Sunday, May 13, 2012

Old Family Favourites - Grandma's Dill Pickles

Ok, I know I haven't written in a while, and it's partly due to sickness and thus a serious lack of concentration, partly being busy getting ready to go home, and partly due to another project that I'm starting here, which I've been working on a bit, and WILL come to fruition soon, but not yet! There will be more stuff coming though, including a post about the wedding I went to yesterday in Haiphong!

I'm writing this post from Taoyuan Airport in Taipei. I'm on my way home for a visit, and have an 8 hour layover here, so let's all give a big cheer for free wifi in airports! Yippee!!!

On to today's topic:

When I was a kid we used to spend days and days every summer canning things. The standard ones we did every year were strawberry jam, cherries, peaches, pears, apricots, sweet pickles, and dill pickles. Occasionally other things got added like bread & butter pickles or different kinds of jam, but these ones got made for sure! Mom used to make us stay and help, because it's a big job! I usually got the task of putting the fruit in the jars, because I had the smallest hands. We may have protested all the work at the time, but we were always glad to have that canned fruit in the middle of winter!

One of my favourite home-canned goods is Grandma's dill pickles. Mom always used Grandma's recipe, and they are the best dill pickles I've ever had, anywhere, anytime. No store-bought ones even come close. They're still crisp and crunchy, with just enough vinegary bite but still with a mellow dill flavour. I remember when my friend Amy used to come over to our house she'd always look in the fridge for pickles because she loved them so much too!

In Hanoi it's hard to find any good pickles, unless I pay through the nose at an imported food shop, and as I said above, they're still nowhere near as good as Grandma's. I hadn't really considered making my own until a friend said he'd seen baby cukes and was thinking of making some pickles, and it all clicked together in my mind. I knew I could get all of the ingredients quite cheaply, it was just a matter of finding some jars!

There's a shop in Hanoi called "Daiso", which is kind of a Japanese "dollar" store, except that everything costs 40,000 dong (about $2) and it's FULL of gadgets, trinkets, and crap you really don't need but it makes you think you do, or crap you do need but if you just stop and think about it you can get it far cheaper elsewhere. Any time I want something a bit unusual I head there. And I was in luck, they had some empty jars! The only problem was that they aren't proper canning jars with the two part lids, so I wasn't sure they'd seal properly.

I started by sterilising the jars. At home we did this in the dishwasher, but of course I don't have one, so I got out my biggest pot, filled it with water, put the jars and lids in, and brought it to a boil. Unfortunately not all 3 jars fit in at the same time, so I had to do it twice!

After I'd brought the jars to a boil and taken them out, I read something on the internet that said I should boil them for at least 10 minutes to make sure they're really sterilised. So I did it again!

When I was finally finished that, I assembled all the ingredients...

...I put some dill in the bottom of each jar....

Then added 5-6 cucumbers, two cloves of garlic, more dill, and filled them up with the syrup.

Don't they look pretty and bright in their jars? Unfortunately, as I was putting the lids on, I realized that one of them didn't fit very tightly. I tried to make it tighter and tighter, but it would just slip and become loose again. Oh well.

 I also realized that the pot wasn't deep enough to have the water covering the jars as they were boiling. That had me pretty worried, so I did only one the first time, and tipped it on its side, hoping that I had tightened it enough that the contents wouldn't leak out. No luck. The jar was only half full of liquid when I took it out of the boiling water, and the water smelled vinegary. Oops.

I let that one cool down while I tried the others, standing up this time, as full as I could get the water, and with the lid on the pot. When the first one had cooled down enough, I opened it up, poured more syrup in, screwed the lid on again, and did it the same way.

Unfortunately, not one of these sealed. I don't know if it's because the lids weren't tight enough to begin with, or because the water didn't cover them, or some combination of those things. Either way, now I have three jars of pickles curing in my fridge! I haven't tasted them yet because they need a while to pickle up, and I'm worried that I may have overcooked them, or gone overboard with the garlic and/or the dill, but the one I opened sure smelled right! Maybe when I get back from my holiday I'll try one - they aren't sealed anyway so it won't matter if I open one up, right?

Grandma's Dill Pickles*

13 cups water
5 cups vinegar
1 cup pickling salt (I used sea salt with no additives)
2 cups sugar

Combine water, vinegar, salt, and sugar and heat to boiling. Put dill in the bottom of the jar and fill it with cucumbers. Put more dill on top with two cloves of garlic. Pour the syrup over the top until just below the rim. Wipe and seal the jars. Process in a canner until the water boils. Make sure they seal!

*I think this should make about 8 quarts, but I used 1/4 of this recipe for my 3 small jars, with some syrup left over.

What a simple recipe! For some reason I was expecting something fancy but I should've known Grandma's recipe would be simple and straightforward. Often that's the best way!


  1. The pickles look great! It can be a nightmare finding specific western foods in asian countries. Thankfully we have relatives that can send goodies over.

    Might have to try the pickle recipe here one day, it looks good. Now where can I find some jars?

    1. Finding the jars is the biggest challenge! Once you have those the pickles are easy. Enjoy, and thanks for visiting!


Thanks for visiting! Please leave a comment and tell me what you think!