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Pickling is one of those time-honored Southern traditions that I really didn’t know much about before moving to Atlanta. But open up a fridge in any home around here and you’re very likely to find a jar of something pickled! While you can pickle all kinds of veggies, dill cucumber pickles are the ultimate classic.
Not only do they serve as a delicious garnish to put on burgers and sandwiches, but they can also make a tasty snack, straight from the jar. And they are always very well received as gifts… there’s something undeniably charming about a mason jar stuffed full of pickles and adorned with burlap and gingham!
This is an easy, fool-proof, no-fuss approach to pickling, that my husband adapted from a recipe by chef Hugh Acheson (and which can be found in his fabulous book, “A New Turn in the South”).
Follow these simple steps, and you’ll end up with fresh, crunchy, perfectly seasoned pickles every time. However… in all honesty, there’s really no right or wrong way to prepare them. You should feel free to experiment with the proportions of spices and types of vinegar to suit your personal tastes.
Total time required:
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
What you’ll need:
- 2 quart size wide mouth Mason Jars
- 1 pound pickling cucumbers, quartered into spears
- 5 sprigs of fresh dill
- 1 white onion thinly sliced (the onion is optional, but it adds flavor to the pickles and also makes a terrific condiment for a variety of salads, sandwiches, appetizers etc.)
- 1 – 10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (we love garlicky pickles and use at least 8 – 10 cloves!)
- 1 – 3 teaspoons mustard seeds (we use about a tablespoon)
- 4 black peppercorns (we use a heaping tablespoon)
- ½ teaspoon dill seeds
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt (use generous tablespoons)
- 1 cup cider vinegar, white vinegar or a ½ and ½ combo (cider vinegar is the classic type in these types of pickles)
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Tightly pack the cucumber spears, onions, dill, red pepper flakes, and garlic into a clean quart jar.
TIP: hold on to any leftover spears – when the hot pickling liquid is added to the jar, the cucumbers will shrink a little enabling more to be packed in.
Next, combine the mustard seeds, peppercorns, dill seeds, salt, vinegar, and 2 cups of water in a clean, medium stainless-steel pot and bring to a boil. Once the salt is completely dissolved, turn the heat off and ladle the hot pickling liquid into the jar to within ½ inch of the top.
Adjust the lid and process according to the jar manufacturer’s instructions. NOTE: we submerge the mason jars in boiling water for 15 minutes. This sterilizes and creates a vacuum seal.
At this point, the pickles are just about ready, but they’ll be at their best a day or two later. Pop them in the fridge and serve cold. The shelf life, without hot canning processing, is about 10 days. With proper canning, it is 6-8 months.
And that’s all there is to it! This recipe yields one quart of pickles, but can easily be multiplied.