Easy Dill Pickles

Dill pickles are easier to make than you think. With a few tips and tricks about brining and knowledge of what cucumbers to use, you'll be able to make your own homemade delicious dill pickles.

Jump to Recipe (or scroll for photos...)
Advertisement - Continue Below
Jars of dill pickles on a white wooden table.

How to Make Dill Pickles

Making your own homemade dill pickles is not difficult. In fact, you might be surprised at just how easy it is. So easy that you might even be a little disappointed that you haven’t done it before. All you need are cucumbers (the right kind), some pickle brine (made with your homemade pickle spice), some garlic and dill (totally optional) and some canning jars. 

Advertisement - Continue Below
Spices for pickle brine in little glass bowls on a white wooden table.

Pickling Spice Blend

Whenever you’re making pickles of any kind, the first step is to make your pickling spice blend. Here’s where you can make your personal mark on your pickles – by customizing your spice blend. The key to dill pickles, of course, is to make sure you have dill seed in your spice blend because that is where all the dill flavor comes from. Now I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again – make sure your spices are relatively fresh. We all keep our spices for longer than is ideal, but fresh spices will impart more flavor. No-one likes to throw out food, so buy your spices in smaller quantities more often and try to use fresh spices for your pickles because this is one place where the spices really matter.

Advertisement - Continue Below
Kirby cucumbers in a glass bowl of ice water and on a white wooden table with a blue and yellow striped kitchen towel.

What Cucumbers to use for Dill Pickles

While you can pickle almost any vegetable, the best cucumbers to use for pickles are, no surprise, pickling cucumbers. You can read all about the different varieties of cucumbers here, but essentially when you are choosing a cucumber for dill pickles, you want a cucumber that has good flavor, few seeds and a skin that is not too bitter. The most common type of cucumber for this purpose are called Kirby or Liberty cucumbers. They are shorter, with a bumpy skin and have a nice crisp texture. Persian cucumbers will also work. Whichever you choose, pick cucumbers that feel firm, with no blemishes and no wax on the skin. Freshness is important with your cucumbers as well – the fresher the cucumber, the better the chances of making crisp pickles.

Advertisement - Continue Below
Cucumbers trimmed on a cutting board with a red handled knife.

Trim the Blossom End (or both!)

Your cucumbers will require a little preparation before you turn them into pickles. The first step is to wash them well and then soak them in salted ice water for several hours. This draws the moisture out of the cucumber and helps it stay crispy – the same holds true for a cucumber salad. Remember to rinse the cucumbers after they have soaked. Another tip to help you keep your cucumbers crispy is to trim the blossom end of the cucumber. The blossom end contains an enzyme that softens the cucumber over time. If you don’t know which end is the blossom end (pictured next to the knife in the photo above), just trim both ends of the cucumber, giving it a more uniform look.

Advertisement - Continue Below
Cucumbers, dill, pickling spice and empty pint and quart jars on a table.

What Jars to Use

With your cucumbers prepped and your pickling spice blended, it’s time to fill your canning jars. This recipe will fill 8 pint-sized jars or 4 quart-sized jars, or a mix of the two. It is critically important, however, to make sure that those jars are completely clean and sanitized. You can do this by putting the jars and lids in a large pot of water and bringing the water to a boil for a minute, or by using the sanitize setting on your dishwasher. Let the jars and lids sit in the hot water or warm dishwasher until you are ready to pack the cucumbers into the jars. It’s also a good idea to sanitize any tools that you’ll be using to pack the jars – tongs, a funnel and of course, your hands.

Advertisement - Continue Below
Hands packing cucumbers into jars for dill pickles.

Packing the Jars

Once you have popped a clove of garlic, some pickling spice and perhaps a few sprigs of dill into the jars, pack the cucumber spears into the jars tightly. It can be like a game of Tetris to fit the cucumbers together as efficiently as possible, but more cucumbers means less brine per jar, which will save you having to make more brine.

Advertisement - Continue Below
Hands pouring hot pickle brine into jars of cucumbers.

Use Hot Pickle Brine

The brine is a quick fix – just bring the salt, sugar, vinegars and water to a boil. Pour the hot brine into the jars, making sure you cover the cucumbers completely but leave a little room at the top of the jar. 

