Heritage Dill Pickles

It’s been so fun to see the growth in home canning in the last few years, and to meet the demand we’ve starting growing pickling cucumbers on Lepp Farms, our crop size continuing to increase each year! As the youngest child in my family, my mother always gave me the tedious job of scrubbing each cucumber individually with a brush, until my older sister learnt that you can actually wash them in a top loading washing machine. Genius! It really works, but just don’t let it go to a rinse cycle or you’ll end up with relish in your washing machine drum!

You can easily avoid that whole mess though if you purchase Lepp Farms pickling cukes, as we’ve already washed the cucumbers on the farm which removes the spiny black dots on the skins, saving you a lot of work. All they just need a quick rinse before using. You can also be sure that the pickling cukes you pick up at our market are fresh and crisp, because on a typical day the they’ve been picked the same day you’re taking them home.

Pickling cucumbers are grown primarily for preserves like pickles or relish, but they are also delicious for fresh eating, especially the larger ones. I still enjoy my favorite childhood way of eating pickling cucumbers, which is to peel the fresh cucumbers, slice them in half lengthwise and sprinkle them with a little salt. Rub the halves together to dissolve the salt and enjoy the fresh, juicy and briny crunch. Pickling cucumbers have thin skins, are short and blocky, and usually have a color gradient from dark green at the stem end to light green at the blossom end (so when recipes call for you to chop the blossom end, look for the end that’s a lighter shade of green).

You could use other cucumbers, like long English cucumbers, for pickles in theory, but they don’t hold up as well in the brine and are more likely to soften.

This heritage dill pickle recipe is courtesy of my friend Jan, who wrote out detailed instructions for her daughters. Most pickle recipes all share the same ingredients with only slightly varying amounts of salt, sugar and spices. Her recipe uses fresh baby dill, but I prefer the pickling dill with the fully developed heads as I feel you get a more pronounced dill flavour and I love the look of the dill seed heads in the jar.  

You’ll notice that I didn’t give exact amounts for ingredients, as amounts depends on how many jars you’re going to make. For the cucumbers, count on using approximately 2lbs per jar. The brine recipe is enough for 7 jars. For adding dill, garlic, and other veggies and spices, that is entirely up to your taste. If you don’t like anything spicy, just leave out the red chili peppers.   

Ingredients

Lepp Farms Pickling Cucumbers, rinsed.  (Approx 2 lbs/jar)
You can trim off the blossom ends of the pickles, which some experts say enhances the “crispiness” of the pickles. The experts don’t all agree all on this one, so it’s up to you.    

Pickling Vinegar

Pickling or Kosher Salt
Don’t use table salt as
it has anti-caking agents and iodine which will make your brine cloudy.

Sugar

Fresh Pickling Dill
the long stalks with fully developed head, 2 stalks/jar

or Fresh Baby Dill, approximately ½ cup per jar

Pickling Spice

Carrots

Green Pepper

Garlic

Pickle Crisp or Alum or Fresh Grape Leaves (this is thought to keep the pickles crisp.  Again, pickling experts don’t all agree whether this actually makes a difference but most mothers used it, so I use it as well!)

Wide Mouth Quart Jars and Lids

Brine: (fills 7 jars)

9 c water

3 c pickling vinegar

3/4 c coarse salt

3/4 c sugar

Method

Prepare the Water Bath:

Prepare the water bath by filling the canner approximately  ½ full with water. Begin heating to a very gentle simmer while you are preparing jars. It should NOT be at a rolling boil when you place the jars in the water bath as there’s a possibility the jars might crack in you submerge them in boiling water. When all 7 jars are in the water bath, the water should cover the top of the jars by 1 inch.  

Prepare the Brine:

Combine the brine ingredients in a pot and bring brine to a boil, lower heat and maintain at a simmer until your jars are ready.

 

Fill Your Jars:

Prepare 7 quart jars by filling in the following order (wide mouth are perfect for dill pickles as it’s easier to get your hands in to pack the ingredients)

  • ½ tsp. Pickling spice
  • 2 stalks fresh pickling dill, folded accordian style and flattened in bottom of jar as much as possible
  • sprinkle of alum or Pickle Crisp  (approx 1/8 tsp) or fresh grape leaf, rinsed.  
  • 2 large slices carrot (optional, but looks so pretty in the jar)
  • ¼  green pepper, cut in a few wedges
  • 2 dried red chilli peppers
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • washed small to medium cucumbers, standing them up in layers till the jars are packed full of neatly stacked cukes.  

Pack the ingredients and cucumbers in as tightly as you can.  You can cut some of the tops off the cucumbers to help the top layer fit in the jar

Make sure the tops of the cucumbers do not stand over the top of the rim of the jar or it will obstruct the lid from pulling down and creating a seal.  

Pour HOT brine over cukes to within 1/2” from top of jar with a heat safe measuring cup. Don’t allow the jars with the brine to cool to room temperature before you place them in the water bath as the jars could possibly crack when you submerge them in the hot water.  

Wipe rim of glass with a clean, wet cloth, place seal on and tighten with screw top lid

Time to Can!

When all 7 jars are ready, lower them into a gently simmering bath, NOT a hard boil at this point. After they are submerged, turn the heat up on high and aim for a soft boil.

Place the lid on the canner and set your timer for 10 minutes from the time you put the jars down into the water bath.

At 10 minutes they will have begun to change color but still may have bright green spots, this is normal.

Lift the rack out to rest on the edge of the canner and allow jars to settle there for 5 minutes. Using pot holders, remove jars and place on a tea towel. Don’t move the jars for 24 hours.  

Once jars are sealed, store them in a cool, dark environment and allow to rest for 3 months before opening. You can eat them right away, but the flavour is much better after sitting for a few months.  

If a jar doesn’t seal, you can put the jar in the refrigerator and enjoy the pickles within 3 months.