Virginia Willis make Pickles, as seen on her Course Canning, Pickling and Preserving with Virginia Willis on Food Network Kitchen.
Recipe courtesy of Virginia Willis

Dill Pickles

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 14 hr
  • Active: 2 hr
  • Yield: 8 pints
Pickling cucumbers are often smaller than the traditional slicing cucumbers and have slightly thinner skins. It is important to always cut off the blossom end of the cucumber, which contains enzymes that hasten softening. The blossom end is the opposite end of the pickle side that was attached to the plant. And, if you don’t know which end is the blossom end, then cut off both ends! For crisp pickles, try to start the pickling process shortly after harvest and if you do need to wait a day or so, make sure to store the cucumbers in the refrigerator until you start to brine and pickle. And, if you are lucky enough to harvest them yourself or buy them at a farm stand, kitchen wisdom says to soak them in ice water to chill them before brining.


Salt Brine:

Vinegar Brine:



Special equipment:
Boiling water canner with a rack, canning tongs, canning funnel, 8 pint jars
  1. For the salt brine: Wash the cucumbers and using a paring knife, cut 1/16-inch slice off the blossom end (the end that was attached to the plant) of each and discard. Place the prepared cucumbers in a large container. Dissolve the salt in 2 gallons of room temperature water, then pour over the cucumbers and set aside for 12 hours in refrigerator. Drain, discarding the brine.
  2. Place a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet or line it with a clean towel. (This is to prevent the jars from directly touching the surface.) Set aside.
  3. For the vinegar brine: Combine 2 quarts water with the vinegar, salt and sugar in a large non-reactive pot. Tie the mixed pickling spices in a cheesecloth and add to the pot. Heat the mixture to boiling.  
  4. Meanwhile, place the canning rack in the canner and fill the pot with water; bring to a boil over high heat.
  5. Place 8 clean pint jars (see Cook's Notes) on the prepared baking sheet. (This will help contain any dribbles or spills and prevent the jars from directly touching the metal.) Place 1 clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon mustard seed, 2 heads fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dill seeds and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes into the bottom of each of the 8 sterilized pint jars. Add the drained cucumbers.
  6. For each jar, insert a canning funnel and carefully ladle in the vinegar, allowing at least 1/2 inch of headroom. Clean the rims of the jars with a clean, damp towel and tightly secure the lids.
  7. Using tongs, place the jars on the rack in the canner. The water should cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Cover the canner. Return the water to a boil and boil gently for 10 minutes (at altitudes less than 1,000 feet elevation; see Cook's Note). Using tongs, transfer the jars to a towel to cool. If the seal works and fits properly, the metal lid will be slightly concave within 24 hours of processing. Store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year.

Cook’s Note

Mixed pickling spices can be purchased in grocery stores. It typically consists of cinnamon, allspice, mustard seeds, coriander, bay leaves, ginger, cloves, red pepper, black pepper, cardamom and mace. To process quart-size jars, boil the jars for 15 minutes at altitudes less than 1,000 feet elevation. For both pints and quarts, add 5 minutes processing time for altitudes between 1,001 to 6,000 feet elevation or 10 minutes processing time for altitudes above 6,000 feet elevation. High-acid foods such as fruits, pickles, sauerkraut, jams, jellies, marmalades and fruit butters with a pH level of 4.6 or lower can be preserved by boiling water canning (low-acid foods, such as canned meats and fish, require a pressure cooker). Boiling water canning makes use of a large pot that’s tall enough to fully submerge canning jars by at least an inch of water. The pot is used for both sterilization of jars prior to filling and for boiling the jars once they are filled. You don’t necessarily need to purchase a boiling water bath canner if you don’t already have one. Any large, deep stockpot equipped with a lid and a rack can double as a boiling water canner. Keep in mind: The pot must be large enough to fully surround and immerse the jars in water by 1 to 2 inches and allow for the water to boil rapidly with the lid on. It is not necessary to sterilize jars beforehand if processing jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes of longer. The jars should instead be freshly cleaned and well washed in hot soapy water. Any jars processed less than 10 minutes must be presterilized and the lids and rings placed into simmering, not boiling, water. Rings can be reused, but lids should be new and used only once for boiling water canning.