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How to Make Dill Pickles

Pickles
Dill Pickles

Dill pickles are one of the easiest pickles to make. Cold-packed into hot sterilized jars, this recipe transforms tiny 3” – 4” cucumbers into tangy pickles that, for any dill lover, are the quintessential pickles to accompany many sandwiches and burgers.

This recipe is sized with the smaller household in mind. Many don’t have large storage capacity for big batches of pickles such as our ancestors made and stored in their cold rooms or cellars. Yet other households are comprised of only one or two people so they don’t need large batches of pickles but still want to have a taste of homemade goodness that comes from home preserving.

Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles

Freshness Counts with Pickling Cucumbers!

As with any pickle recipe, freshness of ingredients is key. That means the cucumbers should, ideally, be processed the same day they are picked from the vine or, certainly, within 24 hours. Otherwise, the cucumbers start to lose their flavour and get soft and punky and, as we all know, dill pickles are meant to have crunch.

Use Pickling Vinegar

It is very important to use vinegar which is made especially for the pickling process. It will usually have 7% acidity, making it stronger than table vinegar. This helps to preserve the pickles longer. Most large grocery stores will stock this vinegar, especially around “pickling time” in late summer or fall. The container should state that it is “pickling vinegar”.

Pickling Vinegar

Use Pickling Salt, Not Table Salt, in Pickles

One of the biggest tips I have for pickling is to never use table salt in the pickling process. Always use proper pickling salt. This is a coarse salt specifically for pickling and it will be marked as such on the package label. Apart from it being way too salty for pickling, iodized table salt can cause some discoloration of the cucumbers and will likely form a cloudy brine. The brine should be bright and clear. Table salt, because of its fine texture is too easily absorbed into the cucumbers, resulting in overly salty pickles. I can always tell if someone has used table salt in making pickles just by simply looking at the bottles of pickles – the contents of those bottles just do not have an appetizing look to them.

Coarse/Pickling Salt

Preparing the Jars 

The jars should be examined to ensure they are free of cracks, chips, and nicks. They should then be washed, rinsed, and sterilized. I sterilize mine in a pot of boiling hot water on the stove. Use a jar lifter to place the jars, upright in the water, holding each one steady until it fills with water. Bring the water back to a boil, reduce the heat slightly to prevent boil-overs, and boil the jars gently for 10 minutes from this point. Turn the heat to simmer and leave the jars in the water until they are ready to be filled with the cucumbers. The jars must be kept hot because, once filled, they will be going into a hot water bath and cold jars meeting up with boiling water will crack.

Making the Brine

The process I use to make my dill pickles is quite simple. This involves making a simple brine of equal parts of pickling vinegar and water along with some pickling salt, a bit of sugar, and some pickling spices. To keep the brine clear, bundle the pickling spice into a double (or triple) layer of cheesecloth. Gather up this little sachet and tie with string. Once this brine has simmered for about 15 minutes, discard the spice sachet and bayleaf. The brine is then ready to be poured over the cucumbers.

Spice Sachet
Preparing the Spice Sachet
Pickling Spice Sachet
Pickling Spice Sachet

Preparing the Cucumbers and Filling the Jars

The small 3” – 4” dill-sized cucumbers can be left whole or they can be sliced in two (or even quartered) lengthwise or they can be sliced into “coins”. Just note that the pickles are likely to have more crunch if the cucumbers are left whole. Make sure to trim the blossom end of each cucumber by 1/8” – these blossom tips have enzymes that can lead to limp, punky pickles. Pricking each cucumber 3-4 times with the tines of a fork will help the vinegar brine penetrate the cucumbers better resulting in more flavorful pickles.

Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles

The point where you start to place ingredients into the jars is the point where it is necessary to work along quickly because the jars cannot be allowed to get cold before they go into the hot water bath. Ensuring all ingredients and pickling equipment are laid out before starting the process and following a set order will help this process move along quickly.  Further along in this posting, you will find an outline of the step-by-step sequence I follow to quickly get the jars filled while they are still hot and then into the hot water bath.

A slightly smashed garlic clove along with some mustard seed and a whole clove are first placed in the bottom of each jar. Where, in the jars, the small bunch of feathery dill fronds and the umbrella-shaped seed head of the dill plant are placed is a matter of personal preference. I like to place the dill fronds on one side of the jar and the seed head on the opposite side. These can, of course, be placed on the bottom of the jar or the feathery dill fronds on the bottom and the dill head on top of the cucumbers. The taste will be the same. However, if you like your jars to have a nice appearance that immediately signifies they are dill pickles, placing the fronds and dill head so they are visible will do the trick!

Ensure the cucumbers are tightly packed, compactly, into the jars but not so tight that they are squished. Once all the ingredients are placed in the jar, pour the hot brine into each jar, leaving ½” head space at the top of each jar.  A chopstick, or small non-metal spatula, is useful to remove any air bubbles that may appear and more of the brine may need to be added, as necessary, to bring it to about ½“ from the jar rim.

