Making Pickles- Dill Sandwich Slices

Have you ever made your own pickles? It's really pretty easy and it's nice to be able to pull a jar of pickles off the shelf that you've made yourself. You can make small batches and leave them in the refrigerator, or if you have enough cucumbers, preserve them for longer storage. My cucumber harvest this year is going strong so I'm putting up pickles that will last all winter and beyond. My dill is also growing well, but hasn't progressed to seed heads yet, which is ideal for putting in jars. I'm trimming back the dill weed and using that, as it still imparts a nice dill flavor.

My Nana taught me how to pickle and I remember sitting around her table eating her spicy dills! Since that time, I've learned to pickle lots of things, some of my favorites being; sweet pickles, bread and butter pickles, chow chow, okra, beets, bean salad, and relishes. But my favorites are still a good crunchy dill pickle. This recipe will make 5 pints of dill chips, just right for topping your favorite burger.

The first thing you need to do is prepare your canning jars and lids. Make sure you use real canning jars, like Ball or Kerr, if you are going to process your pickles. (If you are only making pickles to store in refrigerator, you can use any glass jar with a lid.) Wash and rinse your jars. I put mine in the oven on a low temperature to dry and to heat. I should probably say right here, there's more than one way to "can" food and I'm showing you the way I was taught to do it by my Nana, with a few updated changes. The most important thing is that you do it safely. Pickles are a great way to begin, because you don't need to use a pressure canner. You will need a water bath canner, which can be purchased inexpensively at Walmart or online. I fill the water bath canner half full of water and put it on the stove to bring to a boil. This can take a while, so I start it right at the beginning. I put the new flat canning lids in a small pot of hot water to make sure they are sterilized before putting them on the jars. The pictures below will make this more clear, if you are reading this and saying,"Huh?" When it's time to pack the cucumbers into the jars, I want hot jars, hot brine and hot lids.

Wash your pickling cucumbers well and slice them into a bowl. I grew Boston Pickling cucumbers from seed this year, and the satisfaction that comes from taking a tiny seed all the way to a pickle in a jar is immense!

Once you have your cucumbers sliced, prepare your brine. You will need pickling spice that you can buy in any grocery store. In a small square of cheesecloth, I measure out 3 tablespoons of pickling spice and tie it with kitchen twine. This will float in the brine, imparting wonderful flavor.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, pickling salt and the spice bag.

Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and the salt. Reduce heat and boil gently for about 15 minutes, allowing the spices time to infuse the liquid. By now, the jars you have in the oven, the lids you have on the stove and your brine are all nice and hot and it's time to start packing our jars.

Each jar will have a bay leaf, garlic clove, mustard seeds and fresh dill. If fresh dill isn't available, you can substitute 1-2 t. dill seeds or 2 t. dried dill weed to each jar. I have some dried cayenne peppers and will put one in each jar, to add a little spice in Nana's memory. Pack cucumbers tightly into jar.

Ladle hot pickling liquid into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

You don't want the cucumbers or the brine to come above this line.

With a clean cloth, wipe the rim to clean up any spills. Then place a hot lid on the jar.

Screw on the ring and place jar in water bath. Continue until all your jars are filled.

This is what my set up looks like as I process pickles. I have my water bath canner ready to receive each jar as I fill it. It's ok if the water isn't boiling when you put the jars in, it will come to a boil, eventually. Notice that I remove the spice bag before I fill the jars, and my hot lids are waiting when I need them.

The jars in the canner, should be completely covered by water. According to the Ball Canning Book, once the water is boiling, the jars should process for 15 minutes. This time might need to be adjusted depending on altitude, so I suggest you look this up yourself online. The purpose of the water bath is to ensure you have a safe seal on your jar. I personally don't process my pickles this long and I always get a nice seal. And just for the record, my Nana never water bath processed her pickles, but I've decided to give mine a short bath in the canner for good measure. Canning instructions have changed over the years and an extra step for safety isn't a bad thing.

Filled canning jars cooling on the counter, containing the fruits of your labor to be enjoyed for months to come, is a welcome and lovely sight. Once they are cooled and sealed (you'll know when you hear the "pop"), these will be moved to my basement pantry.

Now, let's talk about making these for the refrigerator. You will still need clean jars and lids, but there will be no water bath canner involved and you don't need to worry about wiping the rims and sterilizing lids. Just pack your jars as instructed above and pour the hot brine over them. Let them come to room temperature before you move them to the refrigerator. You'll probably want to share a jar with a friend, but these will last for months in the refrigerator.

Whether you make these pickles for the refrigerator or try your hand at canning, you'll love the crunch and dilly flavor of this pickle!

Dill Sandwich Slices

3 T. picking spice

4 cups cider vinegar

4 cups water

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup pickling or canning salt

5 bay leaves

5 cloves garlic

2 1/2 t. mustard seeds

5 heads fresh dill or substitute 1-2 t. dill seeds or 2 t. dried dillweed

13 1/3 cups sliced trimmed pickling cucumbers

Prepare canner, jars and lids.

Tie pickling spice in a square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, water salt, sugar and spice bag.

Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Reduce heat and boil gently for 15 minutes, until spices have infused the liquid.

Place 1 bay leaf, 1 garlic clove,1/2 t. mustard seeds and 1 head of dill into each jar. Pack cucumber slices into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch of top of jar. Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover cucumbers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met.

Place jars in water bath canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars. Cool and store.

*Recipe compliments of Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

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