The whole reason we started our blog three years ago was to document how to make pickles. Every year, we wonder: What kind of vinegar did we use? How much salt is in the brine? So, we started a blog to track our pickling process. We recently looked back at that first blog post and realized a) we’ve come a long way since then, and b) it appears to be missing a good deal of pertinent information. So, here’s the updated version.
Francis Pickle oversees pickling operations ever year, and thanks to her, we’ve always had great success. Look at that leadership!
Gather your Ingredients and Supplies
First of all, pickling is a real process. It will take three to four hours from start to finish. So it would be silly to just make three pounds worth of pickles. If you’re in for a penny, you might as well go all in for a pound and pickle enough to last until next season, give away to friends, serve as surprise appetizers… You will need:
- 25 Pounds of Pickling Cucumbers – as fresh as possible (If you buy from the farmer’s market, you can likely get pickles harvested the day before.) Get small to medium in size – stay away from the large.
- Two Big Bunches of Flowering Dill – Call around to your local grocery stores and ask the farmers at the market. When dill comes into season, that’s the time for pickling.
- 4 Heads of Garlic
- 12 to 15 Little Red Hot Chilis
- Pickling Salt – Find this at your local grocery store. Get at least three cups worth.
- Distilled White Vinegar – At least 2 gallons, but buy 3 just to be safe
- 2 Cases Wide-Mouth Quart Mason Jars
- Lids for the Jars (they may come with the jars, but make sure you have some!)
- Big Stock Pot for Boiling Brine
- Big Canning Pot for Sterilizing Mason Jars
- Good Set of Tongs with Rubber Tips
Jar Prep and Making the Brine
Jar Prep – Wash all of the mason jars in soapy water. Meanwhile, bring a very large pot of water to a boil. Our canning pot holds nine mason jars at a time. You can find these pots at Fred Meyer. You’ll use the water to sterilize the jars.
Brine – Pour a gallon of distilled vinegar into a large stock pot. Fill the vinegar jug with water and pour that water into the stock pot too. Add 2 cups of the pickling salt. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.
Prepare the Pickling Ingredients
While the big pot of water is coming up to a boil, and the brine is coming to a boil too, prep the rest of your supplies.
This recipe makes 24 to 25 mason jars of pickles. As a rule of thumb, the yield works out to a pound of pickles for each jar. With this in mind, prepare 2 to 3 cloves of garlic and 2 to 3 halves of red chili peppers per jar.
- Prepare 30 cloves of garlic by peeling and squashing them.
- Slice 15 chili peppers lengthwise in half. Keep the seeds inside.
- Pre-clip whole heads of blossoming dill – One big head or two little heads will go into each pickle jar
Secret to a Crunchy Pickle
Clean your kitchen sink thoroughly and then fill it with cold water. Give your pickles a bath, making sure to pull off any leftover flowers and scrubbing off any dirt. Take about half the pickles, put them into a bowl, and pop them in the freezer. Make you don’t freeze them – you just want to get them very cold. Leave them in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes.
Getting Under Way
When the big canning jar pot of water is at a boil, carefully drop in your first nine jars and lids (or however may fit upright). The lids are just loose – not attached to the jars. Let them sterilize for ten minutes, boiling away.
Turn your brine down so it stays at a mellow boil. Pull the pickles out of the freezer, and set up your production line.
Use your tongs to pull out the first jar from the boiling water. Have a dish towel in your other hand, and place the jar directly into your towel-protected hand.
First, put in two each of the dill, garlic and chili halves. Now, tilting the jar so the opening is facing you, start lining the pickles around the jar. Pack in as many pickles as will comfortably fit in the jar. Be gentle with the pickles, and don’t cram them in or break any of them. Also, leave about 1/2 inch of room at the top.
Use a 2 or 4 cup pyrex measuring cup (something boil-proof with handles) to pour the boiling brine into the pickle jar. Make sure the brine covers all the pickles and leave 1/2 inch of blank space (no pickles or brine) at the top of the jar.
When you first pour in the boiling water, the cucumbers will turn a very vibrant green. They then turn to a more pickle-y color a bit later.
Grab a sterilized lid and band with your tongs. Drop the lid on the jar and then screw on a band. Don’t tighten it all the way down – leave it slightly loose.
Repeat the process down the line. You will need to replenish the pickles in the freezer and make more brine and sterilize more jars as you go. Keep the brine and jar water boiling throughout.
Throughout the night, once you’re done pickling, you’ll hear the lids start to ‘pop’ as they seal. Once they’re sealed, that’s when you tighten down the band.
Let the pickles sit for two weeks before opening the first jar. They will last you at least a year. Store them in a cool, dark cupboard.
- In a pickled state these days (lydiastreet.com)