The dill in my garden is up to my knees and ready to harvest. Actually, I'm lucky it hasn't bolted. It's in dappled light by a ruined wooden post in the garden, so it's happy to list sideways in the breeze, leaning into the shade in a filigree of delicate leaves.
I use dill every year to make salads and pickles. It's also wonderful on grilled fish like salmon.
This year my garden also boasts pickling cucumbers as long as my little finger. A couple of cucumber plants are still so loaded with blossoms that bees hovering around them on sunny afternoons sound like a distant aerobatics show.
I plan on putting these two prolific plant varieties together for a tasty treat that's very flavorful but still low in calories.
Making Dill Pickles the Easy Way
If you like pickles but balk at the high grocery store prices, you can "cheat" your way to dill pickles using reserved pickle juice from your favorite jarred variety. Just slice cucumbers into the juice and refrigerate the mixture for a couple of weeks. Taste a pickle slice occasionally until you like the flavor. If you want to dill them up, throw a handful of fresh dill and a few whole peppercorns into the mixture. It works every time, and you can perform this wizardry in five minutes or less. Never throw out pickle juice.
If you don't use leftover pickle juice to make a quick pickle marinade, you can add a little to your potato salad. Just drizzle it over the warm potatoes for rich flavor that goes all the way to the center of your spuds. This is my hint for fast and easy pickles and dill-icious flavor. If you want to make pickles from scratch, here's my recipe:
How to Make Dill Pickles from Scratch
I make batches of pickles as my cucumber crop matures. I don’t restrict myself to pickling cucumbers, either. I pickle onions, carrots, broccoli, peppers, cauliflower, green tomatoes and anything else that looks interesting. The recipe below is for a gallon jar filled with likely (clean) pickling candidates. Use a wide mouth gallon jar (with a plastic screw top) and glass, ceramic, plastic or wooden implements. If you can't find a jar with a lid, you can use a covering of waxed paper and a couple of sturdy rubber bands.
Homemade Dill Pickle Recipe
For homemade dill pickles, you'll need:
1 quart distilled water
3/4 cup distilled white vinegar (Sometimes I'll substitute rice wine vinegar or red wine vinegar for a change of pace.)
5 tablespoons salt (Any variety will work, but Kosher salt is traditional.)
2 cups fresh dill leaves, small stems and a few blossoms
6 garlic cloves (peeled - optional)
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1-1/2 tablespoons prepared pickling spice
10 whole peppercorns
Clean the jar and lid thoroughly in very hot water. (You can also use multiple smaller jars if you prefer.)
In a ceramic or glass pitcher, combine the water, vinegar and salt. Stir to incorporate.
Place half the fresh dill and all the garlic cloves on the bottom of the jar. Hint: Whole vegetables will taste great, but if you love the strong flavor of dill, slit or slice cucumbers and other vegetables to increase contact with the liquid. You'll get a more flavorful bite. This goes for the garlic, too.
Add cleaned cucumbers (or other veggies) to the jar, packing them tightly.
Add remaining seasoning ingredients to the jar, cover with wax paper or the lid. Make sure the liquid completely covers the pickles. Shake thoroughly and place the jar in a shady spot on your countertop for two to three days. Refrigerate. Let the mixture "season" in the fridge until the pickles reach the flavor intensity you desire. I usually let them mellow for a couple of weeks or more.
For this process, I keep pickles refrigerated and don't can them using a hot water bath. They won't have as long a shelf (refrigerator) life this way, but they're easy to make and completely, crunchy fresh.
Hints and Tips for Making Dill Pickles From Scratch:
- Once I've eaten the pickles, I reserve the juice for fast pickling. I really can't let that wonderfully flavorful juice go to waste. I'll add end of season veggies -- you know, those green tomatoes that won't ripen and a few stunted peppers. Ten days in the mixture is enough to give them added flavor.
- All that vinegar and salt kills bacteria fast, so I don't worry much about contamination, but it pays to make sure that your container, mixing pitcher, utensils and produce are super clean before you use them. Sending the equipment on a trip through the dishwasher is a good idea. Oh, and to be on the safe side, use your equipment warm right from the dishwasher. (If you've turned your water heater down to save energy, make sure to crank it back up for this project.) Because the garlic is probably the most problematic ingredient from a bacteria standpoint, I always make sure it's on the bottom where it'll stay in the brine at all times.
- If you make batches of pickles in smaller containers, they're great to give away as gifts.
- For presentation (gift) pickle jars, add a yellow dill blossom for color, and instead of using red pepper flakes, slit whole hot peppers for the batch. The jar will look as good as it tastes.
- You can cut up produce for pickling, too. I like rough chopping different colored bell peppers with cauliflower and a few cherry tomatoes.
- Once prepared, your pickled veggies can be chopped or minced fine for use in other recipes, like coleslaw, macaroni salad and potato salad.
Photo Provided Courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1154949
Photo Provided Courtesy of Daniel L http://www.sxc.hu/photo/834468