What’s the Big Dill?

I am a dill pickle fiend.  I eat at least one a day and if I’m eating boiled shrimp make it a whole jar.  My favorite thing to do is dip them in room-temperature ketchup.

Oh no, I feel I’ve shared too much.

Moving right along now.It seems MM has developed my affinity for pickles as well.  My grandmother let her gnaw on her first one when she was about six months old and her love for them has grown.  Every few days I’ll chop one up for her to have with her sandwich at lunch.  Without fail, she’ll be doing the “more” sign with her little hands within a few seconds.

What makes this so awesome is that C. can’t stand pickles.  Or vinegar for that matter.  He always orders his burgers the same way–“lettuce and ketchup only”–and if he, gasp!, finds a pickle he will send it back.  Even if that means going all the way back through the drive-thru.  Silly man.

So you can see why it’s a big deal to me that MM loves pickles as much as I do.  Like mother, like daughter.I tell you all this to say that today was pickling day.  I try to knock out four dozen (or so) jars in just a couple of days because, my goodness, that smell is STRONG.  My mom actually can’t help with the pickles–the bread & butters, the garlic-onion, or the dills–because the smell is so strong it makes her cough constantly.

The first thing you do is weigh your cucumbers.  I use a kitchen scale, but I’m guessing you could do the whole weigh yourself then weigh yourself with an armload of cucumbers thing too.  I just don’t care to see that number!

weighing the cucumbers

Then you cut off the ends and slice them into spears.  If I have a really big cucumber I can make this many spears and this many slices.  {I don’t use cucumbers more than 8″ long for canning just because I don’t want them to be too tough.}

slices and spears

Then you pack them into your jars.  Do this as tight as you can.  Isn’t it beautiful?

tight squeeze

Meanwhile, make your brine {aka your vinegar solution}.  I can’t find a link to the exact recipe I use, but here’s a close one.  Warning: it’s going to smell strong.  I like the smell, but that’s just me.  If you’re newly pregnant or have a weak stomach, making pickles might not be for you.  Just sayin’.

the vinegar mixture (the brine)

Here’s all my jars lined up to go.  I make both dill pickle spears and hamburger dills.  These are the spears obviously.  {You’ll also notice that two of my canning necessities are here too: the funnel that perfectly fits inside my jars and my magnet for picking up the lids in the hot water.} If you look closely you’ll see two containers: one is for the ends and scraps–we feed ours to the chickens, but if you compost they would be great for that. The second container is where we put the slices of cucumbers. Sometimes our cucumbers are too long and to make them fit we have to cut them down. I use these slices for either hamburger dills or the bread & butter pickles I do afterwards.

getting ready for the vinegar

After I fill the jars with the brine {leaving 1″ headspace}, I make sure there are no air bubbles (very important).  Then, I put them in a hot water bath.  A hot water bath is a big tub of boiling water (with a lid).  I put the jars–7 of them at a time–in there for 5 minutes.  This process ensures the jars seal correctly and very tightly.  This is a very important part in any canning process and you can read more about it here.  When you can you either need to use a hot water bath or a pressure cooker to seal your jars.  For my jams, jellies, preserves, pickles, and salsas I use a hot water bath.  For green beans I use a pressure cooker.  But pressure cookers scare me {I could just see the lid blowing off and going right through the roof} so I usually just freeze my green beans so I don’t have to deal with the pressure cooker, hehe.

My, isn’t it pretty?


This is my most favorite part of pickle day–the leftover cucumbers we have sitting on the counter in the leftover brine.  Yum!

to snack on

And because what kind of post would be this if there weren’t pictures of MM?  Here she is snacking on a pickle, feeding her pickle to her bear at snack-time, and giving him some juice to wash it down.  Precious.

yum! homemade pickles 
here's some pickle to wash down your pickle

So there you go–everything you never wanted to know about making dill pickles!

5 Responses to What’s the Big Dill?

  1. Alicia July 1, 2010 at 11:12 pm #


  2. Melissa Lash July 2, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

    Sounds great .. the 3 of us love pickles!

  3. Kelly July 6, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    I just love all the great things you know how to do. I’m going to have to come over one day so that you can teach me to do all this stuff! Looks like you and MM had a such a good time! 🙂

  4. Val July 9, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    My mother used to make bread and butter pickles for my grandfather when I was little. We had our own big garden, so we could pick the cukes at just the right size. I hated pickling day despertly – the smell about drove me mad, even as a little child. My mother didn’t even like them, but she knew that her father did. It was truly a labor of love….and something that no one in our family does anymore now that grandpa is gone!

  5. Natalie July 9, 2010 at 10:43 am #

    val, i totally get that. i HATE bread and butter pickles–yet today i made 17 pints of them. the dill smell i can deal with b/c i like them. but the b&b smell? yuck.yuck.yuck.

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