When I was a little girl, my mom would pickle cucumbers in the summer time. She was so concerned that my sister and I would get burned that she made us sit at the round oak table away from the hot water bath. She’d plug in a little clock
radio on the counter and listen to the local AM station then start the process. Steam would fill the kitchen, even with the windows opened. We didn’t have air conditioning, but it didn’t matter. We never left that table–we couldn’t wait for the jars to cool so we could help Mom stack them in the pantry.
All winter we’d eat homemade pickles. Hearing the release of the lid would fill my head with thoughts of summer and gardening, cookouts on the back deck and the smell of garden soil after the rain.
These memories are what compelled me to teach myself how to can and preserve. My first canning attempt–dill pickles.
In the last three years, I have continued to tweak my pickling recipe. The first year–a bit too much salt. The second year–a first place ribbon for my pickled okra at the state fair. The third year–a cucumber that would hold up and keep its crunch in the pickling process.
The greatest affirmation of my pickling process and recipe–when my godson was in first grade, he announced with gusto, “Your pickles are better than a hot fudge sundae!!”
So here goes–tips and tricks for making great dill pickles/okra:
- soak cukes in salt water for 30 minutes before pickling; I don’t do that with okra, beans, or peppers
- use a peppercorn mix that has red, black, and white peppercorns
- in each 8 oz jar, include enough dried dill seeds to cover the bottom, peppercorns to cover the bottom, at least 2 cloves of garlic then several sprigs of fresh dill
- want spice? add a shake or two of red pepper and/or red pepper flakes
- I prefer plain ol’ white vinegar, but I add more water to it than the recipe calls for
- I have learned that Kosher salt works best every time
- I never use “pickling spice” from the store–just not sure what/how much is in there
- I learned to purchase cuke seeds that are made for pickling, and when I make pickle strips, I do cut out the seeds; round pickles, nah!
- I’ve pickled tri-color beans, banana peppers, green beans, and okra
Most importantly, make it your own–add herbs, spices, and extras–anything that tastes good to you and keeps ’em coming back for more!