Add a Grape Leaf to Keep the Dills Crunchy

I add a grape leaf on top of the cucumbers in each jar. This is an old trick to keep the cucumbers crisp – the tannin-rich grape leaves have enzymes that help to keep the cucumbers crunchy. Some say, with the removal of the blossom ends of the cucumbers, it is not necessary to add the grape leaves to the jars but I have access to them so I add them and my dill pickles always turn out super crunchy.

Heat the Jar Lids and Metal Ring Bands

Always use brand new metal jar lids; never re-use them for pickling purposes as their seal is only meant for single use. Check the metal ring bands (which can be re-used multiple times) to ensure they have no dents or nicks in them and there is no rust. The jar lids are heated in hot simmering water, just until they are hot and the gaskets softened —  3 – 4 minutes should do it. Heating the lids too long or in rapidly boiling water will weaken the rubber on them causing them not to seal properly. Wipe each jar rim with a clean, damp cloth before applying the lids, rubber side down, to the jar tops. Tighten the metal ring bands, fingertip tight. At this point, the dills are ready, without delay, for their hot water bath.

Heating Jar Lids
Heating Jar Lids

The Hot Water Bath

Processing the jars of dills stabilizes the contents for longer shelf life. Make sure the hot water canner is ready to go with the boiling water in it by the time you fill the jars. Load the filled jars into the metal basket that comes with the canner. The jars should remain upright during the hot water bath process and they should not touch each other. Once the basket is lowered into the boiling water, ensure the water level is at least 1” above the jar tops. Add more boiling water, if necessary, to bring the water to this level.

I recommend following your canner manufacturer’s instructions for the canning process as the length of time the jars need to be processed will depend on the altitude of your locale. Here on PEI, I process my half-pint jars of dills for 10 minutes and I start the timing from the time the hot water returns to a full rolling boil after the basket of jars has been placed in the canner of hot water. Once the 10 minutes is up, remove the jars, one by one, with a jar lifter and place them on a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal. Sometimes, this will take place almost immediately and sometimes it can take a few hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Let the jars rest, undisturbed, on the wire cooling rack for 12 hours. Then, let the sealed jars stand in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks before opening. This gives time for the dill flavour to develop fully.

Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles

The Sequence

To help organize your work to make these pickles, I offer the following suggested order for the sequence so that the steps happen when they should and the hot jars do not have a chance to cool before they are filled and placed in the hot water bath.

  1. Fill the hot water canner with hot tap water, place it on the stove, and start the heating process to get it to the boiling point. Starting with hot tap water will reduce the amount of time it takes to get the large canner of water to a boil. Make sure the water is at the boiling point before the wire basket of filled bottles is placed in the canner.
  2. Heat a pot of boiling water to sterilize the jars. Wash jars. Boil them gently for at least 10 minutes. Keep them, at simmer level, in the hot water until they are needed for filling.
  3. Wash and cut blossom ends from cucumbers and prick each with tines of a fork, 3-4 times.
  4. Gather spices for the jars and prepare garlic cloves.
  5. Start making the brine.
  6. Make a quick trip to the garden to pick the fresh dill heads and fronds.
  7. As the brine is nearing completion, remove the sterilized jars from the hot water and place the garlic, spices, dill fronds and dill head in each jar. Pack in the cucumbers.
  8. Heat lids in small pan of hot water. Boil extra water in case it is needed to top up hot water canner to 1” above jar tops.
  9. Pour brine over cucumbers, remove air bubbles with a chopstick (or small non-metal spatula), and top up with more brine, as necessary. Add the grape leaf to top of each jar. Wipe the jar rims with clean damp cloth.
  10. Place lids and metal ring bands on jars. Place jars in canner basket and lower into canner of hot water. Add any additional water necessary to bring water level to 1” above jar lids. Cover. Bring canner water back to full rolling boil. Start timing the canning time from this point.
  11. Have wire rack set out for bottles as they come out of the canner.

Note: The garlic clove is likely to turn a blue-green-gray color. Don’t be alarmed by this – it’s just the effect of the acid from the vinegar coming into contact with the garlic.

Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles
[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Dill Pickles

Ingredients:

2 lbs – 3” – 4” pickling cucumbers, freshly picked and washed

1 tbsp pickling salt
1¼ cups + 1 tbsp pickling vinegar
1¼ cups + 1 tbsp water
2 tbsp granulated sugar
½ tbsp pickling spice, gathered into double (or triple) layer of cheesecloth and tied into spice sachet
1 bay leaf

3 – 4 whole cloves
1 tsp mustard seed, divided equally among the jars
3 – 4 small garlic cloves, slightly smashed
Fresh dill heads, one per jar along with small bunches of feathery dill fronds
Grape leaves, medium-sized, 1 per jar

3 – 4 half-pint jars, lids, and metal ring bands (the number of jars needed will depend on the size of the cucumbers, whether they are sliced or left whole, and how compactly they are fit into the jars)
1 chopstick

Method:

Wash and trim 1/8“ from blossom end of each cucumber. Prick cucumbers 3-4 times with tines of a fork. Leave cucumbers whole or cut into two or four spears, lengthwise (or slice into “coins”). Fill the canner with hot tap water and heat to boiling point while making the brine. Begin sterilizing the jars in large pot of hot water to have them ready when brine is heated.

