Our family absolutely LOVES homemade dill pickles, but the crunch factor is important! If you’ve ever bit into a limp dill pickle, you’ll know what I mean. 🙂 There are definitely some tricks to getting crunchy dill pickles! Follow this recipe exactly as it’s written and you’ll have crunchy dill pickles that your whole family will love.
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Canning is not something that came naturally to me.
I didn’t grow up with a mother or a grandmother who canned… at least not in my presence. However, when I became a mother, I was intrigued by canning.
I loved the look of home-canned goods, lined up on a shelf.
I loved the idea of becoming a little more self-sufficient, by ‘putting up’ my own food.
I loved the idea of having control over ingredients in the things we were eating.
I loved the idea of reducing our waste/recycling by re-using the same jars over and over again.
I decided to start by thinking about what food items we were already buying in jars, and then figuring out how to can them myself.
Dill pickles… that was something we spent a lot of money on! By this point, I was already a conscious consumer, so I was buying the ‘Bubbies’ brand of pickles… which were a fermented pickle with high quality ingredients, BUT they cost a fortune, so I had to ration them.
I was a little nervous to try my hand at fermenting, but I decided to give pickling a go.
I knew that my family would likely turn up their nose at mushy pickles, so my mission was to find the BEST crunchy dill pickle recipe, and I believe this is it! I get compliments on these pickles ALL the time.
Let’s get to work!
How to make crunchy dill pickles
If you’ve never canned before, you’ll want to take the time to read up on basic canning safety. How to properly sterilize your jars and tools, how much head space to leave at the top of your jars, what food items can be safely water bath canned, and which ones need a pressure canner.
These things are what I spent the MOST time reading about and understanding before diving in. Once you get that stuff down pat, the recipe part is fairly easy!
I recommend a reputable book, like this Ball Canning Book.
Next, you’ll want to gather your ingredients and supplies.
Ingredients for Crunchy Dill Pickles:
For 24 quart sized jars of pickles, I used:
- 1/2 bushel of cucumbers (approx. 3″ long)
- Enough garlic for 96 cloves (whole cloves if small, or if large you can cut them in half) – 4 cloves per jar.
- Enough dill for 2 pieces of florets in each jar. (Large florets can be ripped into 2-3 pieces). Save the fluffy stuff for dehydrating, but you won’t use the fluffy stuff in this recipe.
- 2 gallon jugs of vinegar (you won’t use all of it but you will need more than one jug)
- Filtered water (I used tap water because we’re on a well and have good water. If yours is chlorinated, I’d recommend either filtering it or buying a big jug of bottled water).
- A box of pickling salt.
Supplies for Crunchy Dill Pickles:
There are some supplies you’ll need for canning, but the good news is, you’ll be able to use them over and over again!
Here are the basic supplies you’ll need for crunchy dill pickles:
24 quart sized wide-mouth jars (they usually come 12 to a box, so buy 2 boxes)
If you are re-using old jars, just make sure there are no chips or cracks in them (especially along the rim, which would prevent the lid from sealing). You’ll also need new lids, as you can’t re-use old lids for canning.
If you’re new to canning, I’d recommend getting a canning starter set like this one. It will have all the tools you’ll need to begin canning.
You’ll also need a stock pot for boiling your brine. Mine is a nice heavy duty one that I got at Home Hardware. In fact, if you have a local Home Hardware, I’d recommend going there for all of your canning supplies – they will have everything you need! For those of you who don’t, I’ve included Amazon links.
A good, basic stock pot is something you will use frequently when you’re canning. Make sure it’s heavy duty so that your food won’t scorch on the bottom. This is not something you want to cheap out on.
Directions for Crunchy Dill Pickles:
1. Soak your cucumbers
When I get my cucumbers home, I immediately transfer them to a cooler full of ice water. This is an important step, as it keeps them crisp so they don’t wilt. I bought my cucumbers the day before so I soaked them overnight. You’ll want them in an ice bath for a minimum of 2 hours, but you don’t want them in there too long. Ideally you’d can them the same day, but I didn’t get home with them until evening, so I soaked them overnight and started canning in the morning.
2. Prep your kitchen
If you’ve never canned before, I’ll give you some basic tips.
Prep. Your. Kitchen.
Make sure all your dishes are washed and put away. Counters are clear. If you have anything taking up counter space, you’ll want to move it elsewhere. Counter space is your friend when you’re canning. You’ll be moving quickly because everything has to stay hot, so you won’t want to be messing around with having stuff in your way.
If you have a family that demands regular meals (lol), I recommend starting canning immediately after you’ve finished a meal and cleaned up, so that no one will be in your kitchen trying to make food while you’re canning. I actually prefer to can at night after supper, because it’s the last meal of the day and I don’t have to worry about how much time I have before it’s time to make the next meal. However, this time I wanted to do it during the day, so I just put supper in the crock pot first, so that it would be ready to go by the time I was finished with my canning.
Basically, just prepare.
This will take longer than you think, especially if you’re new to canning.
3. Prepare your canning supplies
If your jars are brand new, remove the rings and lids and set them aside.
Sterilize your jars. If you have a dishwasher, you can use the sanitize cycle of your dishwasher. If you don’t have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you’ll have to boil them. Read your canning book for specific instructions on sterilizing.
