Homemade Dill Pickles

When I got my first job after college as a reporter for a small daily downstate newspaper, my mother took me out grocery shopping to stock the kitchen of my first apartment.

Like any recent college grad who didn’t know anything about cooking, I grabbed for the boxes of macaroni and cheese, canned tuna, and canned peas. Then I reached for a jar of dill pickles.

“No,” my mother said, returning the jar to the shelf. “Pickles are a luxury.”

Today, whenever I go shopping for my family, I always hesitate before reaching for dill pickles because at upwards of $3.50 per jar, they really are a luxury to people like me who are on a budget.

So when my mother-in-law recenty dropped off some fresh homegrown dill weed someone had given her, that got me thinking about making my own homemade dill pickles.

With Farmer’s Markets reopening for the season, the baby cucumbers needed for making homemade pickles are inexpensive and abundant. All the other ingredients are commonly found in most kitchens, with the exception of the dill, which grows wild if you know where to look.

Making pickled vegetables and sweet pickles can be a chore. In some cases, they can take up to weeks to cure and you have to continually monitor them so they don’t grow moldy or go bad. Then there’s the boiling of the jars to create a hermetic seal. It’s a lot of work.

But these homemade dill pickles are simple to make and they take only two or three days. Plus they taste as good as storebought pickles. Better, in fact, because they have that satisfying crunch and deliciously fresh sour/salty flavor that makes dill pickles the perfect accompaniment to a picnic lunch.

Some commercial pickles tend to be limp and turn an unnatural shade of green because they sit too long in their brine. But these pickles taste fresh and crisp for weeks, although they are so delicious it’s doubtful they will last that long.

Even though Mother’s Day was last weekend, a belated “Thank you” to my mom for helping me appreciate something as simple yet luxurious as a dill pickle.

Homemade Dill Pickles

4 cups Water

3 TBS Sea Salt

1/2 cup Distilled White Vinegar

1-1/2 lb Baby Cucumbers

3 Garlic Cloves, cut in half

4 large Dill Sprigs

5-6 Whole Black Peppercorns

1. Combine the water, salt and vinegar in a pan and bring to a boil. Then turn off the heat, cover and let cool completely, at least 90 minutes.

2. Rinse off the cucumbers. Cut off any blossom ends. If your cucumbers are large, cut them into quarters. Put the cucumbers in a large ceramic or non-reactive metal bowl with the garlic, dill and peppercorns, then pour the cooled brine liquid into the bowl.

3. Weigh down the cucumbers with a small plate to keep them completely submerged throughout the brining process. Then put the bowl somewhere where it won’t be distrurbed for 2 or 3 days, such as on top of the refrigerator.

At the end of the second or third day, taste one of the pickles to make sure it is sour enough for your liking. If not, leave the pickles in the brine for another day or two. If they taste good, transfer them to a glass jar — such as a recycled commercial pickle jar –adding the brining solution, but straining out the garlic and dill peices.

You can leave them whole or cut into quarters or slices. Cover and store in the refrigerator.