and screw the band over the top.
Phew! You're done! Let them sit out until all the lids have "popped". If the brine was hot enough, the lids should seal and will no longer pop when touched. Sometimes a slight touch to the lid will help along jars that haven't popped after several hours. Because the lids are sealed, you shouldn't need to refrigerate these pickles until after you've opened the jar. If by chance any of the jars do not seal, those do need to be kept in the refrigerator.
Please post a comment if something needs clarification. Happy pickling!