Homemade Dill Pickles

dill pickles in jar side view

It was nearly 50 summers ago, when I first tested my dill pickle making skill using my Aunt Jo’s recipe. I was a bit edgy about how the pickles would turn out after warnings from my family that if I used Jo’s dill pickle recipe I’d end up with quart jars full of “green, gooey, gunk”.

Making pickles, the first year, seemed like a mysterious process to me. I’ll admit I was a bit reluctant, but then decided that all I had to loose was a few cucumbers, a bit of salt, a big bunch of fresh dill and an even tinier dab of alum.

When I screwed the jar ring onto the last jar, I wondered if my pickles would be a delight to the taste buds with a hint of garlic, dill, red pepper and vinegar.

I found my very first pickle project rewarding, in fact a lot of fun. It was exciting when the crunchy, flood-your-mouth-with-saliva dill pickle snapped between my teeth and squirted juice across the room, which gave me a true feeling of success. Aunt Jo would have been proud!

Below are the rules my Aunt Jo swore me to on the day she trusted me with her treasured dill pickle recipe.

Aunt Jo’s Pickle-Making Rules:

  1. To ensure fresh cucumbers; pick them yourself at a farm unless you know a farmer whom you can fully trust to sell them to you freshly picked. Do not buy them at a grocery store, as they’re too old, tough and often dipped in wax.
  2. Use plain salt; never used iodized salt or specialty salts of any kind.
  3. Buy fresh alum.
  4. Buy white vinegar that’s a trusted name brand such as Heinz.

dill pickles in jar top view

Jo’s Dill Pickle Recipe

12 pounds small to medium size fresh-from-the-field pickling cucumbers
1-gallon tap water
1-quart white vinegar
1-cup plain salt (do not use iodized)
1 scant teaspoon alum
16 whole cloves garlic, peeled
8 dried red peppers
16 heads fresh dill
8 wide-mouth canning jars with lids and rings, sterilized

Wash and scrub cucumbers; quarter lengthwise and set aside. Put 2 heads dill, 1 red pepper and 2 garlic cloves in the bottom of each jar. Pack cucumbers in jar.

In a large kettle, bring water, vinegar, salt and alum to a rolling boil and pour over cucumbers. Immediately place a lid on jar and tightly screw on a ring (do not tighten rings after jars cool). Pickles can be eaten any time, however they’re more flavorful if seasoned for 4-6 weeks before serving. Yield: 8 quarts

Note: The lid to each jar will make a popping sound and become concave indicating that it’s sealed. If lid is convex or bubbled up and clicks when pushed on with a finger, the jar has not sealed, therefore it needs to be stored in the refrigerator and then eaten within 4 weeks. Serve with homemade Pumpernickel Bread as a delightful snack or appetizer.

Recipe comes from the kitchen of the late Jo Grey, Seattle, Washington.

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Light Pumpernickel Rye Bread

light pumpernickel bread loaf

Light Pumpernickel Rye Bread was a treat at our house back in the 70s. The kids waited not so patiently for the bread to cool enough to slice. In the wintertime, real softened butter was at the ready to slather onto the fresh from the oven bread. During the summer months, the kids loved popping the top off my homemade dill pickles to accompany the bread, I’m not sure why they chose that particular combination, but a quart of dill pickles and a loaf of pumpernickel bread disappeared in a flash. Their father, usually away at work, was fortunate that each recipe yielded 2-loaves. Enjoy this old family recipe with an origin that’s unknown.

light pumpernickel bread slices on plate

Light Pumpernickel Rye Bread

2-packages active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups ever-so-slightly warm water
2 3/4 cups unsifted rye flour
1-tablespoon table salt
1-tablespoon caraway seeds
2-tablespoons margarine or butter, softened
1/3 cup molasses
3 1/4 to 3 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (use less flour rather than more)
2-tablespoons yellow corn meal

Night before: in a large bowl, sprinkle yeast into slightly warm water and stir until yeast dissolves. Add rye flour and beat until smooth. Cover and let stand in warm place overnight. Note: To create a warm place, heat a cup of water in the microwave; remove the water and then leave the yeast mixture in the microwave overnight.

Next morning: mix in salt, caraway seeds, shortening, molasses and 2 cups of the all-purpose flour; gradually work more flour into the dough a little at a time. Keep adding flour until 3 1/4 to 3 3/4 cups flour is used or until dough is quite stiff and cleans the side of the bowl. It’s wise to always use less rather than more flour. A stand-up mixer with dough hoops or food processor works in place of hand kneading, if desired. Place dough in a large, lightly greased bowl; turn the dough so a smooth shiny side is up; cover and let rise for 1 hour or until almost double in bulk.

