Pickles are one my favorite, and one of the easiest, things to preserve from the garden. If you're wanting to get started with canning, but a little intimidated by pressure canners and acidity concerns, then pickles are a fantastic first step for you!
You can use this recipe as a template for pickling other vegetables. Okra, green beans, garlic, and even carrots all make delicious pickles if you're feeling like branching out into other parts of the garden!
No matter what cucumber or vegetable you use, make sure they are ripe and feel firm — avoid limp or wrinkly vegetables. Wash the vegetables before pickling and cut away any bruises or blemishes.
These pickles can be processed in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, which makes them shelf stable for around a year. The downside is that the hot water processing will cook the cucumbers a bit and can sometimes give the pickles a softer texture. If super-crunchy pickles are your aim, skip the processing step and just keep the jars in the fridge — they'll keep refrigerated for several weeks.
How to Make Dill Pickles
Makes 4 pint jars (though we usually go big and make several quarts at once!)
Prepare the jars: If you are planning to can your pickles for long-term storage, bring a large pot of water to a boil and sterilize the jars and their lids. If you are planning to make refrigerator pickles, simply washing the jars and lids is fine.
Prepare the cucumbers: Wash and dry the cucumbers. Trim away the blossom end of the cucumber, which contains enzymes that can lead to limp pickles. Leave the pickles whole, cut them into spears, or slice them into coins, as preferred.
Pack the pickles into the jars: Pack the pickles into the jars. Trim the ends if they stand more than 1/2 inch below the top of the jar. Pack them in as tightly as you can without smashing the cucumbers.
Bring the pickling brine to a boil: Combine the vinegar, water, pickling spices in a sauce pan over high heat. Bring to a rolling boil. Pour the brine over the pickles, filling each jar to within 1/2-inch of the top. You might not use all the brine.
Remove air bubbles: Gently tap the jars against the counter a few times to remove all the air bubbles. Top off with more pickling brine if necessary.
Tighten the lids: Place the lids over the jars and screw on the rings until tight.
Optional — Process the pickles for longer storage: For longer storage, place the jars in a boiling pot of water. When the water comes back to a boil, set the timer for 10 minutes and remove the jars immediately. Make sure the lids pop down; if they do not, refrigerate those pickles and eat them first.
Cool and refrigerate: Let the jars cool to room temperature. If you processed the jars, they can be stored on the shelf. If unprocessed, store the pickles in the fridge. The pickles will improve with flavor as they age — try to wait at least 48 hours before cracking them open.
Storing canned pickles: Canned pickles will keep for at least a year on the shelf and for several weeks in the refrigerator once opened; refrigerator pickles will keep for several weeks.