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How to can dill pickles

I've paraphrased Ferris Bueller's Day Off before, and I'll do it again (probably many, many times): Summer moves pretty fast, if you don't stop to pickle something, you could miss it. And if you've never put up classic dill pickles before, this is the time to tackle the task (that's canners' lingo for pickling and storing: to put up).

Of course you could make quick pickles any night of the week, any week of the year. But when fresh produce is in season, it's more flavorful—cheaper, too. So right now, when farmers' markets are abundant with colorful, crisp fruits and vegetables, it's the time to take a weekend to learn how to can pickles. That way, you can enjoy those same fruits and vegetables a few months from now, when nothing is sprouting out of the ground.

The recipe we're using is a pretty basic one for kosher dill cucumber pickles—so called not because of any religious affiliation, but because they're made in the style of New York kosher delis, characterized by the addition of garlic. You could really use the same method for whatever vegetable you have on hand: zucchini would be great—or carrots or green beans. For today though, let's keep it classic. Here's how to make and can dill pickles:

1. Fill a large pot with hot water

Obviously, if you have a canning pot with a fitted rack, use it here. Otherwise you can hack it with a large stock pot. To do so, you will also need something to lift the glass canning jars off the bottom of the pot. You could use a round metal cooling rack, if you have one that fits neatly (and flat) in your stock pot. No canning pot or cooling rack? Scrunch a long piece of aluminum foil into a snake and then curl it into a spiral to fit in the bottom of your stock pot. Make the spiral loose enough so that water can circulate between the coils, but tight enough so that the canning jars can sit upright on them without tipping over. Finally, the pot should be tall enough so that you can fill it with water to at least one inch higher than the filled jars.

2. Submerge canning jars in the hot water and bring to a boil

For this recipe, you can use either 2 quart-sized jars or 4 pint-sized jars. You can easily double the recipe to make 4 quart jars or 8 pint jars if you'd like—just double the recipe below. Quart jars will easily fit whole pickles or spears, while pint jars are better suited to pickle chips. Arrange the jars (without their lids or rings) on a rack or your makeshift foil coil and add enough hot water from the tap to cover them by one inch. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, and immediately turn the heat off. Leave the jars submerged until ready to use them.

3. Gather and trim the cucumbers

Go for 3 pounds of Kirby cucumbers, which are firmer, more flavorful, and less seedy than typical full-length cucumbers. Since the ends of cucumbers can be bitter, trim both the blossom and the stem end off of each cuke. You can pickle the cucumbers whole, or cut them into your desired shape:

For spears, cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then place cut-side down on your cutting board and cut in half again to make spears.

For pickle chips, cut cucumbers into 1/4-inch coins. (If you want ridged pickle chips, you'll need to invest in a mandoline with a waffle slicing blade.)

4. Make the pickle brine

In a separate large saucepan, combine 2 cups white vinegar, 2 cups water, and 2 Tbsp. pickling salt and bring to a boil. It's important to use pickling salt here, which can be found in most grocery stores. Table salt often contains anti-caking agents which can turn pickle brine cloudy and produce off-flavors. Kosher salt can be used, but since it's coarser than pickling salt, you'll need to use a different amount: For every 1 tsp. pickling salt called for in your recipe, America's Test Kitchen's Foolproof Preserving recommends substituting 1 1/2 tsp. Morton's kosher salt or 2 tsp. of Diamond Crystal kosher salt.

This recipe creates a nice, sour pickle—if you prefer something a bit more mellow, you can add up to 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar to the brine.

5. Remove jars from hot water

Before lifting the hot, sanitized jars from the water, make sure you know where they're going: Never place hot glass directly on a cold stone surface, such as marble or granite. Instead, place the empty jars on a wooden cutting board, or on a work surface covered with a kitchen towel—a towel that's folded in half is even better.

Lifting the hot jars safely can be tricky. Here's another instance where a job-specific tools really really helps. A jar lifter will make your canning life exponentially easier. But, if you don't care to buy one, you can use tongs—rubberized ones would be best for better grip. (Note: If you only have tongs with uncovered metal on the gripping end, submerge them in the hot water for several seconds to warm them before using to prevent shattering a jar.) Once you've placed the jars on the counter, you can switch to oven mitts so that you can pour any hot water inside the jars back into your stock pot. There's no need to dry off the jars.

6. Fill jars with pickle ingredients

For Pint Jars: Add 1 peeled garlic clove and 3 to 4 fresh dill sprigs (or 1 tsp. dill seeds) to each jar. Tuck in a flowering dill head if you've got one, then pack as many cucumbers into the jar as will fit snugly. Pour in pickle brine to cover, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace between the rim and the liquid.