4. Prep your ingredients
While your jars are sterilizing, prep the rest of your ingredients. I like to sit at the kitchen table to do this, because it takes awhile, so you might as well get comfy. I bring my laptop and put on some Netflix or Youtube to help pass the time.
Peel your garlic and cut large cloves in half (leave small ones whole). You’ll need a total of 96 cloves or pieces (round up to 100 just for fun).
Rip your dill florets into smaller pieces (or leave whole if they’re small). You’ll need a total of 48 pieces of florets.
Once that’s done, you can move onto your cucumbers. I do these in batches because they take up a lot of room. I can fit about 6 jars’ worth in a large bowl, so basically every 6 jars I clean and trim more, leaving the rest in the ice bath.
Using my hands, I grab a cucumber out of the cooler and clean it – rubbing it with my hands in the water to remove any dirt. Using a paring knife, I slice about 1/8″ off the blossom end of the cucumber.
(if you don’t grow cucumbers, they start off as flowers, then turn into a cucumber. The blossom end is the end where the flower was attached, which is opposite to the stem end).
The blossom end contains enzymes that can cause the cucumber to soften. If you want crunchy dill pickles, removing 1/8″ from the blossom end helps keep them crunchy. Keep doing this until you’ve filled up the bowl.
5. Make your brine
Next, you’ll need to make your brine. You’ll want to do it in as large a batch as fits in your stock pot, using the following ratio:
2 cups vinegar
6 cups water
1/3 cup pickling salt
What fits in my stock pot is 4x the above ratio:
8 cups vinegar
24 cups water
1 1/3 cups pickling salt
Once your jars are sterile and hot, bring your brine to a rolling boil.
6. Prepare your lids
Place your lids in a sauce pan on the stove, making sure they’re not stuck together. I did 12 at a time, rather than all of them at once. Bring them almost to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. This keeps them nice and hot, which also softens the rubber seal, helping them seal to your jar.
7. Fill your jars
When your jars are sterile and hot, your ingredients are prepped, and your brine is boiling, it’s time to pickle!
I recommend only doing 2 jars at a time so they stay hot. If your dishwasher keeps them really hot, you can remove them from your dishwasher 2 at a time. If they start to cool down, transfer them to your oven and keep them at 175 degrees.
I add the ingredients in the following order:
2 garlic cloves
1 dill floret
cucumbers (as many as you can cram in there)
2 garlic cloves
1 dill floret
Using a metal funnel, pour in the boiling brine almost to the top (I leave about 1/2″ of head space).
Do this for both jars
Remove the funnel, and using a clean, damp towel, wipe the rim. This is important because if there is any brine on the rim, your lid won’t seal.
Using your tongs, place a clean, hot lid on top of the jar.
Add your jar ring and screw until finger tight. You don’t want these too tight as then air won’t be able to escape, and the lid won’t seal.
Carefully move your jars (I used oven mitts) to another location where they are out of your way and won’t be disturbed. I put layers of tea towels on the kitchen table and set them on that.
Continue this process until you’ve used up all of your cucumbers, cleaning and slicing more cucumbers and re-making brine as needed. I find that a half bushel of cucumbers yields me 24 jars. Depending on how many you stuff into the jar, you may end up with slightly more or less.
Let your jars sit out, undisturbed, overnight.
8. Check your seals
The next day, check your seals. The lids should all be sucked down (no little bubble sticking up on the top). If you see that the lid is not sucked down, they did not seal, and you’ll want to put those directly into the fridge.
Remove the screw bands. I store mine without screw bands as they have a tendency to rust if left on. Plus, I think they look prettier without, and then I can re-use my screw bands when canning other things.
After I remove the screw bands, I pick up each jar by the lid to double check the seal. I give it a gentle tug to make sure it’s on there good.
9. Put ’em up!
Wipe off the jars (the brine can leave a salty film on the jar if you spilled any), and store in a cool, dry place in your home.
You’ll want to let them sit for a good 6-8 weeks before using them, so they are truly ‘pickled’! The longer, the better!
A note about the ‘open kettle’ canning method:
You’ll notice that I didn’t put the jars in a boiling water bath after I canned them. This is called the ‘open kettle’ method of canning, where you just make sure everything is REALLY hot and sterile when canning. This is no longer considered an acceptable canning practise, but if you ask any old-timers, they would say they NEVER boiled their pickles. That’s because you’d end up with mushy pickles. They probably didn’t boil their tomatoes either, and open-kettle canned those, too.
The open kettle method is the KEY to getting crunchy dill pickles.
If you’re uncomfortable with this method, I’d recommend finding another recipe that uses a water bath.
Do NOT water bath this recipe, as the ratio of vinegar to water is not sufficient for water bathing – water bath recipes will use more like a 50/50 water to vinegar ratio.
Your family’s safety is your responsibility when canning, so I’d recommend doing some research on open kettle canning, and then make the decision if you’re comfortable with it or not.
My family LOVES this crunchy dill pickle recipe and we’ve never had any issues with the pickles going bad, or with anyone getting sick.
As with any other decisions you make for your own family, do your research and use your discretion.