Punch down the dough and divide into 2 halves; round each half into a smooth ball using a small amount of vegetable oil, if desired. Sprinkle a baking sheet with corn meal; place loaves on baking sheet over top of cornmeal. Cover the bread loosely with plastic wrap and then with a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour. Brush top of each loaf with cold water.

Preheat oven to 375° and bake bread for 35 to 45 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned. Cool (at least slightly) before cutting into slices with a serrated knife. Yield: 2 loaves with approximately 8 slices each

light pumpernickel bread slices side view

Next month’s feature will be my family’s recipe for homemade garlic dill pickles.

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Old-fashioned Pineapple Cream Pie with Meringue

Old Fashioned Pineapple Cream Pie with Meringue

Prepare yourself for a mini-vacation to the Hawaiian Islands with my recipe for Old-fashioned Pineapple Cream Pie with Meringue. This pineapple cream pie captures the fresh flavor of pineapple with every rich and creamy bite. It’s one of my favorite recipes to make during the winter when fresh fruit from the grocery store just isn’t cutting it. I’m also putting a spoiler alert on the made-from-scratch cream pie filling because once you’ve tasted homemade cream filling, there’s no going back to the store-bought, packaged variety. Yes, it’s that delightful, and the same is true of home-prepared meringue.

Old Fashioned Pineapple Cream Pie with Meringue

2 cups 2% milk, scalded
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 9-inch pie shell, baked and cooled
1/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained

Separate eggs and set aside so whites can warm to room temperature. Scald milk, remove unwanted residue; cover and set aside. Beat egg yolks; add sugar, salt, flour and butter. Gradually add scalded milk, stirring constantly. Cook in double boiler until mixture thickens (this can also be done in a microwave if you prefer). Stir in 1 cup drained pineapple. Cool slightly; turn into a baked pie shell.

To prepare meringue, preheat oven to 425°F. and then beat egg whites with 1/3 cup sugar until peaks form (here are a few tips for making perfect meringue). Spread meringue over pie making sure to touch the meringue to the crust’s edge to seal. Make “nests” in meringue using a bowl or spoon. Bake pie for 4 or 5 minutes, or until meringue is golden. When meringue is cool, fill the “nests” with 1/4 cup drained pineapple, if desired.

Yield: 6 servings

Note: If desired, add coconut to the pie filling and/or dusted onto the meringue before toasting.

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Crustless Turkey Sausage Spinach Quiche

crustless turkey sausageMy Crustless Turkey Sausage Spinach Quiche is my husband’s favorite workday breakfast. I make it on the weekend and then he pops a piece in the microwave for a quick and nutritious meal before he faces the early morning commute.

Prior to making quiche for hubby’s breakfast, he was eating a bowl of cold cereal before work. He was amazed how much better the high protein breakfast carried him through until lunch. Round out this meal by adding some fruit, sliced tomatoes or a toasted English muffin and you’re sure to think this breakfast makes waking up a whole lot better.

Crustless Turkey Sausage Spinach Quiche

1-9.5 ounce package cooked turkey crumbles
1/2 to 1 cup cooked spinach, chopped
6-large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Dash of sriracha hot chili sauce
1-teaspoon dry mustard
Scant tablespoon dried onions
1/4 cup water
1 cup cheese of your choice, shredded

Preheat oven to 325°. Generously spray an oblong 7.5″x10″ or a round, glass 9″ baking dish with cooking spray. Place the turkey crumbles in the bottom of prepared pan. Dot the top with pieces of chopped spinach using desired amount to taste; set aside.

Crack eggs into medium-size bowl and then whisk them thoroughly with salt, ground pepper, sriracha chili sauce, dry mustard, water and dried onions. Gently pour egg mixture over the turkey crumbles being careful not to displace spinach. Sprinkle top with shredded cheese.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Yield: 6 servings

Note: Individual quiches made in ramekins or a muffin pan fit perfectly on an English muffin as pictured below.

Yield: 6 to 8 individual quiches

quiche muffin

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Tip for Perfect Butter

peeling butter

Run a cheese plane or a vegetable peeler across cold butter for thin, quick-melting ribbons of butter; perfect for toast or bagel when the butter is too hard to spread.

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