For Quart Jars: Add 2 peeled cloves of garlic and 6 to 8 fresh dill sprigs or 2 tsp. dill seeds to each jar. Tuck in a flowering dill head if you've got one, then pack as many cucumbers into the jar as will fit snugly. Pour in pickle brine to cover, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace between the rim and the liquid.

7. Add extra spices (if you'd like)

Feel free to play around with the spice mix here. While this recipe keeps it simple, you could add any combination of whole coriander, caraway, cumin, mustard seeds, cloves, black peppercorns, and/or allspice berries. Do keep the spices whole since ground spices can make the brine cloudy and the pickles gritty. Add up to 1 1/2 tsp. whole spices per pint jar or 1 Tbsp. per quart jar. A dried chile or 1/2 of a fresh jalapeño or serrano pepper per jar is another great addition, if you like a little heat.

Some days I just want a pickle, and nothing compares to a perfectly crisp home canned pickle. They top my burgers and hot dogs all summer long, but more importantly, in the winter time, they remind me that summer will come again.

The very best pickles cant be bought in a grocery store. If you want a good pickle, you’ll have to ask grandma for a jar or learn how to make them yourself. I kick myself every time I don’t can quite enough for a full year. In those years, I find myself scanning the supermarket shelves, hoping for anything that might qualify as a real pickle.

I’m always disappointed. How can they get away with charging $8 for a jar of wilted, slimy excuses for pickles? On top of that, they’re loaded with preservatives that have no business in pickles. Every time I reach this point I vow that next summer there will be more pickles.

My secret to the perfect pickle is to select small cucumbers, about the size of your pinky finger. Whether you’re making slices of whole dills, the size of the cucumber is key. Anything bigger is best suited to pickle relish or hog feed. (If you have really super tiny baby cucumbers, try making miniature gherkins (cornichons), which are made with a very different recipe.

When you select cucumbers for canning pickles, the seeds should be barely visible. The picture below has a cross-section of 3 different cucumbers. The top one has fully formed seeds, and they’re already beginning to fall out a bit. If you can this cucumber, the center would fall out and the outside would never be crisp. If all you have is giant cucumbers, try making refrigerator dill pickles.

The bottom two cucumbers are both acceptable for canning but choose the smaller slices on the left for best results.

The top cucumber is only suitable for hog feed. The one at the bottom right will work, but the bottom left cucumber will give the best canned pickles.

If you have very large cucumbers and your heart is set on canning, you can also try making either dill pickle relish or bread and butter pickles. Both of those recipes are designed to accommodate large overripe cucumbers. The cucumbers are layered with salt for about 2 hours before canning, which draws out extra moisture and removes bitterness from the overripe cucumbers. Added sugar in both recipes also helps mask any residual bitterness, and a bit of turmeric makes up for the fading color as the cucumbers are past prime.

Jar size also makes a big difference for home canned pickles. You can have the best pickle recipe in the world and the freshest tiny cucumbers, but if you can in quart jars they’ll be overcooked. Always can in pints rather than quarts . Quarts require longer processing times and are liable to produce mushy pickles.

There’s an old-school practice of soaking pickles in pickling lime before canning, and this helps keep them crisp during the canning process. It’s a complicated process, and involves a lot of time and mess, soaking and rinsing. Not to mention a lot of lime.

These days, most canners substitute something called pickle crisp. It doesn’t have anything funny in it, just calcium chloride. The calcium helps to reinforce the cell walls in the cucumbers, and that keeps them from popping during the canning process. The end result is firmer pickles without a lot of extra work.

It doesn’t take a lot of calcium chloride to get the job done. Roughly 1/8th tsp per pint or 1/4 teaspoon per quart. Just spoon it into the bottom of the jars along with the spices. Pickle crisp is optional, but it will help ensure crisp home-canned pickles.

The spices in my pickle recipe include fresh dill, mustard seeds, dill seeds, coriander seeds and black peppercorns. Note again the small cucumber slices, with seeds barely visible.

Making pickles at home is simple, assuming you have the right ingredients. I include fresh dill, mustard seeds, dill seeds, coriander seeds and black peppercorns. If for some reason I can’t find fresh dill, extra dill seed will work. Fresh dill tends to come in large bundles from the grocery store or farmers market, and if you have extra, try making dill pickled green beans, known as dilly beans here in Vermont.

Start by packing spices, cucumbers, onions and garlic tightly into jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Cover with hot brine, and water bath can. Wait at least 2 weeks for flavors to infuse, and ENJOY!

If you’re giving them out as gifts, consider some cute labels. Chalkboard labels are all the rage these days, but I stick to ball canning’s dissolvable labels because they’re easy to remove so that you can reuse the jar once it’s empty.

If you really want to save money on pickling, buy your canning supplies in bulk. While rings and jars can be reused, lids should be new each time to ensure a good seal. We buy our canning lids in bulk online and bring our canning unit costs down considerably. If you’re looking for a quick fix, you can also try a pre-made dill pickle spice mix, just make sure your cucumbers are fresh and tiny.

