Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dill Pickles

This post is dedicated to Deanna, the most pickle-loving individual I have ever met! I thought of you every step of this journey and I have a special jar of these babies set aside just for you!

So we already covered the madness behind this and what I have done to prepare myself here. Now we're on to the main attraction - the pickles.

I decided to double my fun by making multiple forms of the same recipe- everything here is good, old-fashioned dill pickle based. However, due to uncooperative cucumbers, they have taken lots of forms, from relish to chips to spears. And really, it's an excellent illustration, because the basics are exactly the same. The shape has no affect on it!

I combined a couple of recipes and a little improvisation to get to my pickles. My mom's recipe wasn't so much a recipe as it was proportions - 1 qt. vinegar, 1 qt. water, and 1/2 cup salt. Well, while I was picking up all my jars and whatnot, I also got a copy of the Ball Canning Blue Book, and checked out their recipe for dill pickles. It started the same way - 1 qt water, 1 qt vinegar, and 1/2 cup salt. However, it also added sugar and pickling spice. I added the requested 3/4 cup sugar and then made up my little spice bundle with 3 Tbsp pickling spice and 1 tsp. dill seed.

There are a few ways you can do your spice bundle. The instructions say to use cheesecloth tied with kitchen twine. You could also get a little tea infuser ball (which I will probably do in the future). I didn't have either of these things easily accessible, so I improvised with a gauze pad from the first aid kit tied together with a rubber band. It worked! Then, let everything simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes before adding it to the jars.

First of all, your jars have to be clean and sterilized. It's not as scary as it sounds. I rinsed out my jars when I took them from the package, then I stuck them into my boiling water in the canner and let them do their thing until I was ready for them.

From there, it was easy. I cut my cukes and packed them into my jars with some dried dill, about 1 tsp per jar. I used a couple of different sized jars here for various reasons. I started with wide-mouthed quart size jars for the spears. The obvious reason is ease of packing pickle spears! I put some chips in a quart size and some in a pint. Plus, if you don't need to feed an army and don't want the pressure of eating all your pickles in a timely manner, the pint size is more practical. The relish went into a pint and a half-pint.

I used my handy-dandy canning funnel to pour the liquid into the jars, making sure to leave at least 1/4 inch of what's called "head space" at the top. Then I topped the jars with the little lids and rings. I screwed the rings on until they were tight, but not so tight I'd never get it off again! Then, back into the boiling water they went! They processed for about ten minutes and I pulled them out to let them finish sealing and to cool off.

I had only planned to do maybe 4 jars of pickles and a jar or two of relish just to try everything out. Well, Jeff started slicing cucumbers for me and the next thing I know we have 10 jars of pickles and 2 jars of relish! Whoops! I had planned to save some for sweet pickles this time around, but it was just easier to keep going with what I had. And there will be PLENTY more cucumbers before the summer is over so there will probably be lots of pickle recipes floating around! Despite the fact that I burned myself with some of the boiling water, I really did enjoy the whole process and I am looking forward to doing it again!

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