Sunday, July 26, 2009

Crisp Dill Pickles--With Salmon

For 35 years I have tried every recipe I have found to make CRISP dill pickles. I have failed, time and again. I finally gave up and decided that while I could make killer bread-and-butter pickles, and even sweet alum pickles, dills were out of my reach. I bought them at the store. And complained.

I decided to try again this year because we have lots of cucumbers and I love dill pickles. So if the pickles came out wrong, oh well--the chickens could enjoy them.

I searched online and consulted Joy of Cooking, my kitchen bible. A recipe I found online was very like what I found in J of C and seemed easy enough.


I started with the online recipe, which called for slicing the cucumbers and putting them into ice water for two hours. I was okay with that, but I only had four trays of ice and it didn't seem like enough to really keep the cukes cold. What to do?

In the freezer I had a big plank of salmon, frozen solid. Why not put the frozen fish on top of the pickles to add a little extra frost? I put the salmon (sealed in plastic) on top of the cucumber slices, and covered everything with two thick, folded bath towels.

The online recipe didn't call for sprinkling salt over the cucumber slices either but I remembered from past attempts that salt drew the moisture out of the cucumbers and made them crisper. And Joy of Cooking recommended it. So I sprinkled some salt (non-iodized, the only kind for pickles) over the slices beforecovering them with the towels.

After two hours the fish was still frozen. Time to move on to the next part of the process. I drained and washed the cucumber slices, put the salmon back in the freezer, heated water to sterilize my jars, and heated the brine (made with 2 cups vinegar to 1 cup of water and 1/3 cup salt, with 2-3 cloves of garlic for each jar). I packed cucumber slices and stems of dill into the sterilized jars, covered them with the boiling brine (leaving the garlic cloves in the kettle) and screwed down the jar lids.

Today's canning books recommend hot water baths for pickles, but I have never done that. I recommend that you follow the most recent guidelines for canning pickles however.

After two days, we decided to try a taste test. Verdict? CRISPY dill pickles, full of flavor. Success! After so many years of trying, I think I've found a process that works for me. I made another 13 pints this weekend and I am so glad I've finally made good dill pickles.

I think it was the salmon. Although the ones I made yesterday I used frozen decide. You think it might have been the salmon that made the difference?

I am pretty sure it was.


Anonymous said...

The best homemade pickles I have ever tasted. I loved the crunch!!

MimiRock said...

Send me one jar of the ones done with the salmon and one jar of the ones done with the steaks, and I'll tell you which one is the best. Unless it's a tie, and there has to be a run-off!

Cathy said...

They sound yummy! One of my favorite memories of my grandmother canning was her cellar and the pickles. There were so many kinds to try but I loved the dills she had in a huge crock covered with a cloth. They were huge and tasted so good. I think a dinner table is empty with some pickles and I know that is because of her dinner table always having them. My Totty would have been crazy about you.

Farm Girl said...

I would love to try your recipe! Would you elaborate a bit more on amounts of ingredients? Approximately of course! Amounts of cukes, salt? Do you have any spices or just the dill in the jars?

These look so nice and like you, I haven't found any of my homemade dills to be crisp.

Granny Sue said...

I didn't give many details, did I? Here's what I did:

about 10 pounds of cucumbers (I sliced mine about 1/2" thick so I have thick slices, but you could do spears too,, I think).

enough ice (or salmon!) to cover the sliced cucumbers, and about 2 tbsp of salt to sprinkle over the cukes

4 cups white vinegar

4 cups water

1/3 cup salt

2 cloves of garlic per pint jar

1 dill head and some ferny leaves per jar (I don't know how much I used)

Cover the cucumbers and ice with heavy towels for 2-4 hours (I did 2 hours)

Sterilize your jars and lids. Pack with the cucumbers and dill. Heat the other incredients to a good boil. Ladle the boiling brine over the cucumbers in the jars until the jars are full. Don't put the garlic in--according to Joy of Cooking the garlic can carry bacteria that could spoil the pickles.

Seal as usual and process according to recommended standards for pickles (although I think processing would certainly make the pickles limp. I'm just sayin'...)

Susan at Stony River said...

They certainly LOOK good! Congratulations on finally beating the crisp issue LOL. My mother always made bread-and-butter pickles; they were the surest bet on coming out right. Dill she never bothered with, and now I'm wondering if you've revealed the reason why? Perhaps she had the same problem.

Granny Sue said...

Daggone it! I got the vinegar-water ration wrong in my comments directions. Should be 2 cups vinegar to one cup of water, or 4 cups vinegar to 2 cups of water. I hope I haven't misled anyone. I'm not good with directions...apparently. Which is why I usuall write recipes with generalities!

Janet, said...

Susanne, when I started reading this post it reminded me of Aunt Bea and her pickles! I'm glad you got it right, but I don't like dill pickles, the kids and I usually take them off of our hamburgers and give them to my husband to eat. Enjoy!

Granny Sue said...

Dang, Janet! You know, actually I used to not like them either--I didn't like anything sour when I was a kid. But my guys loved dill pickles so I tried to make them. Now I like them too, and I'm not so much about sweet stuff. Maybe that's why I finally found a recipe that worked?

Anonymous said...

Hi There was wondering so do you water bath your pickles or not? Have you ever had them go bad if you dont? Just curious I used to use the Ball Pickle Crisp stuff and it worked great but they have stopped making it :( Your my hero by the way lol

quilly said...

I don't know, I think giving the salmon credit for your crispy pickles seems pretty fishy!

Jaime said...

OMG! These are good. I don't know how but you figured it out. MOst the time homemade pickles are rather mushy but not these and I will definitely be trying to figure this one out myself.

Anonymous said...

The salt in the ice bath would certainly push the temperature of the water down below freezing. I wonder?


Anonymous said...

We always water bath our pickles, and don't process in a canner. Those are the whole dill. This blog makes me want to try the dill slices that my mom always failed at and quit trying! Thanks for the post!

Jaime said...

Well... I'm going to try this finally. I picked up the new lids from the store today and I figure, "Well, I don't have chickens to feed them to if it doesn't work out. But what do I have to lose?" We'll see...

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