A few years ago, when I first started canning, I was completely overwhelmed. I was reading the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, and quite honestly didn’t know the difference between water bath canning or pressure canning. I didn’t know what the difference between cold pack versus hot pack was, and I certainly didn’t know what processing time or head space meant! I was completely clueless – and I didn’t know where to start.
The thing is, once I got it figured out, I was hooked. I’ve canned everything from tomatoes, to applesauce, to homemade jam. I even can my own homemade taco sauce!
If you’re new to canning, homemade pickles are the easiest way to get started. You don’t need any special canning equipment, just glass jars, lids and rings. It’s quick, easy, and nearly impossible to mess up.
Begin by sterilizing your jars, lids and rings by boiling them for 5 minutes. (You don’t want any bacteria making it’s way in to your pickles). Once they’ve been properly sterilized, remove them from the boiling water and place them on a clean towel on your counter.
I make pickles two ways – sliced for burgers and sandwiches, and spears for eating straight from the jar. To slice pickles, I use my mandolin (one of my five must have kitchen tools), and for spears I just use my knife to slice the pickles into quarters.
Combine the water, apple cider vinegar, distilled vinegar and salt in a large sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.
While the vinegar mixture is heating, begin packing each jar with cucumbers and then add a few sprigs of dill, a couple cloves of garlic (more or less, depending on your personal preference) and a handful of peppercorns. (When I’m making pickles for my husband, I always throw in a handful of dried chili peppers from the garden.)
Once the vinegar is boiling and all the jars are packed it’s time to make the pickles!
To make the pickles, use a ladle to carefully fill each of the pickle jars with vinegar, leaving 1/2 inch of head space at the top.
After filling each jar, quickly place a lid on top and secure with a metal ring. (Caution! The jars will be really hot – don’t try to handle them with bare hands!)
Once the jars have been filled and the lids are in place leave them on the counter for at least twelve hours before moving them. Within a few minutes you should start hearing a popping sound, which indicates that the jars have been sealed.
Store the pickles in a cool, dark room for at least two weeks before eating them. These pickles last on the shelf for up to 6 months. (If you want longer storage, you can process them in a water bath canner for 10 minutes and they’ll last for a year on the shelf.)