How to Make Dill Pickles

The pickled cucumber has been around for at least 4,000 years. Though no one knows when dill was added as a flavoring, dill pickles are the most popular type of pickle in America.

Pickles in a Jar

Dill pickles can be made by either fermentation, in the refrigerator, or processed in a water bath. Fermentation is the classic way of making pickles and results in a firm pickle that can be stored at room temperature for about six months and for an additional year in the refrigerator. However, the fermentation process does create a scum on the surface of the vinegar and water solution that needs to be removed regularly and can put some people off.

To make fermented pickles you need the following ingredients and equipment:

  • 4 pounds of cucumbers about 4 inches long
  • 2 tbs dill seed or 5 heads of fresh dill weed
  • cup salt
  • cup vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 red peppers or 2 tsp pickling spice
  • 8 cups water
  • 5 gallon stone or ceramic crock
  • 1 dinner plate or pie plate that just fits inside the crock
  • 1 weight

All of the equipment needs to be thoroughly washed in hot soapy water and then rinsed in very hot water or sterilized in the dishwasher prior to use. Remove the blossom end of the cucumber by slicing about 1/16th of an inch off the bottom and remove all but inch of the stem. Place half of the dill and half of any additional spices on the bottom of the crock. Add the cucumbers and the remaining dill and spices. Mix the salt, vinegar, and water in a separate container and stir until thoroughly mixed. Pour vinegar mixture over the cucumbers and place the plate over the top of the cucumbers and weigh it down.

Pickles will take four to six weeks to ferment, during which time the pickles should be kept at about 70 degrees. Temperatures above 80 degree can cause spoilage and temperatures below 65 will increase the fermentation time. During the fermentation process the pickles need to be checked several times a week and any scum or mold needs to be removed from the top of the mixture. The finished pickles can be kept in in this container for up to 6 months with regular removal of the fermentation scum or kept in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. Even in the refrigerator the pickles should be checked periodically and any scum removed. At no time should the scum or mold cause the pickles or the juice (brine) to have a bad smell. If any bad smell is detected all of the pickles should be thrown away.

After the initial fermentation the pickles can be processed in a water bath to preserve them longer. Pour the brine into a pan and bring it to a boil. Place the pickles in canning jars and cover them with the hot brine, leaving -inch of headspace. Place jars in a hot water bath with 1 inch of water over the tops of the jars and process for 30 minutes at 180° Fahrenheit (82° Celsius).

Dill pickles can also be made in the refrigerator. The following ingredients will be needed:

  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 quart white vinegar
  • 1 cup pickling salt
  • 4 lbs cucumbers
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • 1 bulb garlic

Mix the water, salt, and vinegar in a pan and bring to a boil. Allow the brine mixture to sit covered overnight. Clean and prepare cucumbers by removing blossom end. Place the cucumbers in sterilized canning jars and cover with brine. Allow the cucumbers to sit in the refrigerator for at least three days before eating. As you eat the pickles you can continue to add more cucumbers to the jar for as long as you have a fresh supply.

<< Using Dill in Recipes | Return to Dill Index >>

National Center for Home Food Preservation: How Do I Ferment?
The University of Arizona: B's Cucumber Pages: Refrigerator Pickles

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