It’s the middle of summer and our garden is in full swing – how about yours? One of my favorite things to make during the summer months are pickles from the huge cucumber plant that took over our grow box! And, just so you know, the “antique” isn’t because the pickles are old – but because of how old the pickle recipe is! LOL
Pickles are one of the first things I learned how to can and preserve from my mom. I have said many times, I was not a willing student when I was young, and wish I would have been more so. However, I have come to appreciate the way she preserved the bounty of our HUGE garden when I was growing up and find myself doing things more and more like she did as the years go by.
The recipe I have pictured below is one she wrote out for me when I was first married and we had our first small garden. It came from my late sister-in-law’s grandmother. At the time my mom gave me the recipe, she was 94 and chose to live in a house with no electricity. She had a wood cookstove in her kitchen where she did all her canning and cooking. She did have running water – to the bathroom LOL – but in the kitchen she had a hand pump. She told my mom, when they met, she thought it was easier – and cheaper – to live that way. At the time, I remember thinking “Why would she do that?” Now, I think “Hmmmm, I wonder how I can do that?” Please note the Wonder Woman magnet – in my opinion, that’s fairly appropriate for this lady who was canning into her 90s!
This recipe, according to my mom, is probably 100 years old, or more, as my SIL’s grandmother said she got it from her mother. It really works well for me, and it is the only dill pickle recipe I use. I have made one change to it, however, and that is on the alum it suggests to put into the pickles. Alzheimer’s runs in our family (the sister-in-law to whom I referred above has unfortunately passed from early onset Alzheimer’s, which also runs in her family). Various studies I have read state that aluminum can contribute to the progression or onset of Alzheimer’s. So I decided to not use alum and instead I use this – Ball Pickle Crisp. It has calcium chloride and not only eliminates the need for alum, but also eliminates the need for using pickling lime. It is as easy as tossing in a teaspoon per quart. I love it.
Here is my pickle recipe – I think I can officially call this an “antique” recipe, right? Due to the age? I think so – I’m gonna do it! 🙂
ANTIQUE DILL PICKLE RECIPE
- 1 quart white vinegar – white is better as it won’t discolor the pickles
- 2 quarts water (tap water is fine)
- 3/4 cup salt – I use pickling salt (no additives like iodized salt). My mom said she used a little over half of that. I have always used about the full amount and it doesn’t taste too salty, so you could use anything up to the 3/4 cup.
- 1 hot pepper (cayenne) and this is OPTIONAL (if you use it, you’ll have hot pickles- it’s your choice)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 head of dill
I wash the cucumbers in my dish pan in cold water – sometimes letting them soak in there if I don’t have time to make pickles immediately after picking them. Then I drain and dry them on a towel on the counter until I’m ready to slice them up.
You can use quart jars, or pints if that is the size you need. Whichever size you choose, wash the jars in hot soapy water, either by hand or you can run them through the dishwasher. Once they are washed, put them in a 200 degree oven, upside down to drain water if they are really wet, or on their side (like pictured) to heat them for sterilization. I like to get the jars heating before I get everything else going.
Get a small pot with some water and drop your lids in. I also put in the rings, but you don’t have to – for me, it means they are both good and hot, and sterilized. I also use a magnetic wand / lid lifter to get my rings and lids out – I don’t know how I went so many years without one of these nifty little items! The link I shared is for an entire canning utensil set – pretty cool!
Once everything is ready to go, I mix up my brine. I put in the vinegar, water and salt and whisk it so the salt starts to dissolve. I turn the burner on high so it can get to boiling pretty fast and dissolve the salt. You can sort of let it go until it boils – just peek at it occasionally to see if it is boiling too much.
Once that is done, then I start slicing my cucumbers. Normally, I do spears. I have done small whole ones and they turn out fairly good, but the spears seem to work the best. However, this year, I found this awesome little gadget – a Crinkle Cut tool – while we were at the beach. I sliced some cukes this way and tried it this year. I thought they looked pretty and I can’t wait to see how they turn out.
Once I get enough sliced, I put the garlic clove, the dill head and the Pickle Crisp in the jar. Then I start stacking cucumbers. I normally start off thinking “I’m going to make them pretty,” and then somewhere along the way that stops happening! LOL However, I love these National Pickling Cucumbers we planted this year. They are a gorgeous green color and I think they look perfect in the jars.
Once you have the jar packed pretty tightly (I’ve learned from experience if the cucumbers aren’t tight, they will shrink as the hot brine hits and then they float – see picture below LOL), pour the hot, almost boiling brine over the cucumbers, using a funnel. Leave about 1/2 headspace at the top. Use either a butter knife or this tool I received as a Christmas gift – the Ball Bubble Remover and Headspace Tool. It measures both head space (is there ANYone who can eyeball 1/2 inch? I know I can’t) and it also allows you to remove air bubbles. Definitely worth the purchase.
Use the lid lifter – or two forks, which is what I did for years – and remove a lid and ring. After wiping the top of the jar edge, apply lid and ring, and tighten hand tight.
One nice thing about this recipe – if your brine is almost boiling and your lids, rings and jars are hot – there is no need to do a hot water bath. I know this may sound crazy, but I’ve done it this way for YEARS, and have never had a problem. It is nice to not have that extra step.
Lay out a bath towel on an empty section of cabinet or on a table. Put the hot jars on the towel, then cover with another towel. This helps keep the heat in to help the jars seal.
Now all you have to do (other than cleaning up behind yourself!) is listen for the satisfying “POP” of the jars as they seal.
As a side note, if you have extra brine, you can put it in a quart jar and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. This way it won’t go to waste and when you have more cucumbers you can pull out the brine and heat!
I think the pickles look great and they taste crunchy and “summery” all year long. These dill pickles are the simplest recipe I’ve ever found and I figure if it isn’t broke, I won’t go off hunting for something else.
Do you have a pickle recipe that you use? Or – if you try this one – let me know on my Facebook page. I would love to hear comments and see pictures
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