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Sunday, June 27, 2010

My First Dill Pickles

What a great day! I finally got myself up early on a Sunday morning and made it to the big farmer's market under the freeway. I had to practice some self discipline as my fridge is stuffed and we've barely made a dent in the veg I received in my farm box this week. I scored cucumbers, dill, blueberries, apricots, onions and rhubarb. I was so excited to find some rhubarb. I thought I had missed the season already. So today I performed a double marriage in my kitchen - cucumbers and dill, rhubarb and apricots. I think we'll all live happily ever after!
I got this dill pickle recipe from Sharon Howard, who shared it on 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.
Dill Pickles
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.


  1. Susan! This was not Sharon's original recipe. It got co-opted by the Canning Police. She did not support the changes that AllRecipes was forced to add during the canning process, and asked that the recipe just be taken down.

    You're good on everything except for the very LAST step. She never put her pickles into a boiling water bath. She indicated the seal from the hot jar was more than enough. If you do a BWB with cucumbers? You're going to get a bunch of soft pickles.

    One reader did come up with a compromise, which I use to this day. I fill the jars, just like you do, seal them like you do and then TURN THEM UPSIDE DOWN.

    I fill a flat frying pan with raised edges with about an inch of water, and bring it to a boil. I place the upside down jars in the frying pan and let them sit, sealed side down, for five minutes.

    This gives you the hard seal you want, without boiling the crispness out of the pickles!


    1. Thanks Bill. I bet those are more crispy, but I've been really happy with how mine turned out with the BWB and have had many requests for replacements. The brine is just right for me. I've also used this method for asparagus pickles with yummy results. After the sealing, do you store them at room temp or refrigerate? Are they safely shelf-stable without the BWB?