Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dill Pickles

So I decided to take a leaf from my Mom's book and try to make dill pickles. As long as I can remember, my Mom has always made pickles for the family. When i was a kid, it was Mustard pickles and Chow. One of the first things i was allowed to chop, was a cucumber. She started out making them for family, and then friends, and friends of friends. Eventually, the inevitable happened, and  Dad built her a second kitchen in the cool basement, and Mom was in business. She has since expanded her menu to more than just Chow and Mustard pickles. Now there is also Bread and Butter (my favorite), Lady Ashburn, Beets, and what seems to be everyone's favorite, Dill. I personally do not like dill, but apparently my Mom makes the best dill pickles this side of Wherever. So if i do not like them, why am i making them? My beau loves last summer Mom taught us to make them, and this summer since he hasn't time, i decided to make some.

So really, there is not much you need for a batch of dills. Clean, sterile bottles, i got mine for about 7 dollars at Wal-Mart. Here they are sterilizing. I heated the oven to about 180 F and stuck them in and turned it off. The jars also come with covers that are two parts. One is a screw on top, the other in the center is a pop out with a red rim. Wash these both and separate them, putting the pop out part in a bowl.

You will need a bunch of these baby cucumbers, i found them at the City Market. You can get them just about any where that sells produce. Clean them well, in a sink full of clean cold water. I recommend twice to be sure.  This lovely sink full made 10 jars, it also filled about 3/4 of a shopping bag. 

Of course, you will need some dill. I got mine at the supermarket. Only thing is, i got the wrong type. The dill you need looks like it has little seed pods on top. Usually you will find it in a produce store in late August - early September, standing in the corner in a bucket of water. It's not likely that you will find it in the supermarket. The stuff i got is flat, and best used in cooking things, like salmon, mmm. So along with this, i had to get a bottle of dill seed at the supermarket. The only brand I could find was McCormick, and it was almost 4 dollars for the bottle...ouch. 

The other ingredients are Garlic, you will need one clove per jar, and brine. I can't tell you how to make the brine, because every cook has their secrets, and this one is my Mom's. I can tell you it is usually a mixture of vinegar and kosher salt, with a few other things added in. You can find a recipe for a good brine in any old cook book. 

After cleaning the jars and putting them in the hot oven, you have to peel the garlic. This was the hardest part of the process, i found. I took a few jars out of the oven at a time to stuff them, i found it easier this way. One clove of garlic, a few springs of dill, a sprinkle of dill seed (i used a half tsp measure to scoop it, and used about 1 +1/2 of that for each jar). Then you have to stuff the jar as full as you can with cucumbers. Some of the bigger ones may have to be cut. Top each jar off with another spring of dill. Here are the jars stuffed. 

While you are stuffing, put some water on to boil. Just as it starts bubbling, not a full rolling boil, pour some into the bowl with your pop out lids. Make sure they are completely covered. This is going to soften the red rubber so it will stick and make a good seal. 

Finally you add the brine. It is easiest with a soup ladle. Just ladle the brine into each jar, slap on one of the lids (careful, it is hot!) and then one of the rings. Do not tighten the ring to much, just finger tight.

Now all you have to do is hope they pop. Leave them upright on the counter for 24 hours. You should hear them pop. You can tell they have popped because the little button in the middle of the top is down, not up. Popping is what you want to hear. If they do not pop, you will have to submerge them in water and boil them for a few minutes, this should make them seal. 

The color of the cucumbers will darken as as time goes by, they will take on a dull hue. Try to resist eating them for a couple weeks, the longer they age, the better they are!! 

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