Personally, I prefer cold packing them and I generally use the same recipe my Mom used 50 years ago minus the “sunbathing”. One thing I do differently though is to refrigerate them. It just gives me a little more piece of mind when it comes to proper canning procedures and the controversy regarding the preserving of Dills.
Over the last few years, USDA has issued guidelines and recommends that Dill pickles should be heat-processed to eliminate any chance of botulism. They may have a point, but my jury is still out on this one as I personally prefer not to do this as I find it makes the pickles less crisp. I definitely don’t endorse skipping heat processing and if you feel more comfortable I recommend you take this additional step.
I suppose I rationalize this by thinking about all those Sun Pickles I ate in the past that were stored in the basement on the shelf with no refrigeration and I’m still here to crave them and tell the tale!
Did I mention though…that every time I open a jar from a new non-heat processed batch, I feel it’s my duty to eat about ½ of it before unleashing them on the world? It’s just my way of assuring quality control and I’ve appointed myself the “official food taster” of the Royal pickles! I like that job!
Now on to the recipe - I made about 10 quarts here:
Pickling Cucumbers – about 6-8 to a Quart Jar (about 75 for 10 quarts)
6 cups of White Vinegar
18 cups of Water
1 cup of Pickling or Kosher Salt
Garlic Cloves – about 3 or more for each jar
Fresh Dill Weed
Dill Seed heads (In season)
Here’s a big bowl of freshly selected cucumbers. Ratio of Vinegar to water is about 3-1 and I made about 10 quart jars with 6-8 cucumbers in each jar. Does size matter? Yes! I find the perfect cucumber size is about 4 inches. 2 quart jars work even better as you can pack them much easier but I still prefer quart jars.
To prepare for the packing…wash your jars in hot soapy water and if you’ve used the jars before, inspect them for any chips or cracks. Rinse well. Or better yet, if you have a sanitizing feature on your Dishwasher it’s a good time to use it.
Okay…this step is very important and I think it’s the critical component of ensuring that your pickles come out nice and crispy! This is one thing that my Mom didn’t do…but I think it really makes a huge difference. Wash and scrub your pickles well. They say that Enzymes at the blossom end of the cucumber may cause softening, so cut off about 1/8th of an inch off this end (vine connection). Immerse them in Icewater and let them sit for at least 2 hours. (no more than 4 and 3’s good!) Push them down and rotate them and add more ice if needed. I use a sink, but a portable cooler works well also.
While your cukes are soaking in the icewater…prepare your additives such as garlic and dill. In this case I could not find any dill heads but compensated with additional dill weed. I also love to add a ½ strip of Hot Pepper. I find it doesn’t make it too hot…it just gives it a bit of a bite!
In a large stock pot (non-aluminum) Mix your brine. Add together the Water, Vinegar and Salt. You need to bring this to a rolling boil.
In the meantime, sterilize your jars. I usually put about 4 inches of water into a large roastpan and bring it to a boil. Bring it down to a simmer and sit the jars upside down in the pan and let them sit in there for at least 10 minutes. Add your lids also.
Drain your pickles and bring them to your work area. When the brine has boiled, take a hot jar and start packing. Add to the bottom a few large sprigs of dill and a couple ½ cloves of Garlic. Pack your dills tightly, bottom layer standing up. Add some more dill and pack the top layer with additional cucumbers. Add a couple more cloves of garlic down the sides of the jar. If you’re adding a hot pepper, slide it down the side of the jar.
You could stuff them down the middle, but it looks pretty on the outside! OH…and it's extremely important that you wear jewelery to match the dills while doing this! Hehe
Take a scoop or measuring cup and dip it into the boiling brine. Fill the jar to the top.. Release trapped air bubbles in the jar by gently working a knife around the jar's sides. Add additional brine, if needed, to maintain the 1/2-inch headspace.Run your finger around the rim of the jar to make sure there is no residue and center your hot lid. Secure it with the lid ring and seal tightly. Turn jar immediately upside down on a towel placed on your work area.
Now if you decide you would like to heat process:
Place the jars into a boiling water-bath canner. The jars should not touch. Cover the canner. Process filled jars in the boiling water for 12 minutes. Begin counting the processing time when the water returns to boiling. When the jars have cooled, press the center of each lid to check the seal. If the dip in the lid holds, the jar is sealed. If the lid bounces up and down, the jar isn't sealed. Unsealed jars should be stored in the refrigerator and will continue to cure.
If you do the Cold Pack method with no heat processing:
Let the jars sit for about 4 hours or overnight and turn them upright…all the jars should have sealed. Any that didn’t…just put them into the refrigerater. For the ones that have sealed, you may be surprised to hear a “POP” – maybe 3 days later. When this happens, I usually put all of the jars into the refrigerator. They appear to seal again and now it’s just a matter of patience! Let them sit and flavor in the refrigerator for 8 weeks!
About 2-5 weeks into this project you’ll notice that the Dills are cloudy…but the residue seems to be settling
Okay…I know I should wait for the full 8 weeks, but every time I opened that darn refrigerator the pickles were beckoning me! “Try me, try me, try me!”. It’s been 7 weeks less 2 days and I just have to open a jar! As you can see the color has changed and they’re looking very lovingly pickled!:
I’ve now succumbed to the call…DRUM ROLL PLE ASE!
Mmmmmmmm...I've eaten 1/2 a jar and there's really not a lot more I can say right now! They're delicious!
And - What does a pickle say at a Poker game?
Dill me in!!!