If you’re just getting started canning, but plan on making canning and preserving food part of your lifestyle long term, try investing in an online canning course. Pioneering today has a canning with confidence course that takes you through the ins and outs of canning from basic canning safety all the way through to pressure canning meat at home. The course covers:

Small Batch Crunchy Canned Dill Pickles – The PERFECT canning recipe for dill pickles! Complete with step-by-step photos and tips on how to make them look beautiful and get that coveted pickle “crunch!”

This summer I’ve been getting pickling cucumbers in 2 or 2.5 lb increments from my CSA, and as a result I’ve embraced the idea of making pickles in small batches.

I have to say, as much as I love pickles, I’ve become all about small batches because I really don’t want TEN jars of dill pickles. By making small batches I can have 3 or so jars of 3 or so varieties, and that’s much more fun to eat in the end!

One of the challenges of canning pickles is achieving a “crunch.” Oh, how often I’ve bitten into a canned pickle that has amazing flavor, but have been disappointed by a rubbery “squish” instead! In this post I’ll share my tips for getting that perfect “crunch” every time.

To begin you’ll want to start out with amazing pickling cucumbers. I got mine from my CSA and I’m pretty sure they were picked the morning of the day I picked them up, and I pickled them the next day.

Basically, fresh cucumbers are, well, fresher, and will help in the crunching department! If you’re not part of a CSA, please avoid the supermarket for your canning produce because you’ll overpay, and it will be days old.

I’ve been seeing pickling cucumbers at a number of farmers markets and farm stands this season, but driving around in search of the perfect ingredients can be time consuming. When I need to find canning ingredients that my CSA doesn’t carry, I usually start with a Google search of local farms and then I call around until I find someone who has what I need. I rarely have trouble if I’m willing to ask the farmers who are wanting to sell.

The next key to a crunchy pickle is “cold packing” them. This means making a hot brine in a sauce pan that you’ll pour over raw cucumbers that have already been packed into their jars.

To make the brine I place my water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a saucepan with pickling spices that have been neatly tied up in a cheesecloth.

For food safety, the ratios of water, vinegar, sugar, and salt are based on the dill pickle recipe that can be found in the Ball Blue Book. I just did some math to make the recipe smaller. Also, the spice blend is uniquely mine.

I used to put the spices directly into my jars, but I’ve found that over time the cloves and the allspice would discolor my pickles and would also begin to flavor the pickles too intensely. By simmering the spices in the brine, I have more control over the balance of flavors.

After the cucumbers, the dill is the second most important part of making dill pickles.

For dramatic presentation I like to place my dill on the side of the jar. I know I risk having it float to the top, but I like a little drama in my life. I’ve found if I pack my jars on their sides, nice and tightly, this isn’t that much of a problem.

This season I held out to make my dill pickles until the dill was flowering. I think the flower adds a little extra drama to the aforementioned pickle drama.

Stacking your raw cucumbers on top of your dill will help to achieve a pretty dill frond and flower design. Side packing also makes it easier to get a tight pack.

Finally, you want to place your lids and rings on your jars and process them in a hot water bath canner for 15 minutes.

After adding the hot brine, add them to the canner as quickly as possible and only process them for 15 minutes – not a minute more and not a minute less. This means you’ll have the right amount of time to kill microbes, but you’re not overcooking your cucumbers.

The end result is three crunchy jars of dill pickles. You can begin eating them right away, but I recommend giving them a week or two to allow the brine and dill to work it’s magic on your cucumbers!

Learn how to make pickles at home! This easy 8-ingredient recipe yields crisp, tangy dill pickles that are a delicious snack or sandwich topping.

The first time I tried this dill pickle recipe, I wondered why on earth I’d spent so many years buying pickles at the grocery store. Sure, store bought pickles can be tasty, but these little guys take dill pickles to a whole new level. They’re super easy to make (the refrigerator does most of the work for you!), and they taste awesome. They’re crisp, tangy, and refreshing, with an addictive garlic-dill flavor. Most often, I eat them as a snack right out of the fridge, but they’re delicious on sandwiches and veggie burgers too. If you like dill pickles, you’re going to love this recipe.

How to Make Pickles

My method for how to make pickles couldn’t be simpler! Here’s how it goes:

  • First, slice the cucumbers. I usually make this recipe with Persian cucumbers, but small pickling cucumbers work here too. Slice them lengthwise into quarters to make spears, or thinly slice them horizontally to make dill pickle chips.
  • Then, fill the jars. Divide the cucumbers among 4 8-ounce or 2 16-ounce jars, and add fresh dill, halved garlic cloves, mustard seeds, and peppercorns to each jar of pickles.
  • Next, make the brine. I use a mix of water, white vinegar, sugar, and salt. If you’re not a sweet pickle person, don’t worry! The sugar doesn’t actually make the refrigerator pickles sweet. Instead, it balances the pungent vinegar and salt to create an irresistible sour pickle flavor. Heat the brine on the stove until the sugar and salt dissolve and pour it over the jarred cucumbers. Then, set the jars aside to cool to room temperature.
  • Finally, chill! This is the hard part! These guys aren’t ready right away – they need some time in the fridge to soak up the brine and become really flavorful. Dill pickle chips will be ready in 24 hours, while spears will take at least 48. They’ll keep in the fridge for several weeks, and they get better as time goes on. For best flavor, wait about 5 days.

