Before now, the process of canning was this big, looming mystery that I wanted to learn but was too scared to try.
My aunt Nancy and I had this very overdue pickling date (for more than a year, actually) and it finally happened this past week. I’m a huge fan of basically all things pickled—cucumber, radish, beet, mushroom, cauliflower, onion—but I never actually learned how to do it myself. I’d heard all these horror stories of people getting really sick over a bad batch of homemade canned goods, so I knew I needed to do it right with somebody who had been doing it for a while.
Please, please, please READ THE INSTRUCTIONS before doing this. Sure that sounds like the obvious thing to do, but you don’t want to miss a step and be left with a bunch of inedible pickles.
Asides from the initial cost of pickling equipment (canning pot, jar funnel and lifter) this recipe is really inexpensive for what you get. I’d say including all the ingredients and the mason jars, your total will come out to roughly $20. Not only do you get 22 jars of homemade pickles that taste great, but to me pickling was immensely satisfying and I felt as if I’d gained a skill—pretty cheap if you ask me.
The method used in this recipe is known as cold-packing, which essentially means you’re pickling raw, uncooked foods. It takes a good chunk of time (3 1/2 – 4 hours) so make sure you’ve got plenty of time and to be in a good mood. It definitely helps if you’ve got someone with you!
Garlic Dill Pickles Recipe
Makes 22 jars
- 3 quarts water
- 1 quart apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1 bushel of small cucumbers (roughly 150 of them)
- 1/2 tsp. pickling spice per jar
- 1 dill flower per jar
- 1-2 sliced garlic cloves per jar
- 22 mason jars
- A heatproof funnel for jars
- A large canning pot
- Jar lifter
Method (Read this several times before starting)
First and foremost, make sure everything that will be used in the process is sterilized. Remove the lids from the mason jars and soak them in boiling water until you need them. You will also need to soak any ladles, knifes or spoons, etc. that may be used in the process. To sterilize the jars, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and place the jars on a cookie tray in the oven for 20 minutes.
While the jars are in the oven, this is the perfect time to prep your ingredients. Wash and cut the dill flowers so that they will fit nicely in the jars. Peel and slice the garlic into quarters. Thoroughly wash the cucumbers to get rid of all dirt that may be stuck to them. If there are any rotten pieces, toss them.
Once your ingredients are ready, remove one tray of jars from the oven, leaving the others in until you are ready to use them. Place one dill flower, a clove or two of garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of pickling spice in each jar. Stuff as many cucumbers as humanly possible into each jar; this is to avoid “floaters” later and makes sure the jar will have a nice finished look. If you have some extra space but can’t fit a full cucumber, half or quarter some and stuff them in the middle. Just be sure that none of your cucumbers come above the opening of the jar, as everything needs to be able to be covered in the brine.
In a large pot, bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil, then reduce heat. Stir until all of the salt crystals have dissolved, then remove from heat completely. This is your brine.
At this time you’ll also want to fill up your canning pot with enough water so that it will be able to cover the jars that are put into it; normally 7 or 8 at a time. This will take a while to come to a boil, so set it up now.
Once all of your jars are stuffed and the brine is ready, you can begin filling the jars with the liquid. Get your funnel and carefully place it on the mouth of the jar. I filled up a measuring cup with brine to make pouring easier (make sure you sterilize it). Carefully pour just enough liquid into the jar to cover all the ingredients, leaving roughly 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Wipe down the rim with a paper towel, then place the lid on top of the jar, screwing it on tightly. Repeat with remaining jars.
In your prepared and boiling canning pot, place however many jars are meant to fit. Be careful as the steam is very hot. Lower the jars into the boiling water and cover—let cook for 20 minutes exactly. Remove them from heat with a sturdy jar lifter and oven mitts, and place them on a flat, cool surface that will allow them to seal. Once you hear the lid make a “pop” sound, you know it has properly sealed. You can also test this by pressing down on the lids; if they are sucked in towards the bottom of the jar and don’t move when touched, they are sealed. Repeat until all jars are sealed.
To allow the flavours to fully develop, you will want to let the pickles sit for at least one month from the date you made them. Store them in a clean, dry place. For best results, lightly shake the jars once a week to mingle the flavours. Once these jars are opened, they need to be refrigerated. Unopened, these pickles have a shelf life of 1-2 years.
- You may need to add more water to the canning pot during the process, as the liquid will lower and it always need to cover the jars. Make sure the water is always boiling before you place the jars in the water.
- Depending on the size of your pickles and jars, you may need to make more brine. You do not necessarily have to double the recipe, but make sure it follows the correct ratio.
- Make sure your cucumbers are fully immersed in brine. If there are bits sticking out, they can rot, spoiling the entire jar and making them unsafe to eat. Worst case scenario, just cut the part of the cucumber that protrudes. It may look funny but it’s better than all your hard work going to waste.
- Do not try to take shortcuts. This process takes a good couple of hours and needs close attention. The right equipment will make the process go smoothly.
- I know this is mentioned above, but it is important: Sterilize, sterilize, sterilize.
- Once your jars have fully cooled, you can place fun labels on them if you plan on giving them away as gifts. Alternately, you could also date-stamp them just for reference.