At the tail end of August, I made two batches of pickles from some farmstand cucumbers and they've finally set up long enough to be taste tested—lordy lordy, do these pickles have zing! Seriously, my eye twitched a bit longer than was socially acceptable, but I have a growing fondness for food with a kick so now it's all I can do to try and make them last us through the winter.
I made one batch using this recipe for Triple Dill Pickles (but made them into just double dill and they were still great) and one batch of my Great Grandma Sorenson's Kosher Dills (see below). Both were good but I prefer the spicy notes playing off the standard dill of the family recipe. I've made just a couple small changes, mainly leaving out the alum (it was used to add crispness back in the day but is now believed to be cancer causing so out it goes.)
The raw pack method
Grandma Sorenson's Kosher Dills
Makes 6–8 quarts
20-25 pickling cucumbers
1 quart vinegar
3 quarts water
1 cup pickling salt (you can use kosher salt)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes or 1 hot red pepper
1 tsp black peppercorns (my addition)
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
1 clove garlic
2 heads fresh dill
1 grape leaf
1. Prep jars and canning equipment according to the Ball Blue Book or other book on preserving.
2. In a large pot, boil together the water, vinegar, and salt
3. Meanwhile, wash and quarter cucumbers lengthwise into spears that will fit your jars. Place peppercorns, pepper flakes, mustard seeds, garlic, and dill in the bottom of each jar.
4. Pack in cucumber spears tightly, enough so that they cannot move much but still with space for pickling liquid.
5. Pour in pickling liquid and be sure to leave 1/4–1/2 inch head space. Place one grape leaf just at the top of the water line (optional). Process in a hot water bath—no pressure cooking required for these pickles! Do consult your preferred canning book on how to execute a proper water bath though. I found it time consuming while I waited on all that water to reach the boiling point, but it was otherwise surprisingly easy. As someone who was paranoid about the possibilities of botulism, I'm pleased to announce it all went off without a hitch!
Make sure all your lids pop and re-process or eat right away if they don't. For those that are successfully processed, allow to set up for 4–6 weeks and then enjoy as long as they last! Store in a cool dry place and refrigerate once opened.
Recipe Tip: I highly recommend trying these pickles out on a Double Onion Turkey Sandwich via Real Simple. They were so good that I forgot to put the turkey on when we made them a second time round for leftovers and didn't even miss it. What can I say, the genius within strikes again.
The grape leaf trick: My Grandmother's recipe calls for the age old trick of placing a grape leaf at the top of the jar to help keep the pickles crisp. I couldn't resist trying and am sad to report that I didn't notice any difference between this jar and the others without, c'est la vive!
If anyone has tips for crisper home pickles without using alum or the pre-packaged "Pickle Crisp" stuff (since I can only seem to find it mixed with lame-o pre-packaged spices), I'd love to hear your tips!
Ball Blue Book (tried and true, don't can without it)
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (got this for christmas a while back and love it!)
The instruction manual for your pressure cooker (I inherited mine from my mom and she handed it over with the words, "don't blow yourself up Katrina." Sigh, she knows me so well.)
And last but not least, I've gathered several vintage inspired canning labels (plus all kinds of other free printables) on a pinterest board for you so have at it!