I spend a lot of time with my mom. I’m probably at her house at least five days a week this time of year. For the most part, we get along pretty well, but I’m always trying to get her to change her inefficient ways of doing things (because of course I know how to do everything far better than she does). She just yells at me (in a good way) and rolls her eyes and threatens to revoke my unlimited babysitting credits. Our relationship is pleasant but not quiet. Anyone that knows me or her will attest to the fact that we’re both pretty stubborn and opinionated, and because we’re so comfortable with each other, we argue constantly.
Pickling cucumbers have been one huge point of contention this summer. In my opinion, they’re a giant pain in the butt to grow for market, and there’s no way a farmer could ever actually make money selling them. They’re unpleasant and difficult to harvest, and many people are too cheap to pay what they’re actually worth (especially the really small, really fresh ones). Despite my protests, my mom keeps growing a patch of pickling cucumbers year after year to sell from her booth (Oven and Earth) at the Corvallis Saturday Farmers’ Market.
One day, I was hanging around my parents’ garden when my mom started in on the cucumber harvest. On a whim, I decided that it was about time I made my own pickles for the first time ever. I joined in the picking and brought home a bunch of cukes and a giant bouquet of dill flowers for pickling.
After deciding that I was going to make pickles, I immediately called up my grandma who is THE pickle maker in our family. She was delighted that I wanted her recipe, and she gave me her easily expandable set of ingredients and instructions (below).
A few weeks later, we are happily crunching on perfectly classic dill pickles on a daily basis, and I’m considering dropping my campaign against growing pickling cukes. Maybe my mom is right every once in a while after all.
Classic Dill Pickles
A few notes about this recipe…
Use the freshest pickling cukes that you can get your hands on (and expect to pay a pretty penny for them if you don’t grow your own).
Use dill heads that are starting to dry out and have fully developed seeds in them.
There is an enzyme that may be present in the blossom end of the cucumber that can cause pickles to go soft. To prevent softening, trim the blossom end before packing the cucumbers into the jars and/or add a grape leaf to every jar because it’ll counteract the softening enzyme.
As you’re mixing up the salt brine, make a few extra cups to use for topping off jars as they overflow during fermenting.
You’ll need to use sanitized jars for this recipe because you don’t want to culture anything nasty that could spoil your pickles.
My grandma’s recipe is for refrigerator pickles NOT shelf-stable canned pickles. Make sure you have enough room in your fridge to store these pickles.
Assembling these pickles is super easy, and tending them as they ferment just takes a couple minutes per day. Even I was amazed that after 11 or 12 days, they tasted outstanding (like real dill pickles!), but they still had a great crunch.fresh pickling cucumbers, rinsed mature dill heads with stem garlic cloves, peeled hot chiles grape leaves (optional) apple cider vinegar salt brine, 1/2 cup sea salt for every gallon of water
Trim the blossom end of the cucumbers and pack them tightly into sterilized glass jars along with dill heads (1 or 2 per quart jar), garlic cloves (3-4 per quart jar), hot chiles (2 or more per jar), and a grape leaf (optional). Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to each quart jar. Fill the jars with salt brine, making sure that all the ingredients are submerged. Top with canning lids.
Let the jars sit on your countertop or somewhere else that stays warm/room temperature. After two or three days, the brine will turn cloudy, and a small amount of liquid will start to slowly bubble out of the jars. Check the fermenting pickles daily, adding more brine as needed to keep contents completely submerged.
After a week, begin tasting the pickles daily. When they are fermented to your liking, move them into the refrigerator to halt further pickling. Store them in the refrigerator where they will keep for several months.