by Matt on July 17, 2013
When we got home from our vacation late last week, the first thing I did was check the garden. Everything appeared to be going well (although, the sweet corn seems to be tasseling a little early) and I picked about four pounds of cucumbers.
That means it’s time to make dill pickles!
I sliced the cucumbers into slices about a quarter inch thick. In the past, I have tried spears, but they have never really worked out as well as the slices. All of these slices were dumped into a non-aluminum pot of water with one cup of pickling lime. The lime makes the water very white and you need to be careful not to get the lime water in your eyes or on your clothes as it is a strong base. I put a glass lid over the pickles to hold them under the water and let them soak overnight. The pickling lime keeps the cucumbers crisp and helps them stay firm throughout the canning process.
The next day I drained the soaking cucumbers; the water had turned a greenish-yellow. Again, it is important to be careful with the waste water as it is corrosive. I rinsed the cucumber slices three times and then let them sit for an hour or so in ice water, they can sit for longer if needed or desired; the ice water is to help them finish firming.
I added water, vinegar, and pickling salt (not table salt) to a pan in proportions of 3 cups water to 4 cups vinegar to 1 Tablespoon salt. The proportions can be changed based on personal taste. I then set the pot to boil. At the same time, I started the heat on a large canning pot in which I would later finish the jars of pickles.
I peeled the garlic and added one sliced clove to each pint jar. Then I added one stem of dill to each pint. I put the clean cucumber slices in a big bowl and transported them over to my canning area.
I put the cucumbers in the jars, shaking the jars to pack the cucumbers as tightly as possible. I have yet to have a jar that was packed too tightly.
Then I poured the boiling vinegar solution over the cucumbers using a funnel. I was careful not to fill the jar beyond the bottom of the neck; if you fill the jar too full, the lid will bubble and the jar will not seal. Finally, I popped the lids on and put the finished jars into the canning pot to seal and sterilize. Pint jars boil for ten minutes and quart jars boil for fifteen minutes.
The pickling process uses an acid (in this case vinegar) to prevent anaerobic bacteria, such as the bacteria that results in botulism, from developing inside the jar. Sealing the jars prevents the growth of aerobic bacteria. If you are canning something that is not acidic, be sure to can in a pressure cooker.
This first batch of cucumbers resulted in two and a half gallons of pickles. They need to sit for about a month before they will gain their full flavor.