Mrs. Dalton’s Dill Pickles

Sometimes I eat something and it is so good, I just have to know how to make it. That is the case with these pickles. The story goes back to my early teens. I was very entrepreneurial, and replied to an ad in Boys Life magazine about selling seeds door to door. It turned out to be pretty easy. Everyone wanted a few packs of seeds, and back then, they were just a quarter each (over time they went to $.40). I got to know a lot of folks in the surrounding neighborhoods, and found out what they all liked. I also got some seeds myself, and started my own garden to grow the things I liked. One of the things I like was dill pickles; so I grew pickling cucumbers. My mother and grandmother liked to can, so they helped me learn how to make pickles. They were OK, and I was happy.


A couple years went by and I was still selling the seeds, working at my dad’s cabinet shop when I could, and I decided to ask some of my seed customers if they needed any help. Just up the street from my house was a house shared by Mrs. Dalton and Mrs. Gordie. Sisters-in-law, their husbands had both passed away, so they lived together. They had plenty of work for me, and I liked being around them. Mrs. Dalton, in particular, loved to cook, garden, fish, and explore. I like those things, too! After I would finish the chores the needed, I would sit in the kitchen with them and talk. And that is where they shared this pickle with me. Oh man, this pickle was good! “How did you make this?” I asked.

Mrs. Dalton explained that it was very easy, and she gave me the recipe. I set to work right away on making myself some pickles, and I still make them the same way. Now, I make a variety of pickles, including some variations on this recipe, but it is tried and true. In fact, our son can eat a quart of these in one sitting if he were allowed to. I have frequently given jars of these pickles to friends, and they will rave about them, looking for more. I tell them how simple it is to make their own.

I usually plant a few varieties of pickling cucumbers in my garden. When they start to produce, the harvest is large. I keep the cucumbers in a plastic food lug, and when it is full, then it’s time to make some pickles. Wash then well. In particular, scrub the little spot where the blossom attaches. If you cannot get this spot to be white, then lightly trim off that end with a knife. If it is not cleaned well, this blossom spot will cause the pickles to soften in the jar.

A trick to these pickles is to pack the jars as full as possible, so I have found the best way to do that is to cut the washed cucumbers in spears. I usually do this while I run my jars in the dishwasher on the sanitizing cycle.

When the jars are clean, put jar lids and rings, which have been washed in soapy water (and rinsed), into a sauce pan of water and bring to a simmer.

I also set up my canner. I set the jar rack in the canner and just fill it to the point where the water hits the bottom of the rack when it is hanging on the sides of the canner (where you would put it to load or unload the jars). This way, when you put filled jars into the rack, they do not immediately hit the hot water, which could cause thermal shock and break the jars full of your hard work. Put the filled canner on the stove and start heating on Medium, but do not boil yet.

Now, in each of the hot jars, add the following:

*  ½ cup white vinegar
* 1T salt
* 1/8t Turmeric
* 3 black peppercorns
* 1 large clove garlic, smashed
* 1 hot pepper (use peppers to your taste, feel free to experiment)
* 1 flower/seed head of dill (if you do not have dill heads, then add 4-5 sprigs of fresh dill weed)

Pack the jar with cucumber spears, as tight as you possible can. I have a system where I stuff the longest spears in first, then fill the gaps with skinny pieces, and finally top the jar with small pieces. If you do this right, the vinegar will come almost to the top. If the vinegar does not come to the top, top the jar with clean water to ½” headspace. Put on the lid, and set the jar in the canning rack suspended over the hot water.

When the rack is full of jars, lightly set the canner lid on top of the jars to contain heat and turn the heat up to High to bring the water to a boil.  Lower the rack into the boiling water, and set a timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the jars from the canner and set on a towel with space in between to cool. The lids will pop to seal. Resist the urge to push down on the lids as this could make a false seal.

When cool, remove the rings from the jars. The lids will maintain the seal. Write the date on the lid, and store in a cool dark place. The pickles will be ready to eat in 3 months.  Make plenty, you will need them.



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