Making Dill Pickles
In my garden I planted about six times as many plants of each type as was recommended, largely because I was too soft-hearted to throw away the less-hardy of them, and now have a ridiculous harvest and plants that are taking over the back yard and even trying to get into the house. This created a new problem: What to do with the excess harvest, above and beyond the produce my boyfriend and I could reasonably eat? We decided to pickle some of it, particularly the cucumbers, which lend themselves naturally to such processing. I picked a few green tomatoes as well to try the process on them. I used a recipe by Sharon Howard that I found online.Note: You have to wait 8 weeks after pickling before you are supposed to eat the pickles. !!!Ingredients:8 pounds cucumbers (cut into spears if too large for the jars) We also used green tomatoes.4 cups white vinegar12 cups water2/3 cup pickling salt16 cloves garlic, peeled and halvedfresh dill weedEquipment it's helpful to have (though we didn't):Boiling-water canner.

Step 1: Chill the cukes.

Making Dill Pickles
Wash cucumbers, and place in the sink with cold water and lots of ice cubes. Soak in ice water for at least 2 hours but no more than 8 hours. Refresh ice when it melts. This took all the ice in my freezer and an additional bag that I had to run out to get.

Step 2: Boil the brine.

Making Dill Pickles
In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, water, and pickling salt. Bring the brine to a rapid boil. Note: Although the ingredients called for pickling salt, we used regular table salt, and made sure it was completely dissolved in the liquid. This picture was taken when most of the brine was already in jars with cukes, btw; initially it filled the entire pot. But check out the briny goodness encrusted on the sides of the pot!

Step 3: Sterilize canning jars and lids.

Making Dill Pickles
Wash 8 (1 quart ) canning jars, bands, and lids in hot soapy water and rinse. Dry bands and set aside. Place the jars and lids in 180-degree (near-boiling) water for at least 10 minutes. Also sterilize the tongs you use to put them in the boiling water and take them back out. Don't touch them with your hands after you sterilize them. Keep the jars and lids hot until used.

We did steps 3-4 in batches of two or three jars at a time.

Step 4: Load the jars with spices, cukes, and brine and seal.

Making Dill Pickles
Making Dill Pickles
Making Dill Pickles
Right after you take the jars out of the sterilizing bath, place in each 2 half-cloves of garlic, some dill, then enough cucumbers to fill the jar (about 1 pound). Then add 2 more garlic halves, and some more dill. Fill jars with hot brine. Leave headspace of 1/4 inch. Make sure nothing is hanging over the side. Remove air bubbles by sliding a nonmetallic spatula between the jar and food. Clean rim and threads of jar with a damp cloth. Center heated lid on jar. Screw band down to "fingertip tight." NOTE: If they are too tight, the lids deform when the steam tries to escape during processing (next step).

We did steps 3-4 in batches of two or three jars at a time.

Step 5: Process sealed jars in the boiling water bath.

Making Dill Pickles
Making Dill Pickles
Process quart jars for 15 minutes.a. It's suggested to use a rack to keep jars from touching canner bottom and to permit heat circulation; we didn't have the right size rack, so we didn't do this.b. It's suggested to put jars into a canner that contains simmering water. We just used the three biggest and heaviest pots we had.c. After adding jars, add boiling water to bring water 1 to 2 inches above jar tops. We couldn't get water above the jar tops, but comments I read online said this wasn't necessary.d. Bring water to a rolling boil. Set timer and process for recommended time.e. Remove jars from canner immediately after timer sounds.f. Cool for 12-24 hours on a rack or towel. Or on the counter, as you see here.g. Do not retighten screw bands after processing.h. After jars are cooled, remove screw bands, wipe jars, label and date.i. Store jars in a cool, dark place.j. For best quality, use within one year.

Step 6: Check the seals.

Making Dill Pickles
To ensure lids are sealed, remove bands and try to lift lids off with your fingertips. Clean jars and lids with a damp cloth. Label and store jars in a cool, dry, dark place.

Wait 8 weeks (EIGHT WEEKS! THAT'S TWO MONTHS! ACK!) before eating for best results. Sorry for you instant gratification junkies, but the flavors won't have melded until then.

When I was checking the seals, I pulled too hard with my fingernails on one and it came off. If a seal comes off, they have to go right into the fridge, and you have to eat them sooner. Oh dang!
 
 

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