Many years ago when I was first learning how to can and preserve, I bought a cookbook called Pickles & Relishes by Andrea Chesman. I bought that along with a small Better Homes & Gardens book called Canning & Preserving Recipes. Those were my Bibles those first few years. I pored over them countless time, choosing recipes that would be to our liking, and sticking heartily to all the directions and requirements.
It had been a while since I pulled out the Pickles & Relishes book. Though it contained my favorite Kosher Dill Pickle recipe, I knew the recipe by heart and had no need to have the book on hand. When making sure I had all the ingredients, one of my digital versions of the recipes stood in as I made sure I had everything I needed.
Last year in early August we hit a Saturday where I knew we were nearing the end of the season for pickling cucumbers. The kids piled into the van with me, and we spent hours going from farmer’s market to farmstand looking for a bushel of pickling cukes, but they were not to be had. We bought a few bunches of dill in anticipation, but those last cucumbers were eluding us. Finally, at our last stop and the bottom of our barrel, they did not have the small pickling cucumbers, but they did have bigger ones. I was disappointed, but bought a half bushel of these monster cucumbers and went home to figure out what to do with them.
As I drove, I eyeballed these cucumbers and decided that 6 inch fruit really meant that if I wanted pickles, I was going to have to do spears or slices. They were definitely too large for whole pickles, which has always been my preference. So upon our arrival at home, I picked up my old trusty Pickles & Relishes and flipped to the pickling section. As I read through the recipe for my favorite Kosher Dills, something struck me in the directions.
“Process in a boiling water bath at 180ºF for 30 minutes.”
30 minutes at 180 degrees? You know, all these years the only complaint we’ve ever had about my pickles is that they are a little on the soft side. Family members now make my pickles as well, but the comments always come back to the fact that we all wish this fabulous tasting pickle had more crunch to it. I had already purchased some Pickle Crisp to add to my pickles and see how it helped. But a little research was in order, and I discovered that 180 degrees for 30 minutes was the temperature and time needed to pasteurize home-canned pickles. It was the ideal temperature and time for those pickles that you’ve lovingly fermented in a pickle barrel, and now wanted to put up in jars for later use. The 180 degrees was not hot enough to destroy the good bacteria generated, but keeping it at that temp for a full 30 minutes ensured a safely canned product for eating and sharing. Huh.
I never really paid attention to those specifics before. Whoops! 180 degrees is definitely NOT the boiling point of water at 212. So when I was loading up the canner with my Kosher Dills and then boiling the snot out of them at 212 for 30 minutes… Well, of course those pickles were coming out soft on the other side!
I am happy to say that I have fixed my favorite pickle recipe. My pickle spears turned out FABULOUS. They had much more crunch to them in the end and have been a delicious addition to our diet. Instead of boiling the snot out of my pickles for forever, pint jars process for 10 minutes, quart jars for 15. Not only did this turn out a far superior pickle, but it also made the process go MUCH faster.
As to those larger than normal pickling cucumbers, we discovered that we absolutely prefer our pickles done in spears over the smaller whole pickles. This year I will purposely be seeking out the larger cucumber, and I also plan to put up a few jars as slices for our burgers and sandwiches.
THIS is my favorite pickle recipe. I hope you try it and love it as much as we do.
Kosher Dill Pickles- Updated 2016
One recipe makes 2-3 quarts of pickles4 pounds cucumbers, about 6 inches long 3 1/2 tablespoons pickling salt 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds 3 cups water 3 cups white vinegar 6 bay leaves 6 cloves garlic, peeled 6 fresh dill heads or 1 1/2 tablespoons dill seeds pickle crisp
Wash the cucumbers well and slice off the blossom ends. Cut each cucumber into long spears. Generally that would be cutting them in half lengthwise, and then cutting those halves into thirds or quarters, so you get 12-16 spears out of one cucumber.
Combine the salt, mustard seeds, water and vinegar in a saucepan. Heat to boiling.
Into each sterilized quart jar, drop 1 bay leaf, 1 clove of garlic, and 1 dill head or 1/2 tablespoon of dill seeds. Pack the cucumber spears into the jars rather snugly. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of pickle crisp over the cucumbers for a quart jar- 1/8 teaspoon for a pint jar. Top each jar with 1 bay leaf, 1 garlic clove, and 1 dill head. Carefully, fill the jars with the hot vinegar liquid to 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe the rims with a warm damp cloth, and then add the lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes for quarts, 10 minutes for pints. Pickles will be ready to eat in 2 to 3 weeks, but of course, improve with age.