Stocking Up – Homemade Shelf Stable Pickle Tutorial

Light and Fresh Garlic-Dill, and 
The Almighty-Infamous Bread & Butter

There is no doubt that my family has a pickle problem. I’ve had friends lovingly nick name me pickle, and I called my youngest “pickle” for years. Over the years we have transitioned from occasionally buying store bought pickles and relish to pretty much casting them out entirely. I have not bought sweet relish in atleast 5 years because I prefer the recipe I grew up eating. Dill relish and dill pickles I’ve come to prefer naturally fermented when possible. We buy Bubbies from time to time but anything else just won’t do. Soggy, overly sweet and synthetic tasting pickles suck… and why are they so squeaky?

I admit lately I have been going insane. The kitchen has been destroyed and under construction because of a mold infestation, tiles are missing, I have migraines and things are a wreck. On top of the house being an absolute mess, I’m moody, I’m hormonal and I’m wasting time by stocking up as if it’s the end of the world. (Oh yeah and I’m trying to potty train my cat… what a horrible idea.) I started off my Pickle-Mania with two large jars of dill pickles. I had enough brine for two more jars, so I figured why not head back to the CSA and get what I needed. At some point man meat threw in the idea of making my Almighty-Infamous, super duper bread and butters because lets face it… none of my man folk actually like dill pickles. (unless its been snuck onto a burger maybe?)

Well, one thing led to another and I ended up making about 30lbs worth of pickles. I used two batches of bread and butter brine and one batch of dill pickle brine, the final result was about 28 pint sized jars worth of pickles. If you want to hear something really sad… I have to buy MORE cukes if I am actually going to stock enough to make it through to next year. (We are already missing about 9 jars, they love their sugar pickles.) If you are a reasonable person who isn’t planning to stock for the apocalypse figure about 6-8 pounds of pickling cucumbers per batch of brine. Choose either brine and follow these steps to be the Pickle Master!

Step By Step (ooh baby!) 
… Please tell me someone gets the joke?
1- Rinse pickling cucumbers (About 6-8 pounds per batch of brine)
2- Slice cucumbers to 1/4″ slices, I used a mandoline. (Like This One)
3- Cover slices with pickling (or regular) salt and plenty of ice. About 1/3 cup of salt per one batch of pickles. This time I used a 6 gallon brewers bucket and salted each batch about 10 quarts at a time. For a typical batch, use just any regular stock pot.
4- Place plate on top of the cucumbers to hold them under water. Floaters will get soggy.
5- Rest overnight, any longer than 24 hours and your pickles may get soggy. (Especially if you are a crazy person and need to get to the bottom of a six gallon bucket)
Your brine of choice Can be Prepared the Night before and refrigerated, 
or the day of Processing. (canning) Be sure to not use it if its still hot.
6- Sterilize your jars- Place them in Boiling water or run them in the dishwasher (without soap)
7- Drain your brined-soaked-iced cucumbers.
8- Fill each jar with about 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of brine. Stir the brine well before each ladle full goes in. You can guesstimate the jars needed to be about 8 pint sized jars per batch. (If you have them, wide mouth Jars work great for pickles, spears especially.)
9-  Fill Jars with cucumbers, One jar at a time. Thoroughly squeeze cucumbers before cramming them in. You want to remove any and all excess liquid. The more liquid left the less flavorful your pickle will be because it will dilute your fabulously flavorful brine. (additionally it might make your pickles too salty) Top off each jar with brine. Be sure to leave at least 1/4 inch head space. Squish the cucumbers in there but make sure none are really floating up above the brine. If the jars are overly full they will not seal properly.
10- Wipe the rim of each jar clean. This is especially important with bread and butter pickles. The yellow brine is like napalm and it WILL stick to and discolor everything you own. Place new lids on to clean/dry rims. Loosely tighten rings onto each jar.
11- Process (boil jars) in boiling water for 10-15 minutes. (This varies according to your altitude as well as to what jar you use. 10 minutes is typically good for regular pint sized jars.)
12- Once boiled remove carefully and allow to rest untouched for 24 hours. After 24 hours you can label them. There you have it! You have stocked your pantry with perfect pickles.

Revised- Friday August 17, 2012 
Both Brine recipes will total approximately 6-8 cups of brine. This is plenty for 8 pints of pickles. 

::: Dill Pickle Brine UPDATE :::
These seemed to have developed a funny taste while in storage. I’m not sure if it was my batch specifically that had some sort of malfunction but I figured I would share. Let me know if you have had bizarre results yourself!
4-6 cups of soaking brine (salty water from soaking pickles)
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons dry dill (or about 8 sprigs of fresh)
1 1/2 cups vinegar
2 tablespoons salt, more or less to taste
1 tablespoon honey or sugar
Combine Ingredients in a medium sauce pot and bring to a boil. (This helps to soften dry dill. Without doing this it floats around a lot. Even with boiling the dill kind of does what it wants to… so if you don’t  boil this I suppose it won’t hurt anything.)
Note: I use the soaking brine for “water.” You can use plain water but you will want to add more salt. The finished dill brine should be primarily garlicky and salty with a good sourness to it. (It is drinkable but salty.)
Tried & True Bread and Butter Pickle Brine
Traditional and sweet, perfect on a sandwich… My boys like to eat them by the bowl jar full. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of curry powder for a special pop of greatness.
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
Combine ingredients in a medium sized sauce pot. Bring to a boil and whisk together. Usually bread and butter brine has 4 parts sugar, 3 parts vinegar. Making a syrup helps to suspend the spices, using a little less sugar and not boiling it to death may result in turmeric that settles at the bottom of your jars. As long as the mixture is evenly distributed into your jars during the canning process it will not affect the flavor at all.
Simple, Raw & Naturally Fermented Dill Pickles  (not shelf stable)
Prepare and soak cucumbers in the same way for shelf stable pickles. Prepare the dill brine recipe above only substitute vinegar for water and don’t bother boiling it. (r-awesome-ness!) Cover cucumbers in a crock and cover in the brine, use a small plate to keep them from floating upwards. Cover your jar with cloth and a rope, or a lid. I use old gallon sized jars with their lids or any plastic (non metallic) crocks I have around. Once the jar is sealed up, allow to ferment for  3 to 6 days or up to 6 weeks. I have gone a little all over with this and for relish a 3 day ferment is fine but pickles need a little more time. I’ve gone 2 weeks with whole pickles and had “half sours”… I personally think they are a bizarre carbonated excuse of a pickle. The best way to ferment your pickle is to your own taste. Check after a few days and check back every now and then to see if they are to your taste yet. Once fermented they will keep in the fridge for about six months.