Monday, August 6, 2012

Dill Pickle Spears

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Dill pickle spears
Dill pickle spears

Why do I make my dill pickles as spears instead of just pickling the cucumber whole?  So I can get a lot more pickle out of one jar.  That is the only reason why.  No matter how well I try to stuff my jars using whole cucumbers nothing beats using spears for maximum capacity.

These are basic dill pickles and you might think not all that special.  They were my gateway pickle when I first started making my own and because they were so simple I gave them a try.  Now I struggle to keep enough on hand to last us a year, they are that good.  Simple fresh ingredients, tailored from a Minnesota dill pickle recipe, turns cucumbers into something tart, dilly and satisfying.

Cucumber quarters, blossom end removed
Cucumber quarters, blossom end removed

I recommend using straight, not curved, cucumbers for these to make it easier to quarter them evenly.  In my area the pickling cucumbers we get are about 4 - 5 inches in length so the spears do a good job of reaching the top of the jar.  For that last layer I slice the spears in half to shorten them and put them in horizontally instead of vertically if I need to.  Again, I am looking for as much bang for my pickling buck as I can get.

The only downside?  It takes six weeks for these to get pickley. Meh. That is a long time to wait. The good news is I will be sharing how to make bread 'n butter pickles soon and those you can eat right away!

Dill Pickle Spears
A classic that is easy to make, dill pickles never go out of style.
  • approximately 7 1/2 lbs pickling cucumbers, quartered lengthwise, blossom end removed
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups white vinegar, 4 to 6 percent acidity
  • 1/3 cup pickling salt
  • 18 fresh sprigs of dill, or 12 dill heads
  • 6 onion slices, 1/2 inch thick
  • 12 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 12 tsps dill seeds
  • 1/4 tsp Pickle Crisp Granules (optional)

  1. Wash and scrub the cucumbers carefully. Remove the blossom end (the dimpled end) and then quarter the cucumber lengthwise. Place the cucumbers in a bowl of ice water and set aside.
  2. Prepare your jars, lids, rings and canner. If you are new to water bath canning, or it has been a while, be sure to refresh your skills from a reliable and official source to guide you through this process.  My tips and tricks can be found here.
  3. Combine the water, vinegar and pickling salt in a large pot and bring to a boil. Once it is hot keep it on a low simmer, making sure the brine stays very hot.
  4. Place a slice of onion, 2 garlic cloves, 3 sprigs of dill (or 2 dill heads) and 2 teaspoons of dill seeds in the bottom of each hot jar. Put the cucumbers into the jars vertically, fitting them as tightly as you can. Top with some horizontal cucumber pieces if needed, leaving 1 inch of headspace.
  5. Cover the cucumbers with the boiling hot brine leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove any bubbles and adjust the headspace one last time.  Top with 1/4 tsp in each jar of Pickle Crisp Granules, if you are using them.
  6. Clean the rim of the jar thoroughly, apply your hot lid, and then the ring. Tighten the ring just until "finger tip tight", not too tight, but not loose either.
  7. Process your jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes measuring the time after the water returns to a full boil. Adjust your processing time as necessary depending on your elevation.
  8. Once the 10 minutes are up turn off the heat under your canner and remove the lid, letting the jars rest for 2 - 3 minutes. This will prevent the jars from boiling over when you remove them from the pot due to the temperature change.
  9. Remove your jars from the water bath to a cloth covered counter. Let them cool completely for 12-24 hours before testing the seals. Any jars that do not seal properly are still perfectly good to eat, just keep them in the refrigerator for 6 weeks before doing so.
  10. Store your pickles in a cool dark place. These pickles have to wait 6 weeks before eating.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 quarts
Last, but not least, if you are brand new to water bath canning be sure to follow best practices outlined by reliable sites such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation or the University of Missouri Extension. Home canning is something anyone can do!