With the height of summer finally releasing a bounty of cucumbers, I thought I’d share with my readers my recipe for old-fashioned garlic dill pickles. These are great because they are not too salty, and just pleasantly sour. I’ve made this recipe for years, and keep the jars in the fridge (yes, they take up a lot of space, but there is nothing like a fresh, never-been-cooked pickle.) Canning is an option, but it inevitably takes away some of the fresh crispness that make these pickles so wonderful. Make sure you scrub all your utensils and crock before starting in order to prevent unwanted bacterial growth. To be extra sure, I do a final rinse of the crock with boiling water.
To make the brine, in a gallon crock or jar, mix together
8 cups water
¼ cup pickling salt (do not use regular table salt)
6 garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons dill seeds
2 Tablespoons mixed pickling spice
2 Tablespoons dried dill weed OR 6 dill heads or sprigs of fresh dill
*optional* 1 small Thai dragon pepper– a Thai dragon pepper will make a very spicy pickle. Any hot pepper will do, or if you don’t like spice, leave it out.
Next, wash and trim 2-3 pounds of pickling cucumbers. Make sure they are young and firm, and cut off about an eighth of an inch at the blossom end. There are enzymes in that end which will make your pickles soft. Add the cucumbers to the crock. If you don’t have quite that many ready, you can wash, trim, and add a few more to the brine over the next two days as they ripen in the garden.
Finally, fill a plastic bag with 1 Tablespoon of pickling salt and 2 cups of water. Seal it and gently lower it into the crock so that it presses all the cucumbers and garlic under the brine. Any not under the fluid will mold and rot instead of ferment. I use salt brine in the bag because one year a bag leaked plain water and diluted the pickle brine, with bad results.
Keep the crock at room temperature for 3 to 5 days. It will take less time if it is warm, and more time if it is cool. Here in Alaska, my house stays about 68ºF all summer, which is the perfect temperature for fermentation. Check the crock every day. If any scum develops at the top of the brine, skim it off.
After three days, taste a pickle, and if it is good, drain the brine and boil it in a non-aluminum pan for 5 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, re-pack the pickles into sterile quart jars. Once the brine is cool, pour it back over the pickles, put a sterile lid on, and store them in the refrigerator. They keep for me all winter. Unrefrigerated, these pickles only keep about a week because they are low salt, so eat ‘em, cool ‘em, or can ‘em!
Anyone else make pickles? What is your favorite?
PS I forgot to add that sometimes if I want a more sour pickle, I will add about a quarter cup of white vinegar (NOT cider) to each quart of pickles when I pour the boiled brine in the re-packed jars.
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© Tam Linsey, 2011. All rights reserved.
Here’s a great photo of finished pickles.