Making Pickles: Dill Spears, Bread and Butters and Dilly Beans Recipes

Small-batch canning has become a popular trend. What better way to preserve summer harvests than by making pickles?
By Andrea Chesman
August 2, 2012
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A farmhouse classic, bread and butter pickles are essential to the pickler’s pantry: sweet, spiced, crunchy.
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Relish summer harvests by making pickles and enjoying them throughout the fall and winter. Savor a crisp dill spear with a sandwich or top a hamburger with delicious bread and butters. With The Pickled Pantry (Storey Publishing, 2012) by Andrea Chesman, you’ll love making these and dozens of other fresh, contemporary recipes for pickling everything from apples to zucchini. These recipes are excerpted from Chapter 3, “Single Jar Pickles.” 

When I started making pickles, I was often frustrated by recipes that required making pickles in big batches, usually seven jars at a time, a canner load. If it was my first time working with a recipe, how would I know whether I’d like the end product enough to eat my way through seven jars? Working in large batches took effort, especially in the heat of summer. And if I only had enough produce for, say, five jars, the math was excruciating.

Then I had an idea: Why not figure out how to make pickles a single jar at a time? Initially, my goal was to introduce more variety to my pickle shelf and make the math simpler, but as I undertook the project, more and more advantages came to light.

By working in small quantities, I could take advantage of the limited amount of surplus my garden produced, while the vegetables were still at their peak. No waiting around until the refrigerator filled with cucumbers or beans. I could make pickles whenever I had an extra quart of fresh vegetables kicking around. When I had a little of this and a little of that, I could make a jar of mixed pickles, turning odds and ends into very delicious and showy pickles.

Experimenting with new recipes and new ideas became very easy with small batches. If it turned out I didn’t really like a particular recipe, there were no extra jars of an unpopular pickle. And when I chose to work with a large quantity, I just multiplied the recipe — the math was easy! Thus, my second book, Summer in a Jar, was born.

That book is now out of print. But small-batch pickle making remains popular with many. I was a little ahead of the curve when I wrote Summer in a Jar; since then small-batch canning has become the rule rather than the exception. It’s just one more trend in pickle making that has made our preserving efforts different from the way our ancestors used to approach the task.

The following recipes have been designed to fill one jar at a time, but they are easily multiplied to fill jar after jar. In fact, I expect that you will be multiplying your efforts most of the time. Eventually, I hope, you will find a few that you love to make year after year, whether your harvests are big or small.

Please note that all of these recipes are suitable for making with Pickle Crisp Granules. I did not mandate it in each recipe because the recipe will be successful without it, but it is highly recommended, especially for cucumbers.

Recipes for cucumbers generally call for a quick soak in salted ice water. The salt draws excess moisture from the vegetable, resulting in a crisper pickle. If you multiply a recipe for cucumbers, don’t use more than 6 tablespoons salt in the soak. Taste the vegetable after draining. If it is pleasantly salty, all is well. If it tastes too salty, give it a quick rinse in fresh water, until it tastes pleasantly salty to you. An undersalted pickle tastes flat.

The recipes that follow are designed to be processed in a boiling water bath for long-term storage, but you can skip the canning step and refrigerate the jars instead. If you choose this option, omit the Pickle Crisp Granules.

Canning pickles isn’t necessary. With single-jar recipes, it may make more sense to store the pickles in the refrigerator rather than deal with a full-size canner for one jar.

Kosher Dill Spears Recipe

By the quart

When cucumbers are coming on fast and furious, this is an excellent pickle to make, multiplying the recipe as needed for the amount of cucumbers you have. This is as close as you can get to a deli pickle with vinegar and water bath canning.

Ingredients
4 cups pickling cucumber spears, blossom ends removed (about five 4-inch cucumbers)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons pickling or fine sea salt, or more if necessary
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons dill seeds
6 sprigs fresh dill or 1 dill head
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
Pickle Crisp Granules (optional)

1. Combine the cucumbers and 1 tablespoon salt in a bowl. Cover with ice water and let stand for at least 2 hours, and up to 6 hours. Drain. Taste a spear of cucumber. If it isn’t decidedly salty, toss the cucumbers with an additional 1 to 2 teaspoons pickling salt. If it is too salty (which it never is for me), rinse in water.

