My garden has me busy. I planted my cucumbers extra thick this year, because in the past I have not had great success with my cucumber vines. This spring before planting we applied composted rabbit manure to the garden. Let me tell you, it has done wonders. Now I have cucumbers in excess. And a little green tree frog who loves all the lush foliage to hang out in! Love these little guys. They are so cute and their songs are so cheerful.
So, to preserve some of this wonderful freshness I have been canning pickles. My favorite dill recipe is for Kosher Dill Pickles. If you have never canned before pickles is a good place to start they are SO easy.
1. The first thing you need to do is wash your quart jars and place them in a LARGE pot full of water. Set this on the stove and turn your burner on high. You want to boil the jars so that they will be sterilized. I use my hot water bath canner for this job. Stove space is at a premium and I can’t fit more than two big pots on my stove at a time.
2. Next scrub your pickles. I take a dish cloth and wipe the pickle all over. If you are using a cucumber that is a “pickler” then it will have lots of sharp spines that need to be scrubbed off. These cucumbers, by the way, are the best type to use for pickling.
3. Once my cucumbers are washed I combine my brine:
1 quart white vinegar
3 quarts water
2/3 cups of canning salt (make sure to use this not regular salt)
Place in a large pot and heat to boiling; then reduce to a simmer until ready to use.
4. While my brine is heating I gather the rest of my ingredients.
1 head of dill for each jar (7-8)
1 clove of dill per jar
crushed red pepper flakes
5. Once your jars are hot and the brine is ready, place your lids into a glass bowl; ladle some of the hot water from your canner over the lids. Grab your rings and a clean damp dish cloth.
6. Begin filling your jars. I usually place the dill and garlic in the bottom of the jars and then put in the cucumbers. Fill the jar to within 1/2 inch of the top with the cucumbers. Place in one bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon of the red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon of the mustard seed. Ladle the hot brine over the cucumbers to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar. Using the damp dish cloth wipe down the rim of the jar. Take a hot lid place it on top and screw down the band. Repeat until all the jars are filled.
7. Place jars back into the canner. Lower into water. Make sure there is water covering the tops of the lids. I can usually achieve about a half an inch when using quart jars. At this point your water may not be boiling, but it should still be close if you kept the lid on the canner. That is fine when making fresh pack dills. It does not need to come back to a boil according to my Ball canning book. Begin you timing. Let your pickles cook for 15 minutes then remove them to a towel to cool.
8. Lastly listen for the joyous popping of your sealing jars! Personally my favorite part. :)
There are a few tips that can be helpful when canning pickles
- cut off the blossom end this can effect the pickling process
- for a crisper pickle soak your cucumbers in water and alum before you start canning. Just make sure to drain and rinse before canning.
- Use small fresh cucumbers. If your cucumbers are too big it will be hard to can them whole. Sometimes I do cut mine into spears and shove them in with the whole pickles so that I can get as much as possible into the jars.
- Use soft water or distilled water in your brine mixture. Hard water affects the canning process.
- Shake the jars gently before placing on the lids to remove any hidden air bubbles.
- Let your jars sit for 4-6 weeks before opening. They will be more flavorful this way.