Garlic Dill Pickles

Classic garlic dill pickles in vintage canning jars that are over 70 years old.

Classic garlic dill pickles in vintage canning jars that are over 70 years old.

This is a classic recipe graciously given to me by my aunt; passed down through three generations on her side of the family. I haven’t canned in 15 years and decided to take it up again. It’s a fair amount of work but a lot of fun. If you, like I, don’t have room for a cucumber patch in your garden, support your local farmer’s market. The selection I purchased this year was quite good despite very cold and wet growing conditions in June.

My aunt’s recipe was labeled as “kosher pickles” but this is a misnomer. True Jewish kosher-style deli pickles are not brined in vinegar and are always fermented and then chilled for several weeks. They are never hot-canned.

After sealing, be sure to leave them untouched in a cool, dark storage area for at least two months before opening so the flavors have time to set.  They will keep for at least one to two years if the seal is undamaged. Once opened, store in your fridge for up to six months.

These make fantastic gifts and my hot pepper pints are a welcome treat in the middle of winter.  Enjoy!



1 quart 5% vinegar
3 quarts filtered water
1/2 cup canning salt
1 tsp. Alum (Pickle Crisp may be substituted; measure and use according to directions)

30-40 small pickling cucumbers, about 3-5″ in length, dark green, firm and bumpy
1-2 heads fresh dill per jar
2 whole large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed, per jar
1/4 cup sliced white onion, per jar
1/2 tsp. whole peppercorns, per jar
1/2 tsp. dry coriander or celery seed, per jar
1/2 tsp. dry mustard seed, per jar
1 large dry bay leaf, crumbled, per jar
1 fresh wild grape leaf, per jar (the tannins in the leaf act as a natural crisping agent)
1 trimmed garden habañero pepper, per jar (optional)


1 large canning kettle, with wire rack insert
Glass canning pint or quart jars with new lids and rings
Magnetic lid/ring lifter (used to remove from boiling water bath)
Canning tongs (used to remove hot pint or quart jars from canning kettle)
Small vegetable scrubber brush
Sharp paring knife



The brine measurements indicated above will made about 5 quarts of pickles, depending on volume packed in each jar.

Prepare your ingredients and brine solution prior to final assembly so you have everything ready and at hand.

Wash the glass jars, rings and new lids in hot soapy water. Rinse thoroughly.

In a medium sauce pan, bring a quart of water to a rolling boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the jar rings and lids. Sterilize for two minutes. Turn off heat.

In a large, non-reactive 6-quart soup pot, add 1 quart of 5% distilled vinegar and 3 quarts of filtered water. Bring to a rolling boil and add the canning salt and alum. Stir well and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

Wash and scrub the cucumbers in cold water. Trim 1/8″ off of each end. Slice, chunk, or leave whole based on your preference.

Add the grape leaf, onion, crushed garlic, and dill to each jar. Add the dry spices. Pack the cukes tightly in the jar until filled up to the neck of the opening, leaving about 1″ headroom. Stuff any voids with more onion. Top off with dill. Wipe the jar rim with a clean damp cloth.  Fill carefully with brine 1/2″ to the rim. Gently tap jar to ensure any air pockets are removed. Center jar lid and screw down ring until only finger-tight, taking care to ensure that nothing blocks the contact point of the jar rim and lid.

Process in hot water bath according to directions (10 minutes rolling boil for pints; 15 minutes for quarts.) Water bath should reach the very top of the jar neck. Remove immediately with jar tongs and set aside on a towel until cool; about 8-12 hours. After ten minutes or so, the lid should pop down, forming a vacuum seal. When fully cool, inspect lids and ensure there is no play in the center of the lid.  If the lid pops or moves when pushed it is NOT sealed. Refrigerate any unsealed jars for future use. They will keep for up to six months chilled.


Helpful Tips:

15 minute boil for quart jars; 10 minutes for pints, per directions.

Cut the tips off of each cucumber to avoid softening. There is an enzyme in the blossom end of the cucumber that must be removed by trimming. You only need to trim 1/8″.

Use small, bumpy cukes for best flavor. Avoid larger ones with yellowing – they are overripe.

Ensure air pockets are removed from jars before sealing with lids by tapping the jar lightly on the counter.

Lids must be sterilized in boiling water for at least two minutes. Do not touch the contact seal on lids after sterilization. Use a magnetic lifter wand to handle lids and jar rings when removing from hot water.

Coriander seed, bay leaves (crumbled), mustard seed, dill seed and peppercorns may be added as a home prepared pickling spice.  DO NOT USE commercially prepared pickling spice as it may contain cinnamon or cloves. True “Kosher-style” pickles do not have these two spices.

Use only pickling salt! Do not use regular table salt or kosher salt. Measure carefully according to directions based on volume.

Kirby cukes are traditionally used for pickling.

If you notice a dark, cloudy discoloration in the brine, or your pickles have an odd smell on opening, DO NOT USE.  Dispose of the contents without tasting. Food poisoning isn’t worth the risk.

Lids may only be used ONCE. Rings may be used every season, provided they are not rusty. Inspect glass jars for chips or cracks and discard if necessary. Glass jars may also be reused indefinitely.

NEVER set a hot glass jar that was just processed in boiling water on a cold counter. It will crack or explode. Always place on a thick dish towel or oven hot pad and allow to fully cool before handling.

Have fun and don’t burn yourself!

Wild grape leaves growing on a fence line. The natural tannins in the leaves assure crisp pickles.

A wild grape vine growing on a fence line.
The natural tannins in the leaves assure crisp pickles.

Kirby Cucumbers from a Local Farmers Market | Culinary Compost Recipes

I prefer the small Kirby cucumbers for pickling. They are about three inches long.
They hold up better when brined, and are super-crisp.


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