2. Pack the garlic, dill seeds, fresh dill, celery seeds, mustard seeds, and peppercorns into a clean hot 1-quart canning jar. Pack in the cucumbers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

3. Combine the white vinegar, water, and remaining 2 teaspoons salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Pour the hot vinegar mixture into the jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add a rounded 1/4 teaspoon of Pickle Crisp to the jar, if using. Remove any air bubbles and seal.

4. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. Let cool undisturbed for 12 hours. Store in a cool, dry place. Do not open for at least 6 weeks to allow the flavors to develop.

Kitchen Notes for Making Pickles
• If you have the refrigerator space, don’t process these pickles in a boiling water bath — or don’t process all of them. Pickles that have not been subjected to heat will be crisper than those that are.
• It often happens that cucumbers are ready for harvest after the dill has already gone by. Use dill in any form: fresh foliage, mature seed head, or dried.
• I pack as many whole spears as possible into the jar vertically, then cut remaining spears into halves and pack those horizontally in the jar.

Classic Bread and Butter Pickles Recipe

By the pint

A farmhouse classic, bread and butters are essential to the pickler’s pantry: sweet, spiced, crunchy.

Ingredients
2 1/4–2 1/2 cups thinly sliced pickling cucumbers, blossom ends removed
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon pickling or fine sea salt, or more if needed
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
water
1 teaspoon mixed pickling spices, store-bought or homemade
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
Pickle Crisp Granules (optional)

1. Combine the cucumbers, onion, and salt in a large bowl. Mix well. Cover the vegetables with ice water and let stand for at least 2 hours, and up to 6 hours. Drain. Taste a slice of cucumber. If it isn’t decidedly salty, toss the vegetables with an additional 1 to 2 teaspoons pickling salt. If it is too salty (which it never is for me), rinse the vegetables in water.

2. Combine the cider vinegar, brown sugar, and turmeric in a saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

3. Pack the mixed pickling spices and celery seeds into a clean hot 1-pint canning jar. Pack in the cucumbers and onions. Pour in the vinegar mixture. The vinegar mixture will not cover the vegetables, so top off with the boiling water, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add a rounded 1/8 teaspoon of Pickle Crisp to the jar, if using. Remove any air bubbles and seal.

4. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. Let cool undisturbed for 12 hours. Store in a cool, dry place. Do not open for at least 6 weeks to allow the flavors to develop.

Kitchen Notes for Making Pickles
• If you slice your cucumbers paper-thin on a mandoline or other device, you will fit 2 1/2 cups of salted slices into a pint jar. If the slices are thicker, less will fit in.
• Extra salted cucumber slices are tasty in salads or enjoyed plain.

Dilly Beans Recipe

By the pint

Harvest snap beans daily to prevent them from getting overripe (when you can see the shape of the beans within the pod). An overripe bean can be pickled, but it will not be as tender as less mature beans. This recipe makes the classic dilly bean.

Ingredients
3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
6 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pickling or fine sea salt
2 garlic cloves
6 sprigs fresh dill, 1 dill head, or 1 tablespoon dill seeds
2 cups trimmed green beans (about 6 ounces)

1. Combine the white vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.

2. Pack the garlic, dill, and beans into a sterilized hot 1-pint canning jar. Pour in the hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles and seal.

3. Process in a boiling-water bath for 5 minutes. Let cool undisturbed for 12 hours. Store in a cool, dry place. Do not open for at least 6 weeks to allow the flavors to develop.

Read more: You can also preserve your harvest with delicious, fresh-pack pickles. Read How to Can Pickles: 3 Great Pickle Recipes from The Herb Companion for simple steps and recipes that make it a cinch to get started.


Excerpted from The Pickled Pantry (c) by Andrea Chesman, used with permission from Storey Publishing. 


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