I have a favorite homemade dill pickle recipe. It’s really basic. The recipe calls for a 50/50 brine (1:1 water to white vinegar), Kosher salt, fresh garlic, and fresh dill fronds. Sometimes I’ll throw in a slice of jalapeno chile to each jar for added heat.
The big difference is the cucumber itself. To me the perfect homemade dill pickle is possible only if I can find several pounds of small Kirby cucumbers that are 3-4 inches long and between 1-1 1/2 inches wide. It’s larger than cornichon but smaller than many commercial Kosher dills which tend to be full sized at 2-3 inches wide and 5-6 inches long.
Unless you grow your own Kirby cucumbers and pick them when they are small, you have to wait for just the right time in the growing season to score them at the farmers market. I have seen them in specialty grocery stores but they are never any good. These cukes are highly perishable and they begin to deteriorate and become soft even if refrigerated. Only use firm cucumbers for pickling if you want crisp pickles.
Today only two farms at the Ballard Farmers Market were selling these smaller sized cukes, but only one farm from eastern Washington had exactly what I wanted. I was so happy that I loaded up on $10 worth of cucumbers (4 lbs.) and 2 bulbs of fresh garlic and I went home and made four quarts of my favorite Garlic Dill Pickles. I also used the same brine to make a quart of French beans (from last week’s CSA) pickled with garlic and dill or Dilly Beans from my now out of print, ten year-old cookbook, Pickled: Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions.
Here’s an excellent link to Canning Across America where I reveal how to choose the right equipment and ingredients. I encourage experimentation but not across the board. Please be sure to only use clean equipment and do not experiment with acid levels, time or temperatures.
Garlic Dill Pickles
Recipe adapted from Pickled: Fruits, Roots, More… Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions (2003), by Lucy Norris
Makes about 4 quarts or 8 pints
- 8 cups white distilled vinegar
- 8 cups water
- 1 cup salt (Kosher or pickling, non-iodized only)
- 4 lbs. small Kirby cucumbers, scrubbed clean
- 8 fresh dill fronds
- 8 garlic cloves (peeled and root tips removed)
Combine the vinegar, salt and water in a large saucepan and bring to boil. Pack each jar first with garlic and dill then pack tightly with cucumbers. Place a wide mouth funnel on each jar and ladle hot liquid brine over the cucumbers remembering to leave at least a ¼ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with a bubble freer and cap. Process jars in hot water bath for 10-15 minutes (or longer depending on elevation). Remove each jar carefully with rubberized tongs and place them on a towel or cooling rack. Allow the jars to cool and store in dark cupboard for at least three weeks before tasting. Once opened, store them in the refrigerator for up to six months (only using clean utensils when handling).