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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