Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dill pickles...

Every year, I'm always surprised at how easy it is to make dill pickles. I guess I grew up thinking that anything that came out of a jar had to involve a huge amount of effort -- but pickled cucumbers certainly don't. Or at least, I don't feel like it's a lot of effort with a garden in my back yard that's producing lots of cukes at the moment, and a few sprigs of dill here and there. You can find the same stuff at any farmer's market these days. The tricky part is learning what to do with them. Fortunately, I got some good coaching from back alley Mary, God rest her, my dear gardening buddy and neighbour whom I miss fiercely this time of year.

In her honour, I'm going to share with you my dill pickle recipe, in the hope that it inspires you to do something about preserving your own food rather than buying it off the shelf. This recipe is an amalgamation of the recipes of my friend Mary and my auntie Cathy, adjusted to suit the tastes of my family, who prefer their pickles with dill and garlic and not much else. My first pickles had store bought pickling spice because Mary's recipe called for it, but my girls say that pickles don't need anything but dill and garlic, and I tend to agree. My aunt's recipe called for sugar, but since I have diabetes, that went out the window... and I cut the salt a bit, too.

14 cups water
2 cups vinegar
1/2 cup salt
dill flowers (the heads when yellow, without seeds) and leaves

Here's what I do: Wash seven or eight 32 oz/1 litre jars in hot soapy water, rinse, and let dry upside down. Boil sealer jar lids for about ten minutes to soften rings. Put a dill head and leaves in each jar along with a clove of garlic, peeled and sliced in half. Pack cukes tightly into jars while brine comes to a boil on the stove (today I added a few carrots to one jar because I was a few cukes short). Arrange filled jars in sink and pour in brine. Put on sealer lids and tighten just until there is resistance.

Here's the fun part: set jars on cookie sheet and set them in a 300 F/150 C degree oven for an hour. When they're done, pull them out and listen to the lids seal with a POP! In about ten days, you'll have delicious pickles that you made yourself. My kids like them a little sharper than this recipe, so I've taken to doubling the vinegar and cutting the water by two cups...

So there you have it -- my secret dill pickle recipe that is no longer a secret. If you have any preserve recipes that you want to share, send them my way!

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