Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Making Deli-Style Dill Pickles: Part One

Hunger is the best pickle.
-Benjamin Franklin
The cucumbers from last week's post have finally started the process of becoming deli dill pickles (well, six pounds of them have... the other half are off to become cucumber chips). This is my first foray into pickling anything, though I have canned in the past, so this should be quite the adventure!

You need to prepare the pickles and then let them stand in a cool, dark place for three weeks (skimming scum off the surface daily... hopefully this process isn't too gross!) so below is the preparation before the three week wait.
My recipe for dills comes from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which has been an invaluable resource for teaching myself how to can and preserve a variety of foods. The first step is choosing the cucumbers which, apparently, was my first mistake! I waited to pick the cucumbers in my garden until they were ripe, and huge and there were some yellow areas (overripe spots) here and there on the skins. Once I started cooking I read that I should have picked the cucumbers when they were still very dark green with large bumps on the outside of the fruit, and zero areas of light green or yellow. Whoops! Apparently my pickle "crispness" will suffer as a result... (See update at the end of this post for Perfect Pickle pics!)
I decided to make the pickles anyway and I gathered my supplies (see spices, sugar and salt above. I also used organic dill from a local grocer) for both the dills and the cucumber chips. For the dills, I used store bought pickling spice (the lime green bottle above) and for the cucumber chips I used the other spices shown to make my own pickling spice. After chopping up the pickles into 4-inch spears, I added half of the pickling spice (a heaping 1/3 cup) and a large bunch of dill to the bottom of an enamel pot and dumped the sliced spears on top. Ensure that the spears have at least 4-inches of clearance from the top rim of the pot. It's important to use only stainless-steel or unchipped enamelware for all pickling tasks because other types of cooking wear (utensils as well) can cause discoloring of the final pickle products that is unappetizing and can be dangerous.
I created a brine by boiling 1.5 cups of pickling salt, 2 cups white vinegar and 16 cups water and then letting it cool to room temperature after stirring to dissolve all of the salt. Once it cooled, I ladled it over the pickles. Once the pot was full (the pickling brine ran out exactly at the top of the pickles... that's why I love these recipes, they always work out perfectly!) I dumped the other bunch of dill and the remainder of the pickling spice on top. Place an inverted plate on top of the pickles (to keep them all submersed in the brine) and used a filled and sealed mason jar of water on top of the plate to weigh it down. Store it in a cool dark place for approximately 3 weeks (to let them ferment) and skim the surface daily for scum.
Now, five days into dill making, the dills are pretty fragrant when I take the plate off for my daily check (in a good way, just a lot of spice and vinegar!) but no scum that I can see has formed yet. I am waiting for the pickles to become "translucent" and ready to can. I am hoping they will be finished by early August!
     I also made cucumber chips through a different method (I only have to wait 24 hours for them to be ready to can instead of three weeks!) to compare the quality of the two products with the amount of labor and time involved in each. Look out for a post in the future with my reviews of both methods!
Update: Here are what the pickles should look like before picking to make "the perfect pickle"... Look for dark, firm skin and obvious bumps on the outside of the fruit. Avoid any fruits with light green or yellow areas of the skin.


  1. So glad you liked it! :) I'm canning peaches tommorow, so stay tuned! :)


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