To make the brine, combine the pickling salt, vinegar, water, sugar, pickling spice sachet, and bay leaf in small stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately reduce heat to low and cook brine, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring periodically. Remove from heat and discard pickling sachet and bay leaf.

Place 1 whole clove, ¼ to 1/3 teaspoon mustard seed (divide the teaspoon of seeds equally between number of jars used), and 1 small slightly smashed garlic clove in each hot, sterilized jar. Place a small bunch of feathery dill fronds along one side of the jar and one umbrella-shaped dill head on the opposite side of the jar. Fill the jars with the cucumbers, packing tightly (but not squashing them), and keeping the dill fronds and dill head in place against the sides of the jars.

Pour the hot brine into each jar, filling to within ½ inch from jar rim (head space). Use a chopstick (or small non-metal spatula) to remove any air bubbles that may have formed in the brine. Add more brine, if necessary, to bring it to ½“ from the jar rim. Add 1 grape leaf to top of each jar, pressing it below the surface of the brine, to keep cucumbers crisp. Wipe each jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Seal the jars with heated lids. Screw on metal ring bands, fingertip tight.

Place jars in hot water bath basket, ensuring jars do not touch each other or fall over. Lower basket into canner of hot water. Ensure the water level is at least 1″ above the jar tops, adding more water as necessary. Cover with canner lid. Increase the heat to return the water to a rolling boil then decrease the heat to just keep the water at a rolling boil but not boiling over. Process half-pint jars in the hot water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting time for altitude. Start timing the processing from the point where a full rolling boil is reached after basket of jars has been added to the canner. Turn off heat and remove canner lid. Using a jar lifter, carefully remove the jars, one at a time, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal over the next few minutes or hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Let jars rest, undisturbed, on wire rack for 12 hours. For maximum dill flavour, let sealed jars stand in cool, dark place for 6 weeks before opening.

Yield:  Approximately 3- 4 half-pint jars

Dill Pickles

These easy-to-make dill pickles combine dill, garlic, and pickling spices to transform tiny cucumbers into crunchy pickles that, with their tangy flavour, are a great accompaniment to many sandwiches and burgers.
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs – 3” - 4” pickling cucumbers, freshly picked and washed
  • 1 tbsp pickling salt
  • cups + 1 tbsp pickling vinegar
  • cups + 1 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • ½ tbsp pickling spice, gathered into double (or triple) layer of cheesecloth and tied into spice sachet
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 - 4 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp mustard seed, divided equally among the jars
  • 3 – 4 small garlic cloves, slightly smashed
  • Fresh dill heads, one per jar along with small feathery dill fronds
  • Grape leaves, medium-sized, 1 per jar
  • 3 – 4 half-pint jars lids, and metal ring bands (the number of jars needed will depend on the size of the cucumbers, whether they are sliced or left whole, and how compactly they are fit into the jars)
  • 1 chopstick (or small non-metal spatula)

Instructions

  1. Wash and trim 1/8“ from blossom end of each cucumber. Prick cucumbers 3-4 times with tines of a fork. Leave cucumbers whole or cut into two or four spears, lengthwise (or slice into “coins”). Fill the canner with hot tap water and heat to boiling point while making the brine. Begin sterilizing the jars in large pot of hot water to have them ready when brine is heated.
  2. To make the brine, combine the pickling salt, vinegar, water, sugar, pickling spice sachet, and bay leaf in small stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately reduce heat to low and cook brine, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring periodically. Remove from heat and discard pickling sachet and bay leaf.
  3. Place 1 whole clove, ¼ to 1/3 teaspoon mustard seed (divide teaspoon of mustard seed equally between number of jars used), and 1 small slightly smashed garlic clove in each hot, sterilized jar. Place a small bunch of feathery dill fronds along one side of the jar and one umbrella-shaped dill head on the opposite side of the jar. Fill the jars with the cucumbers, packing tightly (but not squashing them), and keeping the dill fronds and dill head in place against the sides of the jars.

  4. Pour the hot brine into each jar, filling to within ½ inch from jar rim (head space). Use a chopstick (or small non-metal spatula) to remove any air bubbles that may have formed in the brine. Add more brine, if necessary, to bring it to ½“ from the jar rim. Add 1 grape leaf to top of each jar, pressing it below the surface of the brine, to keep cucumbers crisp. Wipe each jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Seal the jars with heated lids. Screw on metal ring bands, fingertip tight.

  5. Place jars in hot water bath basket, ensuring jars do not touch each other or fall over. Lower basket into canner of hot water. Ensure the water level is at least 1" above the jar tops, adding more water as necessary. Cover with canner lid. Increase the heat to return the water to a rolling boil then decrease the heat to just keep the water at a rolling boil but not boiling over. Process half-pint jars in the hot water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting time for altitude. Start timing the processing from the point where a full rolling boil is reached after basket of jars has been added to the canner. At the end of the processing time, turn off heat and remove canner lid. Using a jar lifter, carefully remove the jars, one at a time, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal over the next few minutes or hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Let jars rest, undisturbed, on wire rack for 12 hours. For maximum dill flavour, let sealed jars stand in cool, dark place for 6 weeks before opening.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Approximately 3- 4 half-pint jars

Be sure to read blog posting that accompanies this recipe for more information on the procedure to make dill pickles.

