My mother always made the best pickles I ever tasted--hot and garlicky and dilly. We appropriated her recipe a few years ago and dedicated a precious raised bed to the core ingredients--pickling cucumbers, dill, and garlic. Over the past few years, we've been experimenting with different additives (all natural) and techniques to increase crispiness. Last year we added grape leaves.
This year our strategy is to pickle once a week, only a few jars, and just harvest right-sized cukes. We reduced the number of plants so that we don't have much waste. We also found a new tip--trim both ends as the blossom end has an enzyme that yields mushy pickles. By trimming both ends, you have a nice uniform look in the jar...always a plus :)
We put up two jars last night. Here's Mom's recipe.
For 6 quarts of pickles…
In large pot, combine and boil for 15 minutes:
2 ½ qt apple cider vinegar
2 ½ qt water
1 cup kosher salt
Fill sterilized jars with:
2 large heads (or equivalent amount of small heads) of fresh dill
Pickling cucumbers, with their ends trimmed (we like them about 3 inches long and about and just over an inch in diameter
3 cloves of garlic
3 bay leaves
2 dried red peppers
1 tsp peppercorn
1 tsp mustard seed
1-2 grape leaves--this is supposed to help crispness, and I think it does. I've read that oak leaves and horseradish also help, but these pickles are plenty hot without adding horseradish to the mix!
We put one head of dill at the bottom of the jar, fill it half full with cukes, then add the spices so that they are scattered throughout for maximum prettiness, then add the remaining cukes, the other head of dill, and then whatever tiny cukes we can cram in.
Then pour the vinegar/water/salt brine to about ¼ inch from the top. Put on a fresh lid, screw on band (but not tightly), and boil in hot water bath for 15-20 minutes. We've been doing 20 minutes, but may reduce the time to help with the crispness.
DISCLAIMER: pickling is tricky business to ensure that you don’t introduce bacteria into the product. So I am sharing my recipe, but read up on the correct process before attempting to make these yourself.