I've had several nicknames, mostly nice ones, but my favorite is the one I've worked hard to earn.
My uncle calls me Pickle Princess. He is something of a pickle connoisseur, and I know how to make a mean dill pickle.
I love canning and preserving. When we moved back from Tucson, I asked my Grandma Bonnie to tutor me in the fine arts of canning. She always had pickles, jelly or stewed tomatoes going in her kitchen. I was really interested in making jelly, but she told me in no uncertain terms that I was to learn how to make pickles, so that she could have some. I agreed, and an obsession was born.
I've made a few different recipes over the years, but the one I found that wins the taste test every year is Short-Brine Dills, which I've adapted from The Joy of Pickling. I made them today.
Short Brined Dill Pickles
12 lbs 3 to 5 inch pickling cucumbers
1 1/2 c. pickling salt, divided
2 gallons + 2 quarts water
7 1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
16 garlic cloves, sliced
16 shallots, chopped
40 teaspoons mustard seeds
40 dill heads, plus fronds if you'd like
40 black peppercorns
20 small dried chili peppers
40 grape leaves
The cast of characters:
1. Gently wash the cucumbers, slicing off the blossom ends.
Then, dissolve half the pickling salt in the 2 gallons of water, in a large bowl or crock. Add the scrubbed cucumbers, and let them sit overnight.
2. Drain the cucumbers the next day. Wash and sterilize 20 quart-sized mason jars and lids.
3. In a stainless steel pot, bring the remaining 3/4 c. pickling salt, the 2 quarts water, the vinegar, and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.
4. While that stuff is heating up, divide your garlic, dill, grape leaves, mustard seeds, shallots and peppercorns among the jars.
5. Stuff each jar as full as you can with cucumbers, then pour the hot vinegar mixture over the top of them to within 1/2 inch of the rim.
By the way, you'll likely get to your last jar and have tons of cucumbers left over. Start squeezing them, it won't hurt. I always manage to get more into the jars when I go back to get the leftovers in.
6. Close up the jars with your lids and rings, and process them for 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath.
Don't be too disappointed when this happens. I manage to break one jar every single time. I have just come to expect it.
7. Store them for at least a month before you open a jar.
Bonus points if you enter them in your county fair! I'm really going to do that this year, I swear!!!