Summertime means loads of cucumbers. One vine can produce oodles of cukes, more than it seems possible to eat. What do you do with all of the lovely, left-over bounty from your garden? You pickle, of course.
Pickling helps with conserving, digestion, and sustaining vitamins sensitive to oxidation. According to my grandma, famous in Yuba-Sutter 4-H for her pickles, it’s important to make them.
“It perks up a meal. It adds a certain something,” she said.
Grandma’s homemade dill pickles raise quite the pretty penny each year at the 4-H auction.
Originally, my grandma received the recipe from Mrs. Carter, my mom and aunts’ piano teacher. Grandma has been making pickles from this recipe for about 50 years, so while my family may still call them “Mrs. Carter’s pickles,” to me, they’re a special connection to my grandma. I learned to pickle in her kitchen when I was 10. The process is a bit more comfortable than making jam because it doesn’t make the house as hot, and who needs any help with heat in the middle of the summer? I learned the art of packing cucumbers in jars, and believe me, it is an art. It’s like Tetris with cucumbers. There’s a certain satisfaction gained from completing rows of perfectly packed jars, awaiting their fermentation into a blissfully flavorful pickle.
Grandma’s Dill Pickles
Makes 5-6 quarts.
Boil 9 cups of water to 1 cup salt to make brine. Cool.
In each jar, place two grape leaves in the bottom. Put in a branch of fresh dill, 12-14 inches long, folded up. Pack in cucumbers – small ones tend to have the best flavor. Then put in 1 teaspoon of mustard seed, ½ teaspoon alum, 1 piece of horseradish root 1 inch long and ½ inch in diameter, 1 clove garlic (more if you’re a garlic lover), and ½ cup vinegar.
Fill the jars to the top with brine and seal.
Pickles will be ready in three weeks, but are even better in five or more. Pickles are best if eaten within a year.