Kazia Jankowski - big world | small kitchen

Homemade Pickles

Homemade_pickles recipeCard

Late summer, my mother has one mission: homemade pickles. Mom knows that soon it will be hard come by the tall stems of dill and bushels of Colorado cucumbers, she needs to make her famous dill pickles. And the coming months require lots of the crunchy, salty snack.

Ever since my sister and I were young, winters have been about dill pickles.  Growing up, on cold school nights, Mom made hearty Polish suppers of pork chops, cream sauce, and pickles. She wanted to teach us our ancestry—and gain some points with her Polish-American husband. For ski weekends, Mom packed pickles, along with ham and cheese on rye. She stuffed our Christmas stockings with dill-filled Mason jars.

While those moments are now memories, Mom’s pickle tradition is not. It continues each year, Mom making pickles for the rest of the family. Or at least that was true, until last year. In the final weekends of August 2009, Mom did what she always does. She called the Greek grocer and put in an order for miniature cucumbers. She collected jars from her neighbors. She bought vinegar in amounts that only professional chefs use.

The difference was that across town, my friend Hannah and I did the same. We also called the Greek grocer, bought too much vinegar, and spent a long, happy Sunday washing dirt from small cucumbers, packing them into hot jars, along with sweet dill and garlic, and dousing them in salty brine. Like my mom, we wanted pickles for holiday gifts, ski weekends, and winter suppers.

Hannah quickly shared her pickles with family and friends. Her in-laws declared them the best they’d ever eaten. They wanted more. They put in an order for Rosh Hashanah. I saved mine for the colder months, and when I gave them out as holiday gifts, my childhood friends smiled. They knew these pickles. They’d had them before—and I imagined that they, like me, would snack on them, with thick slices of cheddar cheese and hard-boiled eggs.

That was a year ago. Now, we are into full September 2010. So last week, Hannah and I took stock of our pantries. No pickles left. Hannah had an order for the Jewish High Holidays—and the Colorado days were growing shorter and colder. So we called up the Greek grocer and put in a cucumber order—twice as large as the year before.

Homemade Pickles
Makes about 9 quarts

When my friend Hannah and I make pickles, we make lots of them. (This year we made 80 jars.) In order to do so many in one day, we cheat and use a hot oven instead of a canning bath to seal our jars. This is a more risky method (not all your jars seal every time), but it makes canning a much quicker process, so that you can get to the real joy of the day—simple, crispy pickles.

9 quart canning jars with seals and rims
16 cups distilled water
4 cups white vinegar
1 cup kosher salt
75 pickling cucumbers, washed and blossom tips removed*
18 cloves garlic, peeled
9 sprigs of dill, washed and dried

*The blossom tip is the end of the cucumber where the flower grows. Usually, this end is a lighter green hue and is marked with a small, brown circle. Once cucumbers are trimmed, keep them in an ice water bath.

Remove lids and seals from jars, and pass jars through a cycle in the dishwasher. This will sterilize the jars.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. When jars are done in the dishwasher, transfer them to the oven.

Place the rims and seals in a bath of boiling water.

In a large pot, bring distilled water, vinegar, and salt to a boil to make brine. Stir occasionally, until the salt has dissolved.

Using a dry towel, remove a jar from the oven. (I recommend working with one jar at a time, unless you have people helping you.) Drop in two cloves of garlic and a sprig of dill.  Pack jar with cucumbers, starting with larger cucumbers on the bottom and finishing with smaller ones.

Using a funnel and ladle, fill the jar with brine, leaving an 1/8-inch empty space at the top. Wipe the rim of the jar with a damp cloth to remove splattered brine. Then wipe it with a dry cloth. Remove one lid and one seal from boiling water bath. Dry thoroughly. Place lid on jar, and screw on rim. Let sit overnight, without disturbing. When the lid pops, the jar has sealed.

Store jars in dry place, away from sunlight, and pickles will last for about a year.

For printable recipe, click here.

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12 Comments to “Homemade Pickles”

  1. Carrie says:

    I feel the same way about my mom’s applesauce, I’ve never had better. It’s my aspiration to successfully make it all by myself some time soon.

    I’m more of a bread&butter pickle girl, my mom used to make something she called “stickles”, basically sweet pickles. They were sweeter than regular b&b pickles. But I *do* like dill pickles every once in awhile since I love dill.

  2. kazia says:

    Ooo, Carrie, I think that I would love stickles. Tell me more. I’m a big B&B pickle fan, especially with tuna sandwiches.

  3. Arlen says:

    Smells, like music, are one of the things that stays with one, at a deep place, for a lifetime. The smell of pickles in my mother’s kitchen is one of those special memories. Gramma was always there, and the two of them (rarely speaking English to one another)canned both dill and sweet pickles for hours. I can see the blue “granite” cooker on the stove and the quart jars lining the worktable. Makes me smile and even wipe a tear …

  4. kazia says:

    Arlen, what a lovely image. Funny because my mom inherited this recipe from my grandmother (my dad’s mom). Love the symmetry in your story.

  5. kashya says:

    oooohhhhh the smell of pickles brining in large stone jars is what I remember, my mom used to and still does make large batches of Polish pickles the smell of the dill and garlic brining when you walk into the kitchen instantly transports me to when I was a kid. I make pickles also but I never made any for jarring we always make enough to fit in large stone jar. We start in on the ogorki before they sometimes finish pickling.

    I need to make some now

  6. kazia says:

    Ha! Kashya, I’m glad to hear that you don’t wait long before digging into your pickles. I totally hear you: Between the sweet scent of the dill, the fresh cucumbers, and the vinegary brine, it’s hard wait to eat them. Let us know how it goes if you do try canning.

  7. Christy says:

    I am going to pick up some cucumbers this morning from the Farmers Market… SO I will try your recipe out tomorrow. Thanks for sharing!

  8. kazia says:

    Yum! Good luck and let us know how it goes.

  9. Kim says:

    I have never had a better pickle than from the Jankowski’s. Though on all of our winter travels, I never had one while skiing with your family. We might need to remedy that one!

  10. kazia says:

    It’s a deal!

  11. Emilia says:

    When I noticed the photo of the jar of pickles I know it mast be somehow related to your Polish background.

  12. Beth says:

    How long do you keep them in the oven, instead of canning?

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