exploring, preserving: past, present

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“Grandma’s Dill Pickles”: Day Two

This dill pickle recipe sounds time-consuming (two days effort), but Day One really didn’t have much to do–layering in a crock with brine (see “Grandma’s Dill Pickles” for Day One info).

Day Two: it’s important to get those pickles out of the crock before 18 hours is up, or they’ll be oversoaked and go limp in the processing stage.

What’s Needed for this recipe: pickling vinegar, pickling spice, mustard seed, garlic, distilled water, coarse (pickling) salt, sugar. (Not pictured: fresh dill weed.)

Pickling spice is called for in this recipe from Bernardin. You can either purchase the spice premade or mix your own (that’s for another post!). I chose to purchase the premade just to see what the taste difference might be. I prefer, however, to mix my own because it lets me control the flavours I like.

This is the purchased pickling spice I used. You can see the bay leaves, mustard seeds, peppercorns, and other spices in the mix.

It’s worth highlighting the difference between pickling salt and other salts out on the market. Pickling salt has less additives than normal table salts, sea salts, or other salts on the market. It is the iodization process and the addition of other salts than sodium chloride that allow table salts to flow better and to provide the addition of a few minerals into our diets (such as iodine). This too prevents pickles from maintaining their crispness.

Be careful which salt you purchase for pickling! Make sure the label highlights its use in pickling–if it doesn’t mention that, it’s not the right kind of salt!

Always check the label of your purchased salt–it should mention that it is usable for pickling. Reading the list of ingredients will also tell you if there are no chlorine/iodine additives.  Kosher salt is another acceptable salt as it does not have the additives that regular table salts and sea salts have.

Also important to the canning process is to make sure everything you are using is at the same temperature before processing canned goods. Jars and lids should be cleaned, sterilized, and kept warm. (Keeping them in a hot dishwasher, or keeping them in the hot water of your canner, works great.)

The brine created for this pickle recipe comes from dissolving sugar into vinegar and distilled water and boiling pickling spice with it. The recipe called for placing the pickling spice in a cheesecloth bag so its easily removed later. I didn’t have cheesecloth but it’s just as easy to strain it out after.

Sugar dissolving in vinegar and water, with pickling spice mixed in.

Once the brine is hot, your canner water is hot (this can just be tap water as it’s what is used in processing, not what ends up inside the canning jars), and your jars are hot, it’s time to fill those jars!

Pickles in quart jars waiting to be processed.

It’s important to have the lids on tight, but not too tight. Processing involves boiling these jars for 20 minutes, so the contents inside heat and expand. The lids should be finger tight. You will see some bubbles coming out of the jars as processing occurs, because the small amount of air (head space) left in the jars is escaping as the contents expand a bit.

Five quarts of dill pickles processing in the canner.

After processing, the jars are pulled out of the water and left to cool. It’s important to check them as they cool, tightening the lids throughout the cooling process.

Five quarts of dill cooling on cork trivets. Yum!

So how much time did this take me? Day One only took about 15 minutes of prep time. Day Two was more prep time as it involved making a brine (15 minutes), preparing jars and canner water (15 minutes), prepping the jar contents (10 minutes), and processing the jars (20 minutes).  All in all, though, I think this was well worth the effort. Making your own batch of dill pickles is not only immensely satisfying, it also allows you to control the content–sugar, salt, flavourings. (Have you ever looked at a store-bought jar of pickles? They typically come from India, and have an extremely high salt content.)

So many more things to talk about: how salt and sugar are important in the process of preserving (but you can play with amounts or remove and replace with other salty/sweet additives!), always use rubber/wooden utensils when preserving, how to choose good produce for pickling….

Enjoy your day, and thanks for following my blog!


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“Grandma’s Dill Pickles”

I tried a new recipe (for me) for dill pickles. Bernardin has a recipe called “Grandma’s Dill Pickles”, which takes two days to complete. I chose this recipe because I thought it would work best with some slightly limp finger-sized cucumbers I had.


Bernardin’s recipe for “Grandma’s Dill Pickles” is on p.328 of this book

I had purchased these slightly limp cucumbers at a greenhouse just outside our city. Though our city has a couple of Farmer’s Markets, this greenhouse has prices that are regularly $1.00 per pound cheaper (or more) than the markets. Their produce also tends to be better quality, and doesn’t sit outside in the sunshine on display as they do in the markets (causing fresh produce to go limp very quickly!).


I let the cucumbers sit in cold water for a couple of hours to revive them before putting them in the crock.

Crocks are treasured items nowadays, for those who know their value. They are extremely hard to find in perfect condition, and even harder to find with lids intact. I have two crocks, both from my mother. The smaller crock has a hairline crack and no lid.


The larger of my two crocks–Imperial 4. History behind this crock will be saved for a later blog post.

This larger crock, shown above, has no cracks and a lid with a sizeable piece broken off of it on one side. Sadly, the piece is gone so I couldn’t even fix it by gluing it together.

Day One of the dill recipe required the cucumbers to be layered in the crock alternating with ice layers.


A brine is poured over the ice and cucumber layers, adding extra water if necessary to cover the cucumbers.  A plate is inverted over the top to cover the crock overnight. Even if you have a lid for your crock, the plate should be used and weighted down, as its purpose is to press the cucumbers into the brine as the ice melts.

It is quite important to ensure that the water you use to pickle anything is distilled water, or at the very least non-chlorinated water. The chlorine added to tap and well waters is what causes pickles to lose their crispness and have a disappointing squishyness to them. There are products on the market like “Pickle Crisp” which can be mixed in with chlorinated water to prevent some of the loss of crispness.  I prefer to use distilled water instead of adding more chemicals into the mix.

Cucumbers, ice, and brine are left to sit overnight for 12 hours minimum, but no longer than 18 hours.

In my next post, I’ll show you the steps in Day Two of the recipe process.