For other great pickle, relish, and chow recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Mustard Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Pickled Beets
Mustard Beans
Green Tomato Chow
Rhubarb Relish

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Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles

Bread and Butter Pickles

One of my very favorite kinds of pickles are the traditional sweet Bread and Butter Pickles.  If I didn’t limit myself, I could sit down and eat an entire bottle of these pickles! They are especially good with sandwiches and burgers.

Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pickles are not hard to make but, like most pickled products, they are a bit time-consuming and, sometimes, finding the right ingredients can be a bit of a challenge.  The first challenge is to get the  cucumbers that are suitably-sized for bread and butter pickles.

Small Pickling Cucumbers
Small Pickling Cucumbers

These are small cucumbers (but bigger than those used to make dill pickles), about 6-7 inches long and only about 1 1/2″ to 2″ wide.  You don’t want to use large field cucumbers because they have too many seeds, meaning they will fall apart as opposed to holding their shape when sliced. As well, large slices of pickled cucumbers are not attractive to serve alongside a sandwich or burger.

To make quality pickles, fresh produce is needed.  I recommend using cucumbers that have not been picked any longer than 24 hours.  Cucumbers that have been picked for days start to get soft and “punky” and are not good for pickling because they have already started to deteriorate and lose their freshness. As well, the skin on the cucumbers will be very tough.

Ask for “bread and butter pickling cucumbers” at your local farm stand or market and the sellers should know what you mean. Be sure to ask when they were picked and check to make sure the cucumbers are firm to the touch. I bought mine at Balderston’s Farm Market in Stratford, PEI, and the big bin of the cucumbers had just been brought in from the field and were being bagged up while I was at the stand.

Give the cucumbers a good wash and then dry them off.

Trim and discard the cucumber ends but leave the peeling on for these pickles. Not only does the peeling give color and texture but it helps to hold the cucumber slices intact.

DSC00389 (1)

If you have a mandolin, it will make slicing the cucumbers easier and you will have uniformly-sized slices of cucumbers. I suggest cutting the cucumbers into either 3/16″ or 1/4″ thick slices, depending on how thin or thick you like pickle slices.  The 1/4″ thickness will help the pickles retain their shape the best.

I recommend using the small silver-skinned onions (often referred to as “pickling onions”) for these pickles because, when sliced, they will be about the same size in diameter as the cucumbers. I find these onions are somewhat stronger in flavour than the standard garden variety of onions.

Silver-skinned Onions
Silver-skinned Onions

Even if you don’t like onions, they really are needed to give these pickles flavour.

Use firm, blemish-free peppers – 1 red and 1 green – for this recipe and dice them up.

The green pepper contributes to the flavour and the red pepper adds a splash of color to the pickles (as well as taste).

Be sure to use pickling (coarse) salt, never table salt, for the soaking of these pickles. You should be able to find this salt in the same grocery aisle as regular table salt or at your bulk food store where it may be labeled as either “pickling” or “coarse” salt.

Coarse/Pickling Salt
Coarse/Pickling Salt

Once all the vegetables are cut up, place them in a large bowl or pot.

Sprinkle the vegetables with the pickling salt.

Give the vegetables a good stir to mix in the salt.

For the brine, you will need a total of about 5-6 dozen large ice cubes.  Completely cover the vegetables with a layer of ice cubes.  As these melt, they combine with the salt to make the brine in which the vegetables will soak for three hours at room temperature.  Make sure you have additional ice cubes to add to the vegetables as cubes melt. The key is to keep the vegetables ice cold as this will help the cucumbers retain their crispness.

Once the ice cubes melt, the vegetables will start to float in the water if they are not weighted down so I suggest placing another lightweight plastic bowl directly on top of the vegetables and ice cubes and weighting it down with a couple of frozen freezer packs which will also help to keep the vegetables cold. Be sure to cover this top bowl to keep the cold trapped inside.

DSC00523 (1)

After the vegetables have soaked for three hours at room temperature, drain them in one to two large colanders and discard any ice cubes that may still remain.

Give the vegetables a quick short rinse of fresh cold water. This will remove any salt residue that may remain. Don’t over-do the rinsing – just a quick rinse-off is all that is needed.

Drain the vegetables really well, letting them sit for at least 20 minutes or so.  If too much water is left in the vegetables, it will dilute the syrup and make for watery pickles. As they are draining, I often will scoop up a handful or two of the vegetables and move them around in the colander and then gently shake the colander to release any trapped water.

For any pickling, I recommend using vinegar that is specially labelled for pickling – it will usually have 7% acidity, making it stronger than table vinegar which will help to preserve the pickles longer.

