Let’s start this post with a fact: I love pickles. Dill pickles, to be precise. Sweet pickles, butter pickles, and any other variety just doesn’t cover the bar for my taste buds. Strangely enough, cucumbers aren’t exactly my favorite vegetable to consume by itself. When allowed to soak up a vinegary brine for a few days – magic happens.
Having never attempted to make pickles, a weekend afternoon project was in order. My daughter and I gathered up the necessary supplies, plus a few that were already lying around the house:
- Distilled White Vinegar (1.5 cups)
- Water (1.5 cups)
- Pickling (or kosher) salt (1.5 tablespoons)
- Garlic Cloves (roughly 3 per jar)
- Dill Seed (1 tablespoon per jar)
- Fresh Dill (1 sprig)
- Pickling cucumbers
- Mason Jars
- Mandoline (for making pickle chips)
The entire process was incredibly easy. In short: prep your cucumbers and ingredients, make some brine, stuff the jars, pour the brine in. Done!
But I’m sure you want a little more detail than that, right?
First things first – CLEAN YOUR STUFF!
Food prep starts with clean supplies and ingredients. We are storing our pickles in the refrigerator and not canning for long term storage. As such, we just clean the jars with dish soap and rinse thoroughly.
And let’s not forget – clean cucumbers make happy pickles. The cucumbers we chose were roughly 5 to 6 inches in length (aka pickling cucumbers). The shorter ones we used for spears, and the fat ones were used for chips. A local farm has this variety and sells them through our grocery store. Bonus points for buying and supporting your local farm!
Next up: prep our dry ingredients.
I sliced garlic cloves into thin wafers which were placed at the bottom of each mason jar along with the dill seed.
Side note: Dill seed was kind of expensive for this recipe. Next time we are going to try using dill weed (much cheaper) in a spice bag.
For this batch, we took the fatter cucumbers to a mandoline and made pickle chips. Using the crinkle-cut blade, two cucumbers easily made enough chips to fill a large mason jar. The smaller cucumbers were quartered into spears.
Regardless of the pickle shape you choose, CUT OFF the ends of the cucumbers and discard them prior to slicing. There are enzymes in that part of the cucumber that will make your pickles soft – yuck!
To make our pickling brine we used equal parts water and distilled white vinegar (2 cup each) and 3 tablespoons of pickling salt. We doubled the amounts because of how many pickles were being made. Simply bring those 3 ingredients to a rolling boil.
Cucumber Cramming Containers
While the brine is coming up to a boil, now is when we stuff the mason jars with the cucumbers. Pack each jar tightly with your spears or chips. On the top of each, we put a sprig of fresh dill.
Next up – it was time to pour the brine in. We poured it in right from the stove while it was still hot. I’ve read recipes that called for letting the brine cool as well as pouring it in hot. We didn’t and things turned out just fine.
Pouring the hot brine into the pickle jars you (or your kiddo) may flash back to the smell of dying Easter Eggs. Hot vinegar smells like…well…hot vinegar!
Important Safety Tip: THE JARS WILL BE INSANELY HOT! You just poured boiling brine into them. Don’t be an idiot and pick up the jars with your bare hands. In fact, don’t pick them up at all. Let them cool for a bit.
Seal up the jars, let them cool on the counter for a bit, and then put them in the back of your refrigerator. Way in the back. Why? If they’re in the front, every time you open the fridge you’ll want to eat them. Seriously.
Waiting Is The Hardest Part
Supposedly, you’re supposed to wait a week to crack your mason jars open to enjoy. We lasted a whopping 24 hours before trying them. The pickle chips were AMAZING. The dill and garlic flavors shined and the vinegar was front and center. The spears were still a bit “under brined” and needed another day before taking on a great pickled flavor. After the second day, their flavor was perfect and the crunch was worth the effort (as compared to the limp over-salted pickles you get in the store).
I will say that the strong vinegar flavor won’t be for everyone. In fact, the next batch we make will be a different ratio of water to vinegar ratio in the brine. As mentioned previously, we’ll also be trying out dill weed instead of the more expensive dill seeds.
Other experiments that will be tried on the next batch include red pepper flakes and peppercorns. For my taste-buds though, our first batch will be tough to beat.