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Garlic Dill Pickles #3 (plus a pickle tutorial)

August 20, 2010

Yes, this is a lot of pickles.  The same kind of pickles.  But I would like to argue that Garlic Dill Pickles are the BEST kind of pickles.  I would also like to have some sort of pickle throw down to see which is the best recipe when all is said and done.  I will let you know when I get around to that.

Within this post, I also wanted to outline some things that we have learned about pickle-making.  For one, don’t breathe in that brine- it is STRONG!  Speaking of strong, if you don’t pack as many cucumbers in each jar as humanly possible, you end up with some seriously salty pickles.  I love salt, but they were too much for even me.  We have also found that spears pack better than chips, and have switched over to almost exclusively spear-making.  You can always slice them thinnly to add to a sandwich.  Besides, most of my pickle eating happens straight out of the jar.  And finally, it is way easier to add the spices to each jar, rather than brewing them into your brine to then attempt to equally distribute them into each jar while pouring the brine over the cucumbers.  The recipe below outlines all of these lessons, and might be my favorite so far (the convenience of using exactly 12 jars adds to this favoritism).


  • Approx. 38 Kirby Cucumbers, 3-4″ in length (longer is fine, but you will have to trim them once they are in the jar)
  • Into each jar:
  • 2 small, peeled cloves of garlic (you can use 1 large as well, but it takes up more space and makes cucumber placement more tricky)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seed
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh dill (flowers, with a stronger flavor and a nicer appearance, are best, but hard to find if you don’t grow dill yourself)
  • Into the brine:
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups white vinegar (5%, Kosher- if you want to be legit)
  • 1/2 cup (that’s 8 tablespoons) pickling salt

Yield: 12 Pints

Dill flowers and pickle spices...yum!

Slice both ends off of the cucumbers.  Technically you only need to cut off the blossom end, but, with a Masters in Horticulture, I’m not always sure which end is right, and why risk it anyway?  Plus you have nice flat ends to fit into your jar.  Slice lengthwise into 1/8ths.

Bring brine to a boil, covered (so you don’t stink up the place).  Make sure all of the salt is dissolved.  Be careful not to inhale when you open the lid.  While not caustic, it is not my favorite thing to smell.  Maybe if someone has a cold, you can give them this job.

Get your jars nice and hot, and the fill each with their ration of flavor (garlic, mustard seed and dill, that is).

Jars, ready for their cucumbers!

Gather up a handful of cucumbers and shape them into a circle.  If you are really finicky, you can move the outside edges to match up with the shape of the jar…don’t drive yourself nuts, though.

One jar's worth of cucumbers

Set the cucumbers into the jar, and then push them down evenly.

Cucumbers, about to be subdued into that jar!

Some will want to fight back, but be strong!  And sometimes you were a bit too ambitious and need to take a few spears out.  Check the bottom to see if there are any spears you can push down farther.

Push those puppies in there!

Once you have all of your spears wedged in, you will notice that some are too tall (or perhaps too big for their britches!).  This will be true especially if the cucumbers you purchased were longer that that magic 3-4″ length.

Don't worry, they aren't struggling to escape.

But not to fear!  You can always fix this.  In fact, it is easier to trim them in the jar than to guess at the right length while cutting them.  Until someday when I draw a ruler on my cutting board.  Which won’t be anytime  soon.

A small sharp paring knife makes quick work of those upstart cucumbers

Trim the tops off with kitchen scissors or a small paring knife.  1/2 to 1″ space from the top should be your goal.

Trimmed and ready for brine!

Set aside trimmed tops to make yourself a nice cucumber salad after you are done canning.

Fill each jar with brine, leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Thanks to the shape of the spears, not much air is likely to get trapped, but feel free to bubble a bit if you choose.  Seal with heated lids and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  I like to give my pickles 6-8 weeks before opening, which is difficult but worth it.

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