Pickling Vinegar
Pickling Vinegar

The syrup is easy to make. There is no need to bundle up all the spices into a cheesecloth sachet for the syrup as it is perfectly fine to have the spices loose in the pickle jars. Just remove and discard the cinnamon stick before bottling the pickles. To make the syrup, simply combine all the syrup ingredients in a large stock pot and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.

Once the syrup has reached the boiling point, add the drained vegetables.

Bring the mixture back to the boiling point, occasionally stirring the vegetables. Once it reaches the boiling point, remove the pot from the heat.  All this process aims to do is to heat the vegetables and they should not be cooked until they are soft – these pickles are meant to be crispy. Overcooking will make them soft and punky.

Some use the sanitizing cycle on their dishwashers to sterilize the jars. I’m still using the old traditional method of sterilizing the jars in hot water. The jars must be hot when they are filled with the vegetables.

Sterilizing Jars
Sterilizing Jars

Use a slotted spoon to gather up the vegetables and place them in the hot sterilized jars. A wide-mouthed funnel is useful for this process. Fill the jars, leaving about 1″ headroom in each.

Pour the hot syrup into the jars and over the vegetables, leaving about 1/2″ headroom in each bottle. Remove any air bubbles that may appear in the jars by inserting knife into each bottle and gently moving vegetables to allow liquid to fill any pockets of air that may have formed.

Wipe the tops of the jars with a clean, damp cloth to remove any syrup.  Seal immediately with heated lids. Screw on jar bands just until resistance is met.

Process filled jars in hot water bath according to canner manufacturer’s directions for the proper time for your local altitude.

Cool jars completely and listen for the “ping/pop” sound that will tell you that the jar is sealed.  This may happen quickly or it can take several hours. The lids should also have an inward dent in the center of their tops if they have sealed to the jars properly. If a lid has not made the “popping/pinging” sound and is not dented inward, store the jar in the refrigerator and use it first.

Store the jars in a cool, dark area.

How many jars of pickles you get from this batch will be determined by how tightly or loosely you pack the cucumbers into the jars. This will also dictate how much syrup is used, too.

Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles

Ingredients:

6 – 6½ lbs small pickling cucumbers, peeling on, sliced either 3/16”  or 1/4″ thick
4 cups silver-skinned onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
½ cup pickling salt
5-6 dozen ice cubes

Syrup:
5 cups white sugar
1 tsp tumeric
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tsp celery seed
3 cups pickling white vinegar
½ cinnamon stick

Method:

Wash the cucumbers and trim and discard their ends. Slice the cucumbers either 3/16″ or 1/4″ thick, depending on the desired thickness of the pickle slices. Slice onions and dice the peppers. Combine the sliced cucumbers, onions, and peppers in a large bowl. Sprinkle pickling salt over vegetables. Stir mixture with a large wooden spoon to distribute the pickling salt. Completely cover mixture with a layer of ice cubes. Place a large bowl over the vegetables and weigh it down with a weight (a couple of freezer ice packs work well) to keep the vegetables soaking in the brine. Let sit at room temperature for 3 hours, adding more ice cubes as they melt to ensure vegetables are kept cold.

Drain vegetables into 1-2 large colanders and rinse with cold water to remove any salt residue. Drain again for several minutes.

In large stock pot, combine all of the syrup ingredients. Bring the syrup to the boiling point over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetables. Bring the mixture just to the boiling point, stirring occasionally. Remove pot from heat.

Using a slotted spoon, fill hot sterilized jars with the vegetables leaving 1” headroom in each bottle. Pour hot syrup into the bottles, leaving ½” headroom in each bottle. Remove any air bubbles that may appear in the jars by inserting knife into each bottle and gently moving vegetables to allow liquid to fill any pockets of air that may have formed.

With clean, damp cloth, wipe clean each jar rim. Seal immediately with heated lids. Screw on jar bands just until resistance is met.

Process filled jars in hot water bath according to canner manufacturer’s directions for the proper time for your local altitude.

Store jars in cool dark area.

Yield: Apx. 7-9 pint bottles


For other great pickle, chow, and relish recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Mustard Pickles
Pickled Beets
Mustard Beans
Green Tomato Chow
Rhubarb Relish
Dill Pickles

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Bread and Butter Pickles

Yield: 7-9 pint bottles

Ingredients

  • 6 – 6½ lbs small pickling cucumbers, peeling on, sliced either 3/16” or 1/4" thick
  • 4 cups silver-skinned onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • ½ cup pickling salt
  • 5-6 dozen ice cubes
  • Syrup:
  • 5 cups white sugar
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tbsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 3 cups pickling white vinegar
  • ½ cinnamon stick