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Dill Pickle Recipe Serving Suggestions

These homemade pickles taste great on sandwiches, burgers, and more! Pile dill pickle chips onto veggie burgers, mushroom burgers, cauliflower po’ boys, black bean burgers, or BBQ jackfruit sandwiches at your next cookout. Alternatively, serve spears alongside one of these sandwiches for a deli-style lunch:

If you’re not in the mood for a sandwich, try adding your refrigerator pickles to a salad. I love to toss diced dill pickles into my Easy Macaroni Salad.

Last but not least, they’re delicious on their own! Enjoy them straight out of the fridge for a tangy, refreshing snack.

More Favorite Homemade Pickles

If you love this dill pickle recipe, try making pickled jalapeños, pickled red onions, or banh mi pickles next!

Pop has been making these crunchy, best tasting pickles for years. I have been making for about 4 years, and recently started adding fresh garlic cloves to my canning jars. I know there are a lot of good pickle recipes out there, but this is one of the best tasting pickles ever. Some people eat their pickles about a week after, but I say wait, because the longer you wait the better they are.

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Recipe Summary test

Ingredients

  • 8 pounds small pickling cucumbers
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups distilled white vinegar
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup pickling salt
  • 3 tablespoons pickling spice, wrapped in cheesecloth
  • 7 1-quart canning jars with lids and rings
  • 7 heads fresh dill
  • 7 cloves garlic
  • Step 1

Place cucumbers in a large pot and cover with ice cubes. Let them sit for at least 2 hours but no more than 8. Drain and pat dry.

Place the water, vinegar, sugar, pickling salt, and pickling spice into a saucepan. Bring to boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.

Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Pack the cucumbers into the hot, sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/2 inch of the top. Place 1 dill head and 1 clove of garlic into each jar. Pour the hot pickling liquid into the jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the rim. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids, and screw on rings.

Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2 inch space between the jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 5 minutes, or the time recommended by your county Extension agent.

Remove the jars from the stockpot and place onto a cloth-covered or wood surface, several inches apart, until cool. Once cool, press the top of each lid with a finger, ensuring that the seal is tight (lid does not move up or down at all). If any jars have not sealed properly, refrigerate them and eat within two weeks. Store in a cool, dark area, and wait at least 1 week before opening.

Editor's Note

A dill head is the 3 to 4-inch, umbrella-shaped seed head of a dill plant. If you can’t find fresh dill heads you may substitute 1 teaspoon dill seeds for 1 dill head.

Reviews ( 152 )

Most helpful positive review

No one needs to add any chemicals or pickle crisp in their pickles. When washing your cucumbers cut the flower end off of it. There is an enzyme in it that will eventually cause your pickles to go soft. Everyone raves over mine and I haven’t had a jar of pickles go soft for years even after being in the jar for a year.

Most helpful critical review

There’s no way this recipe makes 7 quarts. I just made it and there was only enough pickling liquid to fill 3 quarts. It just wouldve been nice if it were accurate.

  • 5 star values:

No one needs to add any chemicals or pickle crisp in their pickles. When washing your cucumbers cut the flower end off of it. There is an enzyme in it that will eventually cause your pickles to go soft. Everyone raves over mine and I haven’t had a jar of pickles go soft for years even after being in the jar for a year.

Still making these pickles. Pop is not doing so well these days. His pickles live on and on.

Good Basic Recipe for pickles. I made this by cutting my cucumbers into spears and cutting the blossom end off. I could not locate fresh dill heads and did not want the little pieces of green on the pickle, so I used dill seed. What I liked about this recipe is the right balance of salt and sweet, the sterilization instructions, and the amount of processing time, and the fact that you can adapt this recipe to your tastes by adding garlic or hot peppers. I did add 1/4 tsp of pickling crisp to each of my quart jars based upon advice from other Canners. I used two tsps of dill seed per jar and added half of a seeded serrano pepper to two of the 4 jars. My daughter is intrigued by the process so I am going back to the farmer’s market for more cucumbers. Thanks for sharing a great recipe that takes me down memory lane. UPDATE After 8 wks, we opened a jar and they were delicious. The pickles are crunchy and the taste of the dill, garlic, salt, vinegar, and sugar are perfect.