Vinegar Dill Pickles Recipe + Canning Instructions
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For someone who loves canning, I’ve never particularly liked making dill pickles. Even though it may seem like processing cucumbers is much easier than many other fruits and vegetables that require peeling, pitting and stemming, I often feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cucumbers I need to hand wash, trim and prepare for pickling. And I always feel like it’s a bit of a race against time to get them done before they start to go mushy.
But pickles are also one of the most rewarding vegetables to put up. You can easily fill your pantry shelves with jars and jars of pickles even if you start with only a few humble pounds of cucumbers. And pickles are extremely versatile. You can eat them as part of a platter, on burgers and sandwiches, as a side dish at a holiday dinner (or a weeknight meal), or all on their own by the slice, by the wedge or whole.
Indeed, no house or homestead should be without a reserve of home-canned pickles in their larder. And so they deserve our time and attention each summer. They deserve to be given priority over all other things when the cucumbers have reached just the right size. And once they’ve been harvested, they demand us to drop all of our other commitments and obligations until every last one of them has been transformed from a refreshing yet somewhat bland garden vegetable to a pickled preserve bursting with flavour.
Ah yes, pickle we must. Whether we want to or not, whether we love it or hate it, pickle we must, and we shall.
So, now the question becomes, how shall we pickle?
The options are pretty much to either pickle our cucumbers by fermenting in a salt brine (which is super easy but takes time until they’re ready to put away), or you can make quick pickles by covering in a salt, vinegar and water brine and processing right away.
This year I made both type of pickles, but as much as I love me some fermented pickles for health benefits in particular, I still really love my quick pickles (what I call my “no-frills dills”) because they remind me of the dills you buy at the store. My dirty little secret? I actually LOVE store-bought dill pickles. Yup. I said it. But I refuse to buy them. So I make these instead:)
Step-By-Step Quick Dill Pickles
Before beginning, make sure you have enough jars, lids and all of the ingredients necessary for pickling on hand. I stress this because I totally did NOT have pickling spices or pickling salt on hand when I had already started preparing my cucumbers this year and had to run to the store in the middle of washing cukes. And how many times have I run out of new lids or had the wrong size when canning? Ugh. Too many.
So in a perfect world, once I actually have everything I need, I start by gathering and preparing all of my other ingredients and materials. I collect my jars (I like to use quart-sized wide mouth Mason jars), then I trim my dill weed to fit my jars, peel my garlic cloves and set aside and get everything else out on the counter and ready to go. Then I prepare my cucumbers.
I start by washing and trimming the ends off of my cukes. I find the easiest way to wash them is to fill your sink with cold water and use a vegetable scrub brush to scrub each pickle by hand, dunk in the water to rinse and transfer to a colander or drying rack. As time-consuming as it may be, it’s important to scrub each pickle by hand to ensure no dirt gets left behind.
Avoiding Soggy Pickles
Once all of your cucumbers are washed, it’s time to trim. It’s important to trim the blossom end off of cucumbers when pickling because leaving the blossom end on can make for a soggy pickle in the end. And ain’t nobody likes a soggy pickle!
Personally, I trim both ends off of my cucumbers because I actually find it’s quicker than examining each cucumber to find the blossom end and then just trimming that one. You can do the same or just trim the blossom end.
I’ve heard that adding grape leaves to your pickle jars also helps to keep pickles crisp, but I’ve never tried it. My mom mentioned that she tried pickles made with grape leaves before but found they had a weird taste, so I haven’t bothered. I’d love to get another opinion though! Have you tried this?
Personally I’ve never had a problem with soggy pickles when processing this way, as long as I wait long enough to crack open the jars (about 6 weeks). For some reason the pickles seem soggier if opened too early. All good things in life take time and patience:)
Canning Dill Pickles
Once your cucumbers are ready to go, prepare your canner, jars and lids. Wash jars and bands in hot soapy water and sterilize them in a simmering water bath. Leave them to simmer while you prepare your brine. Make sure your lids are nearby and ready to go (always use new lids when canning).
To make the brine, mix equal parts water and vinegar along with some pickling salt in a large stainless steel pot and bring to a boil, stirring until salt has dissolved (find the exact ratios in the recipe below).
Then, remove hot jars from water bath and place the following into each jar: 1 Tablespoon of pickling spice, one large garlic clove (or two small ones), one large head of dill weed (or two smaller ones), and one dried chilli pepper (or 1/4 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes) if using.
Then stuff those jars with cucumbers! Pack them as tightly as you can but be sure to leave a generous 1/2-inch of headspace at the top. I find it works best to pack cucumbers into jars vertically first and then lay a row or two of cucumbers on top to pack in as many as possible without surpassing the 1/2-inch of headspace required.
Once you can’t possibly pack any more potential pickles into your jars, cover cucumbers with brine, leaving 1/2 an inch of headspace. Jostle the jars a bit to release any trapped air bubbles and adjust headspace as necessary. Wipe rims, place lids on top and screw bands down to fingertip tight.
Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, let cool and wait about 6 weeks before cracking in and enjoying them!
So if you haven’t yet put up pickles this year, now is the time. Whether you’re growing your own or sourcing from a local farm, pickles deserve your time and attention this season.
For pickle we must… And pickle, we shall.
Canning tools I use and love:
P.S. Wanna learn how to can your own pickles, pie fillings, jams and jellies, fruits, veggies, stocks, sauces and more? Join the waitlist now for the Yes, You CAN! Home Canning Course and enjoy 50% off the regular price when enrollment opens next week (July 27th, 2020).
This brand new course is just about to launch, but the doors (and the discount!) will only be open and available for a week. So don’t miss out on stocking your pantry with jars of delicious, homemade, home-caned food!
- 10 pounds pickling cucumbers, ends trimmed
- 8 cups white vinegar (or substitute apple cider vinegar)*
- 8 cups water
- 1 cup pickling salt
- Fresh or dried dill weed (one large flower head or two small per quart jar)
- pickling spice (1 Tablespoon per quart jar)
- fresh garlic (1 clove per jar)
- dried whole chilli peppers (1 per quart jar) or dried chilli flakes (1/4 tsp per jar) optional
- *You may use either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, but be sure to use store-bought vinegar that has a 5% acidity. Do not use homemade apple cider vinegar as the acidity level is unknown.
- Wash and trim cucumbers. You can either trim both ends or just the blossom end, but be sure to trip the blossom end to ensure a crispy pickle.
- Prepare canner and jars. Wash jars and bands in hot, soapy water and sterilize in hot water until ready to fill. Always use new lids when canning.
- Combine vinegar, water and salt in a large, stainless steel pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat and stir until salt has dissolved. Reduce heat and continue to simmer on medium-low heat until ready to use.
- Remove hot, sterilized jars and bands from canner. Place 1 Tbsp. pickling spice, 1 clove of garlic, 1 head of dill weed and 1 chilli pepper (if using) in each quart jar and pack washed, trimmed cucumbers into jars as tightly as possible, leaving a generous 1/2-inch of headspace.
- Pour hot vinegar/water/salt mixture into each jar to cover cucumbers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Jostle jars gently to remove trapped air bubbles and adjust headspace as necessary. Wipe rims, place lids on jars and screw bands on to fingertip tight.
- Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, remove lid and let sit for 5 minutes in canner. Remove from canner and let cool completely before storing. Allow pickles to sit for about 6 weeks until ready to eat.
* Yields about 7 quarts
** These store well on pantry shelves for 1-2 years.
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