I got this dill pickle recipe from Sharon Howard, who shared it on allrecipes.com. She has a 5-star average with 249 reviews. This is rock-star for allrecipes. I always have to add my own twist on things, but I owe my methodology to this generous lady. Her secret is to soak the cucumbers in ice water for at least two hours. She does so much that she sometimes uses her bath tub! I only bought 4 lbs. of cucumbers, so my small picnic cooler held everything just fine. I have read many pickle recipes and I've tried to use the best tips from several. One think that Ms. Howard didn't mention is that enzymes in the blossom end of the cucumber can cause it to soften over time. I used this knowledge and trimmed the ends of the cucumbers before soaking in ice water.
While the soaking commenced, I prepared the other ingredients. Ms. Howard's recipe is very simple and only calls for a few flavorings - garlic, dill and vinegar. I usually smash my garlic to pop them out of the peel, but wanted nice looking garlic clove halves in my jars. I found that cutting the cloves down the middle, length-wise, made it easy to peel the skin right off.
Ms. Howard calls for dill flower heads. Apparently it is too early for them right now, and the coolness of this season may delay them even more. I was really excited to meet some ladies from the UC Master Preserver program at the farmer's market. What a resource! They advised my that it is also early for pickling cucumbers and that they are pricey right now. I have some learning to do before I can follow the seasons so precisely. I decided to go for it. I did not purchase the very straight, picture perfect cucumbers for $2.60 per lb., but found some funky little cukes for $1.50 per lb. They are cute cukes to me! Because I couldn't find dill flower heads, I decided to add some dill seed along with the dill weed. I also added 4 black pepper corns to each jar, and some red pepper flakes to a couple. These are my twists on this recipe. If I ever get any peppers from my garden, I may add some of them in the future.
Here are the jars, all ready for the brine. The cucumbers were hard as a rock when I pulled them from the ice water. I have high hopes this will translate into extra crispness later. I won't be able to report on the outcome for a few weeks. I've got to let these babies soak up all that flavor.
4 lbs. small pickling cucumbers
2 cups white distilled vinegar
6 cups water
1/3 cup salt
1 bunch of fresh dill weed
8 garlic cloves
black pepper corns
red pepper flakes (optional)
Wash and trim the ends off of the cucumbers. Submerge them in ice water for at least 2 hours, but no more than 8 hours. Meanwhile, prepare 8 wide mouth pint jars, lids and the water bath.
Combine the vinegar, water and salt and bring to boil. Keep hot. Place two garlic clove halves into each jar along with the pepper corns and 1/4 tsp. dill weed. If a spicy pickle is desired, add 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. Stuff the jars with pickles and a few sprigs of dill weed. Pack tightly as the pickles will shrink during the water bath. Pour the boiling brine over the cucumbers, wipe rims and close the lids. Place in boiling water bath and process for 15 minutes. Allow to cure for two weeks before eating. Keep in refrigerator after opening. Store sealed jars in a cool dry place.
Makes 8 pint jars.