My dad’s cooking is delicious. I’ve already posted “Dad’s Badass Chili” and the pesto was his original creation. I’m sure there will be more. Anyway, he has taken up a new hobby of pickling everything and anything in his sight (his salsa is insane). I’ve asked him to guest post for me with a how-to guide to canning. Here is his dill pickle masterpiece:
Canning Hints for Making Dill Pickles –
-In advance of your pickling day, buy and wash plenty of quart size canning jars, rings and new lids. You can’t re-use lids! Have on hand your large boiling kettle, a kettle for preparing brine, a quart-sized pan for heating lids in near-boiling water, and a canning tool for grabbing hot jars in the boiling water bath. In addition, I use a magnetic extension tool for retrieving lids from hot water (available at hardware stores).
-Purchase pickling spices and supplies in advance. See spice options below.
-Wake up early on a Saturday morning in late July or early August (in Minnesota, anyway). Stop by your local coffee shop for a cup of your favorite dark roast then head to the nearest Farmers’ Market.
-Wander the rows of vegetable displays and scope out the best – freshest – cleanest pickling cucumbers. Buy ½ bushel of pickling cucumbers or however many you feel ready to can. I prefer small sizes (2” – 3” long…about like your index finger). Process soon – while fresh.
-In your kitchen sink, rinse the cucumbers multiple times until water runs clear. Get your hands in there and stir them up – they hold a lot of dirt. A good friend actually tumbles hers in the washing machine in a pillow case.
-Cut off any stems. Sort to maintain quality.
-Pack baby cucumbers in ice for at least 4 hours. I suggest simply holding them in an ice water bath in the kitchen sink while you prepare the canning materials.
The Pickling Process –
-Begin a boiling water bath in your largest canning kettle (to sterilize empty jars and then to boil filled jars for last step of the canning process);
-Prepare a brine solution in another large kettle (make more or less depending on amount of cucumbers purchased – sufficient to fill all jars):
- 16 cups water
- 8 cups white vinegar (I’ve used apple cider vinegar before with successful results)
- 1 cup pickling salt
- 4 cups sugar
- 3 or 4 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
-Bring the brine to a boil until salt and sugar are completely dissolved.
-In the bottom of each of the sterilized jars, place 1) sprig of fresh dill, 2) wedge of white onion, and 3) 2 cloves of fresh garlic.
-Add combinations of pickling spices to the jars – depending on your preference. I usually add mustard seed, 5 or 6 whole cloves, and allspice (they’re dominant flavors – make sure to judge accordingly).
-Pack the cucumbers as tightly as possible with various sizes (they float once the brine is added), and add another sprig of dill, onion wedge and garlic clove midway during packing.
-Pour brine into the jars to above the “shoulder” – about ¼ – ½ inch from top.
-Heat lids for a couple of minutes in steeping water in quart-sized pan to activate the rubber seal material.
-Seal jars with lids and rings. Make sure jar lips are clean and free from ingredients. Continue with the rest of the jars and pickles.
-Making sure boiling water bath continues at a rolling boil, grasp top of each jar with your canning tool and insert into bath for 4 minutes. I usually boil 5 jars at a time so that you can maintain temperature. Boiling water must cover the jars.
-Remove jars from bath with canning tool and let cool on counter top. As they cool, the lids should “pop” as ingredients contract. If you can push the lids down after cooling, they probably haven’t sealed properly and you need to re-do the bath with a new lid. Clean rims of the jars…
-Store in a dark, cool place for at least two months. Chill and eat!
Homemade Pickling Spices –
2 large bunches of fresh dill (purchase at Farmers’ Market or produce department of grocery store)
1 jar mustard seed (3 oz.)
1 jar whole allspice (3 oz.)
Dried red pepper flakes
1 jar coriander seeds (3 oz.)
1 jar whole cloves (3 oz.)
2 jars cinnamon sticks (2 inches – add a stick to each jar)
Have you ever pickled before?
What is your absolute favorite canned treat?