I am having a blast researching what makes a pickle a pickle, where they originated, how they have affected a countries economy and much more. My favorite source of well-researched facts and history is from the Pickle Packers International organization, who strives to educate our youth on this amazing vegetable and the process of making pickles. Now I am even more excited to share my Traditional Dill Pickle canning recipe that has circulated for generations across the United States. But before then, let’s do some learning…
The History of the Pickle
Pickles were important in the American colonies as a major method of preservation. In fact, for many months of the year, they were the only green vegetable to be had. Early Puritan settlers believed that pickles should be served daily as a “sour” reminder to be thankful for the “sweet” gifts of the land, and virtually every household made several types of pickles in the cellar. (To this day, the Amish are well known for their “seven sweets and seven sours.”) In 1659, Dutch settlers grew cucumbers in what is now Brooklyn. They were sold to dealers who cured them in barrels and sold them from market stalls in New York City, thus beginning our country’s pickle industry.
Revolutionary pickle lovers include George Washington, Dolly Madison and John Adams. Pickles inspired Thomas Jefferson to write “On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs in Aunt Sally’s cellar.”
Today, pickles remain a popular food even though the need for pickling as a preservation method is not as great. In the United States, people eat over nine pounds of pickles per person each year. However, some form of pickles are enjoyed worldwide by almost everyone regardless of social, economic and geographical boundaries. I think it is safe to say the traditional dill pickle is a hands-down favorite in my household. Is it in yours?
Traditional Dill Pickle Canning Recipe
Makes approx. 7 pints
This is my family’s favorite traditional dill pickle canning recipe on my pantry shelf. Actually, I preserve so many jars because my daughter would eat a whole jar at a time to herself. Warms my heart! Just know, you are welcome to swap white vinegar with apple cider vinegar and white sugar for brown sugar – the flavors vary slightly but not matter the choice, are always delicious.
13 cups small pickling cucumbers, about 8-9 pounds
3 tablespoons pickling spice
4 cups white vinegar
4 cups water
½ cup sugar
½ cup canning and pickling salt
7 bay leaves
7 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
7 heads of fresh dill flowers, or 7 teaspoons dill seeds
- Wash cucumbers well to remove any dirt and debris. If keeping whole, simply remove the vine end of each cucumber. If slicing, cut into ¼” round pieces. Set aside.
- Using a 5” square piece of cheesecloth, create a spice bag by placing the pickling spice in its center and tie the edges together.
- In a large stainless steel stock pot, combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt and the spice bag. Bring contents to a boil over medium high heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar and salt. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 15 minutes to infuse the spices into the brine.
- Place 1 bay leaf, 1 garlic clove, ½ teaspoon mustard seeds and 1 head of dill flower (or 1 teaspoon of dill seeds) into each clean, hot jar. Pack cucumbers into hot jars keeping a ½” headspace. If using sliced cucumbers, use a slotted spoon to retrieve them from the stock pot when hot packing.
- Ladle hot brine atop cucumbers, keeping the ½” headspace. Remove any air bubbles and add additional brine if necessary to maintain the headspace.
- Wipe each jar rim with a warm, wet wash cloth dipped in vinegar. Place a lid and ring on each jar and hand tighten.
- Place jars in water bath, being sure each is covered with 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil and process pints for 15 minutes. Be sure not to start your timer until the water is at a full rolling boil. After processing, wait 5 minutes before removing the jars from the canner.
RECIPE TIP: If you want to keep your pickles crisp the natural way, add one whole grape leaf to each jar when adding your seasonings prior to hot packing. The alum in the grape leaf keeps the pickles crisp during storage.
Diane, The Canning Diva®