My family has been making home-made pickles my entire life. In fact, the recipe we use is actually from my great grandmother’s grandmother, so this has been going on for many generations. I am a pickle snob and I hate store bought pickles because they just aren’t as good as the ones we make ourselves. I thought that everyone made their own pickles until I was about 7 years old and I was so confused by the ones in the store.
The actual recipe is super easy, and the process is pretty quick. We do a quick seal, not a water bath, but if you are going to follow the recipe, I would recommend doing a water bath with the jars for food safety reasons. It is easier to have a couple of people helping so everyone can do a specific job, otherwise the process will take a bit longer.
First, the recipe:
My great grandmother typed this up many many years ago, I would guess that this recipe card is at least 50 years old. And you can see, it has been well loved. The ingredients are simple.
20 lbs of #3 or #2 sized cucumbers – We usually order our cukes from a local farm, but a lot of grocery stores are able to get you large quantities. If you are ordering them, ask for small pickling cucumbers and you will get the right size.
Soak the cucumbers overnight in a large bucket of water. We try to weigh down the cucumbers with a stone or a bag of beans to make sure that they were all under water overnight.
In the morning, wash 25 quart size jars. Sanitize as well, and let dry out. While you are letting the jars dry, wash the cucumbers with a soft brush to remove any dirt that is left on them. You should also remove any nubs that are left from the stem on the cucumbers.
Cut about 1 lb of garlic into small slices. Each jar needs about 3 cloves of sliced garlic. Once the garlic has been sliced and added to the jars, you can start adding cucumbers. We’ve estimated that each jar has around 1 lb of cucumbers in them, which works out to around 8-10 cucumbers.
The next step is to add 1 tablespoon of mustard seeds into each jar and two heads of dill. Again, you can order dill at a grocery store or from a local farm. My parents actually grow the dill themselves in a small barrel on their patio. Word to the wise though, a lot of people are allergic to the pollen on fresh dill and it can cause some pretty serious sneezing attacks. We also put chili peppers in some of the jars to make spicy pickles as well. If you do this, add one or two dried chili peppers to as many jars as you would like.
When the jars are prepped, you now need to make the brine. The recipe calls for 1 quart of cider vinegar and 3 quarts of water along with 1 cup of pickling salt. These need to boil together on the stove to ensure they are incorporated prior to adding it the the jars. At the same time that you are prepping the brine, you should also be prepping your water bath. As I said above, we only do a water bath with the lids and this has worked for us, but for food safety reasons, it would be much safer to do a water bath for the entire jars. If you are doing the water bath, you will need to have the water boiling and ready and make sure that the pot you are using is deep enough to cover the jars. The key to this step (no matter if you are doing just the lids or the entire jar) is to ensure that the lid is popped down at the end of the process. If it is not, you will need to use that jar in the next few weeks.
Once the brine is ready, add enough brine to reach the top line of the jars. This process is sort of dangerous because of the hot liquid, so be sure to keep the kids out of the kitchen and be very careful while adding the brine to the jars.
Once all the jars are sealed, they should sit for a few weeks before eating them. They hit peak deliciousness after a few months, and can last in a cool space (think basement or garage area that stays cool) for up to a year. You can add other ingredients as well. Some of the things we have tried in the past are ginger, peppercorns, and carrots.