Ever try someone's recipe and have a EUREKA! moment? I did with this dill pickle recipe. Thanks to Margaret my family now eats great quality pickles.
I've compiled this photo essay for how-to-can the best darn pickles. Step by step for those who've maybe never canned before.
Step 1: wash and scald your jars, these are 2 quart jars with some 1 quart jars if I decide to make sweet pickles today too. ALWAYS wash and prepare more than you think you will need, just in case. (jars break, nicks in rims are discovered, there are more cucumbers there than you thought, etc.)
Step 2: Working backwards, prepare the rest of what you will be needing. Here is the towel laid out for the jars to cool on after they come out of the canner.
Step 3: Fill the canner and get it going. It takes forever to heat this much water to boiling. Start it right away! Fill as much as you can at the sink then use a jug to carry more water to the canner on the stove. You'll want enough water to cover your jars 1-2 inches without boiling over. You'll get used to your canner and be able to judge how much to put in after a couple times.
Step 4: Gather the ingredients for the brine. Here is Margaret's secret recipe:
16 cups water
4 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup pickling salt
(To make enough brine for 8 - 2quart jars I increased this recipe by 50%.)
Put these in a big pot and bring to a boil.
Just a note on preparing for 'canning season'. There will never be any vinegar or pickling salt at the store when you run out during a canning spree. Prepare during the winter and buy a year's supply ahead of time. It is so much easier to go to your cupboard for another package than to have everything come to a screeching halt while you go the the store just to find out they are out of what you need! Save up and buy a case of lids, a case of pectin, gallons of vinegar etc. (Especially important if you can after the kids go to bed like I used to when they were little!)
Step 5: Prepare your lids and rings. I like to put the lids into the rings and lay them in the pot. Cover with water and FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS FOR THE BRAND YOU ARE USING! Again, prepare more than you think you will need, it will save frustration later when you discover you need more and you won't have to wait for new ones to heat up. (in this photo I'm trying out my new rings, my old one's were getting horribly gross )
Step 6: Prepare your dill and garlic. Both of these we got from Grandma's garden. I'm washing the dill heads and peeling the garlic here. You need 1-2 dill heads and 2-3 garlic cloves for each jar. Remember to do more than you think you need!
Step 7: Finally it's time to prepare the cucumbers. Dh picked these last night and I washed them well to get off the dirt and every last little black spine. They then went into the fridge to chill. This results in a better pickle than if you did them while they were still warm from the field.
Here I'm cutting off both of the ends. You don't want any chance of any blossom end in the jars and having the ends cut off quickens the change from cucumber sitting in brine to marvelous pickles ready to eat. Margaret has her children poke the cucumbers with a fork to hasten this even more. I don't.
Step 8: This is where it all comes together. The jars, lids, brine, dill, garlic, cucumbers and the canner are all ready to go.
Place a dill head or 2 if smaller as well as 2 large cloves of garlic in the bottom of each jar. It is MUCH easier to pack cukes on top of these than try to fit them in later! I dry pack all of the jars before adding brine to any of them.
Use a canning funnel and a measuring cup (4c. size works well) to add brine to one jar at a time. Wipe the rim and place a lid/ring on. I stack these on the counter until I have enough to fill the canner. They all go in at once and then I wait ... I try to pull them out when about 75% of the cucumber skins change into 'pickle' colour. I don't wait for the canner to come to a boil for pickles as they can be ruined by over processing.
Pull them out, being careful not to tip the jars, and cool them on the towel on the counter. PROTECT THEM FROM DRAFTS! Don't move them or tip them for 24 hours. Remove rings and write the year on the lids before putting them into storage.
In a week you can enjoy your pickles!!! :o)
We try to do 100 quarts of dills every summer, and these just get us through the year!