The way out here: food

What's the big dill?

Posted 8/26/20

There are some smells in the morning that fill your nose and welcome the morning with a warm and aromatic transition from a slumberly dirge to a functioning status. As I awoke this past weekend from …

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The way out here: food

What's the big dill?


There are some smells in the morning that fill your nose and welcome the morning with a warm and aromatic transition from a slumberly dirge to a functioning status. As I awoke this past weekend from a late night of work, nothing would have made me more complete than simply to smell the coffee brewing that my wife had prepared for breakfast. Stumbling out of bed, I managed to summon the motivation to don my robe and open the bedroom door to our open kitchen/living room. Breathing deeply, I anticipated the dark and wholesome scent of caffeine but was immediately filled with soured motivation and regret as I was slapped in the face with a smell that was, in every way, the antithesis of breakfast.


My wife had been picking cucumbers all week and filling our refrigerator with what turned into a Saturday morning task of beginning the pickling process. What I had walked into was a cloud of vinegar from the brine that she was boiling on our stove. Yes, the coffee was made and it certainly helped, however, the vinegar was the unabashed rockstar of the morning, waking me up not in the gentle fashion of perhaps an acoustic guitar with plucky pleasantness, but rather the electric-guitar sounds of a young metal-head, blasting me with its style and pungent notes whether I wanted it or not.

Most of the stove’s burners were occupied. The canning pot sanitized the jars to prepare them for filling. The brine pot was filled with a mixture of spices that created all that pickly magic. Another small saucepot held extra hot water to sanitize the lids for sealing. 

She planned to make three batches of pickled goodness: kosher dill, bread and butter and a sweet relish. The dills are mainly for her, the bread and butter pickles for me and the relish is a new one she looked up in order to fuel our massive consumption of tartar sauce. What can I say, we like fish and there is but one supreme condiment for them.

Unbenounced to me, since I had been working late the day before, my wife had washed and cut those cucumbers that she had designated for the kosher dills into spears, carefully removing the tips so as to circumvent the softening enzyme that is held there. Nobody likes a mushy pickle. She then salted the pot full of spears and stored them in the fridge until morning, approximately 12 hours. Upon daybreak, whilst I remained in bed to saw logs, she got up and prepared the brine or pickle juice. Alongside this, the canning pot held the fresh clean jars in a bath of slowly boiling water until they were needed. Carefully handling all of the jars and lids so as not to touch the inside where they had been sterilized, she proceeded to stack her salted cucumber spears into the jars and ladle brine into them until adequately filled. Then she affixed the lids and stacked them evenly in the submersible cage in the canning pot before lowering each batch into the boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Upon lifting them back out, she grasped them with her special canning tongs and transferred them to the kitchen table that has since been filled with dozens of pickle jars filled with flavor.

While I may not have had the pleasure of a fresh pickle that morning, the lingering smell was much more gratifying than the initial shock of vinegar in the air. I may or may not have had a swig or two of that brine before it was gone as well. Credit for her recipe goes to Angela Williams Duea, author of a fabulous resource titled “The Complete Guide to Food Preservation.” My wife recently purchased her book and has been canning up a storm ever since.

Quick fresh-pack dill pickles

Yields about seven to nine pints

8 pounds of 3 to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
2 gallons water
1 1/4 cups canning or pickling salt (divided)
1 1/2 qts vinegar (5 percent)
1/4 cup sugar
2 qts water
2 tbsp whole mixed pickiling spice
about 3 tbsp whole mustard seed (1 tsp per pint jar)
about 14 heads of fresh dill (1 1/2 heads per pint jar)
or 4 1/2 tbsp dill seed (1 1/2 tsp per pint jar)

Wash cucumbers, cut a 1/16-inch slice off blossom end and discard, but leave a 1/4-inch of stem attached. Dissolve 3/4 cup salt in 2 gallons of water. Pour over cucumbers and let stand 12 hours. Drain. Combine vinegar, 1/2 cup salt, sugar and 2 quarts water. Add mixed pickling spices in a clean white cloth. Heat to boiling. Fill hot jars with cucumbers. Add 1 tsp mustard seed and 1 1/2 heads fresh dill per pint. Cover with boiling pickling solution, leaving 1/2–inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel. Adjust lids and process in boiling water of canning pot for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and allow time for cans to seal.

From “The Complete Guide to Food Preservation" by Angela Williams Duea



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