In the Kitchen: Make Your Own Mustard Dill Pickles

While out trimming weeds this morning, I got stung by a bee right on top of my left foot. Any normal person, especially if they were allergic like I am, would immediately take care of said bee sting.

But I’m not normal.

And I had too many things to do today.

So instead of being smart, I hobbled in the house, took a couple of Benadryl capsules, and went back out to work in the garden, because I knew I had cucumbers I should have picked days ago so Farmer D could have his favorite pickles.

Mustard Dill Pickles

This is the basic recipe, but I’ll confess that I rarely weigh my cucumbers. I’m pretty good at eyeing them to judge how many jars I’ll need.

Generally, one of the big Tupperware bowls full makes one canner load of pickles (7 quarts).

  • 8 lbs. Fresh-Picked Cucumbers
  • 1 ½ c. Sugar
  • 1 c. Canning and Pickling Salt (*Do not use regular salt. It’s too coarse.)
  • 8 c. Apple Cider Vinegar (5% Acidity)
  • 8 c. Water
  • 6 Tbsp. Mixed Pickling Spices
  • Cheesecloth or Clean White Thin Cotton Handkerchief (I’ve used both)
  • 14 Bay Leaves
  • 14 Cloves of Garlic (You can cut the cloves in half if they’re large)
  • 7 tsp. Mustard Seed
  • 14 Fresh Dill Heads (or 7 tsp. Dill Weed and 7 tsp. Dill Seed)

Wash the cucumbers, cut a 1/8” slice off the flower end, and soak in ice water until ready to use.

I know, I know…they’re monsters!

Prepare canning jars, lids, and hot water bath.

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, salt, vinegar and water.

Tie the pickling spices in cheesecloth and add to vinegar mixture (cotton kitchen string or a strip of cheesecloth will work as a tie).

Pickling spice is a prepared mix of cinnamon, mustard seed, bay leaves, allspice, dill seed, cloves, ginger, peppercorns, coriander, juniper berries, mace, and cardamom.

Heat the vinegar to a simmer (180°F) and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove spice bag.

It kind of looks like I’m drowning a cheesecloth octopus.

If the cucumbers are small, you can leave them whole. Since mine were enormous (and should have been canned days ago), I cut enough off the flower end that they would fit in the jar, and then cut them into spears. You can also slice the cucumbers, or cut them into cubes…whatever makes you happy.

Cucumber spears ready to transform into mustard dill pickles

Heat the brine to boiling.

Pack the cucumbers into hot sterile jars, leaving ¼” headspace at the top. To each jar, add:

  •  2 bay leaves
  •  2 cloves (or pieces) of garlic
  • 1 tsp. mustard seed
  • 2 heads of dill (since I can never time the dill and the cucumbers to ripen at the same time, I use 1 tsp. dill seed and 1 tsp. dill weed).

I find it easiest to set out my spices and cleaned garlic before beginning the pickles.

Remove the brine from the heat and carefully ladle into each jar, leaving ¼” headspace. Remove any trapped air bubbles from the jars and wipe the jar rim clean.

Seal each jar with a lid and ring. Place in canner. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Make sure the water stays at a boil for the entire processing time.

Carefully remove jars from water. Place the jars somewhere they can rest undisturbed, away from heat or drafts, for 24 hours.

After the jars have rested, press down on each lid to make sure they have sealed (If the lid flexes, they haven’t. Store these pickles in the refrigerator).

Remove rings. Wipe lids and jar tops with a clean damp rag or paper towel. Mark the jars with the product and date—you can use fancy labels, but a Sharpie works just fine. Let jars set for at least two weeks before using.

Shhhh, the pickles are resting.

For canning basics, FAQs, information, and recipes, visit Canning Across America and The Ohio State University Extension.

*Note: I packed these spears in there pretty tight, so there was less room for the brine and I had some left over. Since cucumber season is upon us, I kept the extra brine and put it in the fridge for the next batch of pickles.

As hot as it’s been, that might be tomorrow.


One more thing I should tell you:

Because I’m stubborn and kept working today with the boo-boo foot (because who else was going to do this stuff?), I’m now in bed with a foot that is red and swollen, and looks like a water balloon.

Good thing I told Farmer D I’d only let him eat the pickles if he fetched me ice packs!

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3 Comments on “In the Kitchen: Make Your Own Mustard Dill Pickles”

  1. You are amazing – to persevere with the pickles, ignoring the bee sting! Hope your foot is on the mend.

  2. free penny press says:

    Wow, great pickle making post and they look delish!!!
    I love homemade pickles (especially the bread & butter kind)

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