Instructions

  1. Wash the cucumbers and trim and discard their ends. Slice the cucumbers either 3/16" or 1/4" thick, depending on the desired thickness of the pickle slices. Slice onions and dice the peppers. Combine the sliced cucumbers, onions, and peppers in a large bowl. Sprinkle pickling salt over vegetables. Stir mixture with a large wooden spoon to distribute the pickling salt. Completely cover mixture with a layer of ice cubes. Place a large bowl over the vegetables and weigh it down with a weight (a couple of freezer ice packs work well) to keep the vegetables soaking in the brine. Let sit at room temperature for 3 hours, adding more ice cubes as they melt to ensure vegetables are kept cold.
  2. Drain vegetables into 1-2 large colanders and rinse with cold water to remove any salt residue. Drain again for several minutes.
  3. In large stock pot, combine all of the syrup ingredients. Bring the syrup to the boiling point over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetables. Bring the mixture just to the boiling point, stirring occasionally. Remove pot from heat.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, fill hot sterilized jars with the vegetables leaving 1” headroom in each bottle. Pour hot syrup into the bottles, leaving ½” headroom in each bottle. Remove any air bubbles that may appear in the jars by inserting knife into each bottle and gently moving vegetables to allow liquid to fill any pockets of air that may have formed. Seal jars with sterilized lids and metal screw bands. Store in refrigerator or in cold storage room. For longer storage, or if storing outside a cold/refrigerated environment, process the pickle jars in a hot water bath following the canner manufacturer's directions.
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Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles

“In a Pickle” – Mustard Pickle-Making, My Island Bistro Kitchen Style

Sweet Mustard Pickles

One of the most common fall flavours in many Island households surrounds pickle, chow, and relish-making.  I love the smell of fresh mustard pickles in the house – not so much the mess, the tedious job of peeling and cutting up the cucumbers, and the “distressing” task of peeling strong pickling onions – an activity sure to bring a tear to the eye!  In many Island households, a meal of any kind is not complete unless there are mustard pickles on the table.  So, for most of us true cooks, we endure the process knowing the end result is worth the effort.

There are as many recipes for mustard pickles as there are cooks on the Island.  There are any number of sites on the Internet that will give detailed and scientific instructions on how to make pickles.  As for me, I follow the tradition of my mother and grandmother.

Here are my hints and tips for ensuring a good batch of sweet mustard pickles.  At the end of the post, you will find the recipe I have used for mustard pickles for many years.

Assemble the Necessary Ingredients

Ingredients for Mustard Pickles

Pickling Cucumbers

Just like anything, fresh is always best.  Some say only cucumbers that have been picked no longer than 24 hours should be used.  Cucumbers that have been picked for days start to get soft and “punky” and are not good for pickling because they have already started to deteriorate and lose their freshness.   So, look for firm pickling cucumbers, sometimes referred to as “field cucumbers”.  Ask for them at your local farm stand and inquire when they were picked.

Onions

Look for firm, fresh onions.  Strong, fresh onions are needed for flavouring in the pickles.  Sometimes, but not always, there are bags of “pickling onions” available on the market.  These are smaller onions and are so named because they are a stronger tasting onion – you’ll quickly know their strength when you start to peel them!

I have no secret for avoiding the “tears” when peeling the onions.  Some claim if you hold the onions underwater while peeling them, that works.  Others say to peel them outside.  No matter what method I have tried, it’s a teary job!

Onions Cut For Mustard Pickles

Cutting the Cucumbers and Onions

I always peel the cucumbers.  Some cooks like to leave a few of the cucumbers with the peeling on them but I find this makes the pickles tough and I don’t particularly care for the appearance of them in the pickles.  Once the cucumbers are peeled, slice them in half, lengthwise, then halve them again.  Remove and discard all the seeds from each cut section.

 

Cutting Up the Cucumbers

 

I am not too fussy when I cut up the cukes and onions – I don’t worry about getting the pieces all perfectly uniform sizes.  I tend to like the cukes and onions cut in about ½”-3/4” pieces – any smaller and the pickles are starting to resemble relish.  This, of course, is a personal preference.  There is no right or wrong size of pickles.

Cauliflower and Red Pepper

While certainly not necessary, cut-up cauliflower flowerets and sweet red pepper can be added to the pickles and I always do add them.  The red pepper adds color and dresses the pickles up, both in the bottle and on the table.  The cauliflower adds texture and variety to the pickles.

Pickling Salt

For both taste and preserving the pickles over the winter as well as for color of the pickles, it is very important that proper pickling salt be used in the water/salt brine that is used to soak the cut-up cucumbers and onions.  This is a coarse salt specifically made for pickling and it will be marked on the label.  Never use fine iodized table salt in pickles as this will produce a cloudy sauce that is a poor and unappetizing color (e.g., sort of a mossy-green-yellow color).  It will also make the pickles taste too salty because the vegetables absorb too much of the salt.  I can always tell when I see a bottle of discoloured pickles that someone has made them using regular table salt.  The pickling salt is a slower dissolving salt.  For this reason, make sure you stir it into the water for the soaking brine really well and that it is fully dissolved before pouring the brine over the cukes and onions.  You don’t want any salt granules sitting on the cucumber mixture for hours.

Pickling Salt – An Essential Ingredient in Mustard Pickle-Making

Soaking the Vegetables

Unless you are using a recipe that specifically gives directions to the contrary, plan on soaking the cukes, cauliflower, and onions in the salt and water brine overnight or at least for 8-10 hours during the day if you are making the pickles in the evening.    Cucumbers have a lot of water in them so, in order to have crisp pickles, the excess water needs to be removed from them.  Soaking them in a slow-dissolving salt/water brine draws the natural water out of the cucumbers, opens their cells, and allows the mustard pickling sauce to penetrate them.  This gives the pickles greater flavour, good color, and a longer shelf life.

