Recipe: Marisa McClellan's Classic Dill Pickles

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These pickles are as close as I’ve been able to get to the chunky dills of my childhood. They are tangy, garlicky, and a little bit spicy. If I’m able to find smaller pickling cucumbers, I will pack them into the jars whole, as they stay crisper that way. But often, the only pickle-appropriate cukes I can find are quite large, making it necessary to cut them down to get them into the jars. If you’re using sliced cucumbers, do your best to stick to the 5-minute processing time, to minimize the softening effects that the boiling water can have.

Makes 4 (1-pint/500 ml) jars

2 cups/480 ml apple cider vinegar

3 teaspoons pickling salt

8 garlic cloves, peeled

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided      

4 teaspoons dill seed, divided

2 teaspoons black peppercorns, divided

1 (overflowing) pint/600 g pickling cucumbers, left whole or sliced into spears

Prepare a boiling water bath and 4 regular-mouth 1-pint/500 ml jars according to the process on page 10. Place the lids in a small saucepan, cover them with water, and simmer over very low heat.

Combine the vinegar, 2 cups/480 ml water, and pickling salt in a pot and bring the brine to a boil.

Add 2 garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon dill seed, and 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns to each sterilized jar. Trim off the blossom end of the cucumbers and pack them firmly into the jars. You don’t want to damage the cukes, but you do want them packed tightly.

Slowly pour the hot brine over the cucumbers in each jar, leaving 1/2 inch/12 mm headspace. Gently tap the jars on a towel-lined countertop to help loosen any bubbles before using a wooden chopstick to dislodge any remaining bubbles. Check the headspace again and add more brine if necessary.

Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes.

Let these pickles cure for at least 1 week before eating.

Note: Make sure to stick with pickling cucumbers (also called Kirby cucumbers) for this recipe. Using other cucumbers will often result in a disappointing pickle, as they don’t hold their structure as well. Also, don’t skip trimming off the blossom end. It contains an enzyme that can lead to limp pickles.


Recipe reprinted with permission from Food in Jars © 2012 by Marisa McClellan, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.