I hope you’re shopping your local farmer’s markets for the freshest and best of the harvest season. One of the many vegetables you’ll see in abundance are pickling cucumbers and I highly recommend you do what my family did when I was young. Make pickles. My mom called this special time of year, “Pickle Time” and it was an annual event at our house.
Pickles make wonderful holiday gifts and last year my cousin Carol surprised me with a memory-filled delicious gift of my mom’s pickles. I had dropped off a baked gift to Carol and she handed me a bag and told me not to leave it in the car overnight. When I opened her present on Christmas morning I had to do a double take. There, buried in tissue paper were jars of dill pickles with labels that read, “Shirley’s Garlic Dill Pickles.” I was instantly taken back to Pickle Time and Mom Shirley putting me to work scrubbing cucumbers in the bathtub, harvesting and cleaning the dill, and the one job that set me on my culinary magic carpet ride – cleaning the garlic.
For me, Carol’s gift was a combination of cherished memories and incredible taste. I’m currently making these harvest gems as gifts for the upcoming season and propose you do the same. They’re nothing like the pickles you find in grocery stores and your gift recipients will be overjoyed by their distinct and fresh flavor. Nothing like preparing for the holidays before the first cold wind!
Shirley’s Garlic Dill Pickles
Makes 8 to 12 quarts
depending on the size of the pickles and how tight they are packed into the jars
About 1/4 bushel medium-size pickling cucumbers, washed and scrubbed well and soaked in cold water overnight
8-12 teaspoons dill seed, divided
Fresh heads and stem pieces of dill, 1 head and 3 stems per jar
8-12 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
3 cups white vinegar, scant measurement
1 cup cider vinegar
3 quarts water
1 cup canning salt (using others salts will make the brine cloudy)
1. In a saucepan, bring all brine ingredients to a rolling boil.
2. Heat canning jars and rings in boiling water to sterilize, using caution when removing.
3. Pack each jar with the following as tight as possible*:
1 teaspoon dill seed
1 head of fresh flowered dill, and 3 pieces of the stem
2 halves cleaned garlic
Pack the dill pickles tightly in each jar, leaving one-inch of space at top
4. Pour boiling brine over pickles. Wipe the rim of each jar with a damp, clean paper towel. This will assist in sealing the lid.
5. Seal jars with new lids (never reuse lids) and rings.
6. Process jars of pickles. Fill a deep stockpot or canning kettle with enough water to cover your jars by a good inch. Bring to boil. Place a canning rack, or folded kitchen towel, in the bottom of the kettle. With sturdy tongs lift each jar into the pot, Cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes adding additional hot water if necessary. With tongs remove the jars from the water bath and set on a dishtowel to cool.
7. You will hear the pinging of the lids sealing, you can also check in 12 hours to make sure the center of the lids look concave.
8. Let cool and using permanent marker label and date. They should set up for 6 weeks and can be stored for up to 12 months.
* Feel free to add stalks of celery to your pickle jars when packing. They give Martinis and Bloody Marys an extra bump of flavor. Quite wonderful.