Add the red pepper (if using) after the veggies have been rinsed and drained (the peppers do not need to soak in the salt water brine).

Cucumbers Soaking in Salt/Water Brine

Draining the Vegetables

After the soaking period has ended, drain the vegetables thoroughly in a colander and rinse with cold water to remove any excess salt.  Then, let them drain for about an hour or so to get as much water drained off of them as possible.  If too much water is left on them, it will dilute the mustard sauce and make the pickles too runny.

Cucumbers Draining in Colander

Pickling Spice

Of course, the right mixture of pickling spice is necessary for flavourful pickles – the wrong combination of spices or too much or too little will leave you with pickles you won’t be satisfied with.  Pickling spice, as a product, is not always available on the store shelf and sometimes I have had to create my own mixture using some or all of the following:  mustard seed, whole allspice and cloves, coriander seed, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, cinnamon stick pieces, peppercorns, and whole or coarse pieces of dried ginger.  Whole spices (as opposed to dried) are said to be better because they will not cause the pickles to darken in color.  The look you are going for is that nice, bright mustard yellow color.

Making the Pickling Spice Sachet

You don’t want whole spices and junks of cinnamon stick or bay leaves making their way into the pickle jars and on to the plate so it is necessary to contain them in a sachet.  To make a pickling spice sachet, you will need a small piece of cheesecloth (available at fabric stores).  This will have a very loose weave so I usually double or even fold it over 3-4 times and then place 1-1 1/2 tablespoons of the pickling spice mixture in the centre.  Gather up the cheesecloth around the spice and tie it with a thread.  This sachet then gets dropped into the boiling vinegar and sugar mixture and left in during the entire pickle-cooking process.  It then gets removed just before bottling the pickles.  This sachet allows the vinegar and pickles to be infused and flavoured with the spices without having the spices directly in the pickle mixture when they are bottled.

Pickling Vinegar

Be sure to use vinegar that is specially labelled for pickling – it will usually have 7% acidity, making it stronger than table vinegar and will help to preserve the pickles longer.

Boiling Vinegar and Sugar

It is important to boil the majority of the vinegar the recipe calls for along with the sugar.  This helps the sugar to dissolve before the vegetables are added.  The heat from the boiling mixture will also help the flavours from the spices in the sachet to infuse the vinegar.

Boiling the Vinegar and Sugar

Making the Mustard Sauce

Mix part of the sugar the recipe calls for with the flour, dry mustard powder and any other spices.  Then add the remaining vinegar from the recipe ingredient list to make the paste for the pickle sauce.  To this paste, add about ¾ cup of the boiling vinegar that will have already been heated.  This “tempers” the paste it so it doesn’t go lumpy when added to the boiling vinegar already in the pot.

Making the Mustard Sauce

Cook the sauce slowly to thicken it and stir often to prevent scorching.  Be patient – this process can take several minutes.  The mixture should coat a spoon and drip very slowly off the spoon when the sauce is thick enough to add the vegetables.

Sauce Should Coat a Spoon When it is Thick Enough to Add the Vegetables

It is important that the sauce gets thickened to the right consistency before adding the drained vegetables as they will still have a lot of moisture in them and the sauce will not thicken any further after they have been added.

Heating the Vegetables

Heat the vegetables in the sauce slowly, stirring periodically – you want the veggies to stay crisp and crunchy, not be cooked to mush.

Heating the Vegetables in the Mustard Sauce

Bottling the Pickles

Bottling, of course, is very important. Ensure that proper canning jars are used for the pickles.  These are bottles such as Mason or Ball brand jars that are made of specially tempered glass capable of withstanding heat that will be necessary in the hot water canner for safe home canning of products. The glass jars have a wide mouth top and consist of a two-part lid and screw band.

While our ancestors may have used just any bottles they had at their disposal, using recycled bottles from store-bought products like pasta sauce, for example, is not recommended.  First, these jars, having already been sealed by the manufacturer and the seal having been broken by the consumer to reveal the contents, no longer have proper sealing covers considered safe for home canning of products. Second, the bottles are generally made of glass not as thick as proper canning jars and, therefore, are not considered to be resistant to heat extremes. This means they could shatter or explode when placed in the hot water canner.  With the potential for so many air- and food-borne illnesses to occur today and with the changing conditions in which our foods are grown (or modified), along with the fact that most homes today do not have dedicated temperature-controlled cold rooms (or cold cellars like many of our ancestors had) in which to store home canned goods, it is all the more reason why both the proper canning jars and home canning procedures are an essential component to safe pickle making.

Inspect each bottle before filling it to ensure there are no chips or cracks.  Ensure the bottles are sterilized and hot when you bottle the hot pickles.  I have a large old pot that I fill with hot water and put on the stove to sterilize the bottles. The hot water canner itself could also be used for this purpose. As a baseline, the bottles should be boiled in hot water for a minimum of 10 minutes and then kept in the hot water until they are filled.  Depending on the altitude in your area, you may need to boil the bottles longer than 10 minutes. 

