I am all about taking measures into my own hands. That’s why, after moving to Norway and couldn’t find a dill pickle anywhere, I had to start making my own. Sure there were Polish pickles that resembled the classic North American dill, but they are loaded with strong overpowering flavors such as cloves. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good, but they weren’t what I was looking for or even use to. I wanted the simple, but intense dill pickle. You know, those ones found on McDonald’s burgers, or Subway sandwiches. They are lip-pursing sour and crunchy. Now, every autumn I make a yearly reserve of dill pickles because for me, no burger or submarine sandwich, or even a creamy tartar sauce is complete without that tart taste of a perfect dill pickle.
Sure it’s easier to buy them, might even be less expensive after you’ve paid for the bottles and all the ingredients, but if you can’t find them in your local supermarket, what’s a poor chef to do? …MAKE THEM YOURSELF! There is a wide array of pickling equipment you can buy to make the job easier and safer, and to those of you who own it or can afford it, I say go for it. On the other hand, dill pickles once a year is the extent of my pickling so I’ve opted to make my pickles in a much older fashion.
On one important note about the ingredients, you’ll notice I use calcium chloride in my brine. This ingredient is entirely optional …but you should know, when it comes to texture, those 2 tsp of C.C. makes all the difference. Calcium chloride is an additive in the pickling and cheese industry used to maintain a consistent texture. For pickles, it keeps them crunchy. Even after several months, after a pickle has been sliced, it will not go soft or mushy. Making pickles without calcium chloride will cause the pickles to soften and you just won’t get that crunchy high-quality pickle. Calcium chloride can be found in most pickling supply stores as well as cheese making supply shops. I buy mine online from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company for a very affordable price including shipping and handling.
So if you love dill pickles, and whether you can buy them in a store or not, try making them. It’s a fulfilling project to do on a quiet afternoon, but be forewarned…. The hardest part is waiting three months after you’ve shelved them. It’s not easy, but it’s absolutely worth it.
This recipe will make 5 (1-liter) bottles of pickles, but I easily triple the recipe for my year’s stash.
- 5kg medium pickling cucumbers
- 8 cups water
- 8 cups white vinegar
- 6 tbsp kosher salt
- 4 bushels of fresh dill
- 10 cloves of garlic sliced in half
- 2 tbsp mustard seeds
- 2 tsp calcium chloride (for preserving crunchiness)
- Soak cucumbers in cold water for at least 2 hours.
- Using a paring knife, make a slit at each end of the cucumbers
- In a large pot, bring to a boil the water, vinegar, and salt. Turn off heat after the mixture hits the boiling point.
- Meanwhile, in another very large stock pot fill with water. This will be for sanitizing the jars and also the water bath to safely seal the jars.
- Sanitize each jar and lids by boiling for 5 minutes. Remove jars and lids and place on a kitchen towel.
- Place a few sprigs of dill, two halves of garlic, and about 1 tsp of mustard seeds into each jar. Now vertically insert the cucumbers into the jar. You want them packed, but not too tight.
- Add the 2 tsp of calcium chloride to the brine mixture now and stir.
- Pour the brine mixture into each of the jars, covering the cucumbers and leaving a few centimeters from the lip of the jar.
- Tighten the lids securely to each jar, then place them into the simmering water bath.
- Bathe the jars for 15-20 minutes, then carefully remove and place on a kitchen towel. You will hear a popping sound within 60-90 minutes of the jars cooling. The lid will also be sunken in to indicate the jar is properly sealed.
- Store in cool dry place, upside down for the first 48 hours, then turn right-side up and wait three months for a perfectly preserved dill pickle.