Let’s be clear about one thing. I am a lot of things, but a mathematician I am not.
Instead of adding up numbers or figuring out right quadrangles, I’ve always been more of a visual kind of gal.
I can tell with one sideways glance when a picture frame is slightly askew. Let’s just hop over and fix that. There. Much better. I notice when the grocery store clerk gets a haircut. “Looks great!” “Oh, why thank you.” And it’s second nature for me to pick out the subtle variations of Periwinkle from Azure. Periwinkle for the win.
Therein lies the reason I was an art major.
I suck at math.
So when figuring out exactly how many cucumbers are in a bushel to share for this crazy good dill pickle recipe…well guys…you’re just going to have to join me and go with the flow on this one. Even though I did indeed get out my pencil, my calculator and conferred deeply with Google, my calculations may not be exact science.
But, then, except for baking, when ever IS cooking a science?
I’ve been scheming up to can some spicy, garlicky pickles ever since we returned home from our trip to Florida this past summer. At one of the little farmers markets I purchased a bottle of pickles that left me slack jawed and puckered. And I wanted more.
They were spicy. And dilly. And totally amazing. I mean, if you’re going to do it, do it big.
This spicy garlic dill pickle recipe we’ve concocted comes pretty darn close. Although truth be told, I wasn’t sure at first that it would be. Maybe it’s just a hazy mouth memory, but I’m going to say my version meets my pickled recollection.
My friend Sherrie is a master canner. She’s made pickles tons of times and came over with a recipe we adapted to make our own. Sherrie had heard a segment of NPR’s All Things Considered Lost Recipe series where a woman wanted to recreate her aunt Minnie’s secret pickle recipe.
The niece only had a few details to start with, so to reverse engineer the recipe, NPR turned to no other than the doyenne of canning on the www, Marisa of Food In Jars, who supplied some very helpful intel for pickling pickles and the base for this pickle recipe.
Say that five times fast.
Wide mouth jars are essential for canning pickles. I myself came up with a secret way to pack my pickle jars with all the dill and all the cucumbers. Simply tilt the wide mouth canning jars at an angle on tongs. Stuff away pickler!
But before that, I had to math. And let’s just reiterate, I suck at math.
But, How Many Cucumbers Do You Need?
I bought my cucumbers at the farmers market where they were sold by the basket. But is a basket a bushel? How many cups is that? And what in the heck did he say they weighed? Oh wait, he didn’t.
When I looked up how much a full bushel is, it says it is 48 pounds! Did I really buy half a bushel and lug home 24 pounds? Considering I once had a toddler that I lugged around that was that weight and I barely noticed, it isn’t unheard of.
So then I did the math.
Actually I discovered this PDF about pickling cucumbers that spelled it out for me. And it was pretty spot on. To my calculations. Ugh.
1½ to 2 pounds fresh cucumbers is equal to 1 quart canned dills (4-inch average). Okay. Breathe.
1 bushel (48 pounds) is equal to 16 to 24 quarts (average 2 pounds per quart). My brain already hurts.
Since I ended up with about 11 quarts, and I bought 2 baskets, I’d bought 1/2 a bushel. 1/2 a bushel equals 24 pounds and would equal 8 to 12 quarts. I was just about right on.
Wait…that’s right. Right?
About the recipe
This recipe starts with the homemade pickling spice mixture suggested by Marisa in the NPR segment, with some slight alterations. I cut down on the amount of allspice and I left out the red pepper flakes since I knew I was going to be adding whole, split Thai chiles for heat. If you want to try with habaneros, go for it, but you may want to cut down on the amount you do. Jalapeño’s may work too, but I think they’d change the flavor some and won’t deliver as much heat.
So back to that darned math. In the recipe below I’ve given you the amount of cucumbers, garlic and peppers you’ll need for the recipe, but really, you’re going to have to gauge it. If your cucumbers are bigger, cut them down to fit. If you like more garlic, toss more in. Or leave some out. Really want to heat it up? Add another Thai chile to a few bottles. I also used dried dill instead of fresh because I think dried is more pungent. I want these babies to be dilly-fied!
One tip for the pickles is trimming of the bloom end of the cucumber to prevent spoilage. Half of the time I wasn’t sure which was which so I just trimmed both. I like safer than sorry.
Marisa suggested using alum in the recipe to keep the pickles crisp. We couldn’t find alum and so didn’t use it and they’re still crisp to me even without. And spicy. And good. They’re so good. I also used half cider vinegar and half white vinegar. White vinegar gives these pickles more pucker.
I let these babies sit for about 10 days before I tried them. Oh man. They are really, really good. My mom likes to let hers sit for 3 months. I’m not sure how she can hold out that long, but it does seem that they get better with age. Although, I don’t think mine are going to last to find out.
- For the Homemade Pickling Spice
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons dill seed
- 1 tablespoon allspice berries
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 10-12 bay leaves, crumbled
- For the Spicy Garlic Dill Pickles
- ½ bushel pickling cucumbers, scrubbed clean and kept whole or sliced
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 4 cups water
- 5 tablespoons pickling salt
- Homemade pickling spice (2-3 tablespoons per jar)
- Dried dill weed from a 2 ounce package (2-3 fronds and stalks per jar)
- 10-18 small Thai red peppers, split down the middle leaving seeds intact (2-3 per jar)
- 20-30 whole garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed (4-5 per jar)
- For the Homemade Pickling Spice
- Add all of the ingredients to a small bowl and stir to mix.
- For the Spicy Killer Garlic Dill Pickles
- Prepare your jars and lids for canning. I run my jars through the dishwasher to sterilize and remove them while still warm.
- In a large stock pot bring the vinegars, water and salt to a simmer.
- To each jar add: 2-3 tablespoons of pickling spice, 2-3 fronds and stalks of dried dill week, 2-3 Thai red peppers depending on your preference and 4-5 whole garlic cloves to each jar. Pack the cucumbers whole or sliced into the jars so they are tight but aren't damaged in the process. The cucumbers should sit below the neck of the jar.
- Pour the brine into the jars leaving ½ inch headspace and just covering the cucumbers.
- Wipe the rims of the jars and use tongs to place the lids and rings (that have been sterilized in simmering water) on top of the jars. Avoid touching the lids where they sit on the jars with your fingers to avoid contamination.
- Process in a canner water bath for 10 minutes then remove the jars from the pot and allow them to cool on the counter. As the jars cool you will hear them pop as they seal. Sealed jars should feel solid when tapped and be concave in shape.
- Store in a dry cool place. Pickles will be ready to try in about 7-10 days but get even better over time. They can be stored for up to 1 year.
More Canning Info
If you’re looking for more info on canning, you really need to head to Food In Jars where she spells out everything you never knew you needed to know about canning. So have fun. Experiment. And get pickled!
Have a great day guys, and get in the kitchen to cook something good!
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