The classic, irresistible pickle. It has a home on the side of every plate of any good sandwich. It's comfortably familiar. It has a satisfying intensity of both flavour and texture. And it's a vintage home canning favourite. The perfect homemade pickle for me has plenty of garlic and plenty of dill, and I like to can them various ways - sliced for sandwiches and burgers, cut into spears lengthwise for the side of the sandwich plate, and whole for easy hand-held snacks when you just want to sneak one from the pickle jar in the fridge. It's all good.
A few tips on canning pickles:
1. Try to make pickles as soon as possible after the cucumbers come off the plant or as soon as they're purchased. If you can't get to them right away, store them in the fridge to keep them as crisp as possible.
2. Don't skimp on the dill.
3. Two cloves of garlic is plenty. The longer you wait to eat your pickles, the stronger the flavour gets.
4. Garlic sometimes goes a bit blue when pickled. Don't panic. It's fine.
5. Weirdly shaped, gnarly pickles taste better than the straight ones. No, not really. I just think the ugly ones need love too.
To prepare, wash your mason jars in hot soapy water, rinse them and leave to air dry. The sealing discs and ring bands should be left in hot water until ready to use.
Here's how to make them (using the cold pack method):
makes 8 500 ml/1 pint Mason jars
5 lbs pickling cucumbers
16 garlic cloves
a large bunch of dill
4 cups water
2 2/3 cups pickling vinegar
1/3 cup coarse salt
Drop 2 garlic cloves and a few dill fronds into each jar. Pack the jars snugly with the cucumbers, starting with the larger ones and filling in the gaps with the smaller ones (cucumbers shrink during processing, so pack tightly). In a medium saucepan, make the brine by bringing the water, pickling vinegar and salt to a boil. Ladle the brine into the jars leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Secure the lids in place with the ring bands to fingertip tight, then lower the jars into the rack of an already-boiling water bath canning pot. Process for 10 minutes (only start timing when the boil returns). Remove the jars to a dish towel on the kitchen counter to cool for 12 to 24 hours and form their seal. Once fully cool, check for a good seal. Allow 3 to 4 weeks before opening for best flavour.
It's so hard to wait to eat these! Every year I end up popping one jar open early to get that garlic dill crunch! I have NO patience when it comes to such yumminess.