The metal snap lids for the canning jars are only single use.  The rubber seal is good to be heated once and affixed to a jar top.  The lids must be heated to provide a proper seal – never place a cold, unheated lid on a filled canning jar.  Simply place the lids in a small pot of hot water just long enough to heat the rubber piece.  Do not boil them.  Make sure you have first wiped the rims of the jar with a damp clean cloth to remove any pickle residue.  Even a small drop of it may prevent the lids from sealing properly and keeping out harmful bacteria that could cause the pickles to spoil or someone to become ill from consuming them.  Once cooled, the orange-rust rubber around the circumference of the lid no longer has a sealing quality deemed safe for canning so make sure you place the hot lids on the hot jars immediately.  Always, always use new lids for each canning session.  The lids are cheap so don’t risk re-using them.  Once you finish a bottle of pickles, turf the snap lid.

The screw bands, on the other hand, can be re-used so long as they don’t have any rust spots on them or any dents.

Bottling the Pickles

 

Processing the Filled Pickle Jars

Always properly process your pickles using an approved safe method of canning. There are various methods of safe home canning, including the two most common – the boiling water bath canning method and pressure canning.
 
At its most basic, home canning of pickles is the process of heating the hot sealed jars filled with the pickles to destroy microorganisms that can cause the jar contents to spoil or people to become ill from consuming the pickles contained in the jars.
 
Yes, the pickles do need to be properly and safely processed after they have been bottled and sealed – that is simply not enough to ensure they are safe for human consumption and to be shelf stable over several months until their contents have been consumed.
 
There are a number of reputable and reliable sources of information available on the various methods of canning pickles. Books on the topic are available at libraries, bookstores, and online. The internet is also a good place to start your research but ensure you consult reputable sites. I find a lot of university extension department websites contain good information on proper home canning procedures.

Sweet mustard pickles are a fine addition to many entrées from “meat and potato” meals to casseroles to baked beans and fishcakes.  Pickles do take some time and know-how to make but nothing beats homemade mustard pickles that no store-bought version can match.

Mustard Pickles – The Finished Product

Do you make mustard pickles or have recollections of your mother or grandmother making mustard pickles?

 Mustard Pickles – My Island Bistro Kitchen Style

Ingredients:

• 8 cups pickling cucumbers, chopped
• 4 cups onions, chopped
• 2 cups cauliflower flowerets (apx. 1 small cauliflower head)
• 4 cups white pickling vinegar
• 3 1/2 cups sugar
• 1/2 – 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, depending on how juicy or thick you like pickles
• 1 1/2 tbsp tumeric
• 1 1/2 tbsp celery seed
• 1 tbsp mixed pickling spice, tied in a cheesecloth sachet
• 1/2 cup dry mustard
• 1/4 tsp ginger powder
• Pinch cayenne
• 1 small red pepper, chopped
• Coarse pickling salt

Method:

1. Peel the cucumbers. Slice in half, lengthwise. Slice in half again. Remove and discard the seeds. Cut cucumbers to desired size, apx. 1/2″ – 3/4″ pieces.
2. Peel the onions and cut into pieces similar in size to cucumbers.
3. Separate the cauliflower into individual flowerets.
4. Place cucumbers, onions, and cauliflower flowerets into a large bowl.
5. Make a brine of pickling salt and water using 1/2 cup coarse pickling salt to 4 cups of water. Pour over the vegetables, ensuring they are completely covered. (I use apx. 6 cups water and 3/4 cup pickling salt.) Let stand overnight or 8-10 hours.
6. Drain vegetables in a colander and rinse with cold water to remove any excess salt. Let vegetables drain for apx. 45-60 minutes. Add cup-up red pepper.
7. In a large stock pot, bring to a boil 3 cups of the vinegar and 3 cups of the sugar along with the pickling sachet made of pickling spice tied in cheesecloth. Boil 2-3 minutes.
8. Mix remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the flour, tumeric, celery seed, dry mustard, ginger, and cayenne.
9. Add the remaining 1 cup of vinegar to the dry ingredients and whisk till smooth. Add apx. 3/4 cup of the hot vinegar-sugar mixture to this sauce. This will “temper” it and keep it from going lumpy when added to the hot liquid mixture in the pot. Stir and pour into the vinegar-sugar mixture in pot. Cook sauce over medium heat until thickened, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. When sauce coats a spoon and drips off slowly, it is thick enough to add the vegetables. (This could take 25-30 minutes.)
10. Add the drained vegetables to the thickened mustard sauce and cook over medium-low heat just until vegetables are heated through, apx. 12-15 minutes.

11. Bottle pickles while hot into hot sterilized bottles. Heat bottle lids and apply to bottle tops. Place rims on bottles, finger-tip tightening only. Listen for the “pop” sounds as the bottles seal over the next few hours. Store in cool area.

Yield: Apx. 7½  pint bottles

For other great pickle and relish recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Green Tomato Chow
Dill Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Rhubarb Relish
Mustard Beans 
Pickled Beets

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Homemade Pickles

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