Making Dill Pickles

Never have cared much for dill pickles. Too salty for my taste. But the Farmer-in-Chief keeps bringing in big baskets of cukes from Veg Hill every day, and nobody’s figured out a way yet to freeze or can plain cucumbers to enjoy later.

Barbara Kingsolver describes in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle how the good people of her town, normally trusting enough not to lock their car doors, are careful to fortify themselves in July against the risk that someone will place a bag of squash on their back seat while they’re looking the other way. That’s the way we are right now with our cukes, so look out, neighbors.

So in an earnest effort to do something worthwhile with all our cucumbers, the Farmer-in-Chief decided to make pickles. She carefully selected about 28 cucumbers that were, as they say, at the peak of freshness – juicy and sweet, but still crisp and firm. I didn’t peel them; I just cut the ends off and cut them into quarters. Some were fat enough that we decided to cut them into six spears instead of four.

Amanda mixed 6 cups of hot water and 2 1/2 cups of white vinegar in her mixing bowl, along with 2/3 cup Ball Kosher Dill Pickle Mix, and she heated the bowl to a boil in the microwave. While she was preparing the mix, I sterilized the jars and lids for 4 quarts of pickles (that’s what her recipe told us to expect) in the water bath canner.

One by one, I removed the jars from the canner, and Amanda stuffed them with as many cucumber spears as she could fit into the jar. Then we covered the spears with the liquid mix, leaving 1/2″ headspace at the top. I picked up a lid from the canner with my little magnetic wand thingamajig, placed it on top of the jar, and secured it with a metal band. When we had filled all the jars the recipe told us to expect, we still had plenty of cucumber spears and liquid mix left, so we hussled to prepare more jars; we didn’t sterilize them but just washed them carefully. In an abundance of caution, we opted to treat them as refrigerator pickles. The next time we make these, we’ll make sure to sterilize enough jars from the beginning so we can store them all at room temperature.

We placed the sealed jars in the canner, brought the water back to boiling, and processed them for 15 minutes.

Here’s the recipe for our Longleaf Breeze Dill Pickles – adapted from Ball:

7 lb. pickling cucumbers (about 28 small to medium cukes)
6 cups hot water
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
2/3 cup Ball Kosher Dill Pickle Mix

Heat water bath canner and begin sterilizing jars and lids. Mix water and vinegar, and set aside. Cut both ends off each cucumber and cut each cucumber into long strips. If shortening is needed, cut off the end away from the stem.

Add pickle flavor mix to water/vinegar mixture and heat to boiling. Remove each jar from the canner in sequence and pack cucumber strips into the jar as tightly as you can, then cover with the pickling mixture. Place a lid on each jar and hand tighten band. Return packed jars to canner, bring back to boil, and then process for 15 minutes. When jars are removed from canner, leave them undisturbed for 24 hours. The pickles will taste better after 4-6 weeks and will keep for about a year. Yield: 5 1/2 quarts of pickles.

The video runs a little less than five minutes and takes you through the preparation process.

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