Advertisement - Continue Below
Dill Pickles packed into jars before canning.

How Long will Dill Pickles Last?

You can stop at this point and keep your pickles in the refrigerator for several weeks or… you can keep on going and process the jars in a hot water bath, extending their shelf life to a year. The canning step is not difficult, although by processing the pickles you will cook them a little and they will be a little softer than if you just keep them as refrigerator pickles. If you’re up for canning… read on.

Advertisement - Continue Below
Lowering jars of dill pickles into a canner.

How to Can Dill Pickles

Canning anything is much easier if you have the right equipment. You’ll need a really large pot, a rack and some tongs at the very least, but if you plan on canning more than once, getting a canning kit makes the whole process very easy. Bring the very large pot of water to a boil and then lower the jars into the water. Knowing exactly how much water to bring to the boil can be tricky, since the jars will displace a lot of the water, but you need to have enough water to cover the jars completely. The easiest way to do this is to lower the jars into the water before you bring it to a boil. Add enough water to cover the jars by at least 1 inch and then remove the jars, turn on the heat and bring the water to a boil. Lowering the jars into the water after it boils helps minimize the time the pickles spend in the hot water and therefore minimizing how much they get “cooked”.

For quart jars, boil the pickles for 10 minutes and then leave the jars in the hot water for another 5 minutes before removing them to a towel-lined countertop to cool. For pint jars, boil the pickles for 10 minutes and then remove them right away. As the jars cool, the lids will “pop” and seal. If any jars lids to not seal properly (you’ll know because you’ll be able to press on the lid and make a popping sound with your finger), store them in the refrigerator. Otherwise, your canned pickles will last at room temperature for up to a year. 

Advertisement - Continue Below
A sandwich on a plate with a dill pickle spear and a glass of beer.

So You Have Pickles… Now What?

I doubt you need help knowing what to do with your new homemade dill pickles, but just in case you want ideas other than going alongside your favorite sandwich or burger… a little chopped up pickle is a nice addition to tuna salad and once you have finished the pickles, the brine is a perfect marinade for pickle-brined fried chicken. Of course, another nice thing to do with your homemade pickles is to give them away as gifts. Your friends will be impressed and everyone loves a homemade gift.

Once you’ve mastered your dill pickles, why not try their sweeter cousin (and my favorite), bread and butter pickles. They can be canned the same way.

Dill Pickles

  • Prep Time: 1 h
  • Cook Time: 20 m
  • Total Time: 1 h 20 m
  • Servings:
    64
    (makes 4 quarts or 8 pints)

Ingredients

Pickling spice:
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons dill seeds
  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon crumbled bay leaves (about 10 to 12)
Pickles:
  • 5 pounds pickling cucumbers
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (with 5% acidity)
  • ¼ cup pickling or Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 large bunch dill with stems and flowers
  • 8 cloves garlic

Instructions

  1. Rinse the cucumbers with cold water and slice off the blossom end of the cucumber. If you are not sure which end it is, just slice off both ends of the cucumbers. Soak the cucumbers in salted ice water for 4 to 5 hours. (The water should taste salty - use about ⅓ cup of salt per 1 gallon of water.)

  2. Sanitize the jars and jar lids by placing a rack in a large pot filled with water. Place the jars and lids in the pot. Make sure the jars are completely submerged in the water. Bring the water to a rolling boil and then turn off the heat and cover with a lid. Keep the jars warm until ready to use. (You can also use the sanitize setting on a dishwasher. Run the cycle close to the time you are ready to use the jars.) If using, sanitize tongs and funnel this way as well.

  3. Rinse the soaked cucumbers with fresh cold water and dry them with a clean kitchen towel. Slice, quarter or halve the cucumbers, or leave them whole. Trim the ends so they fit in the jars leaving ¼-inch of space at the top.

  4. Place a clove of garlic, a sprig of dill and 1½ teaspoons of pickling spice in each pint jar. If using quart jars, add 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon of pickling spice and 2 sprigs of dill in each jar. Pack as many pickles as you can into the jars without crushing them. If making pickle chips, pack them in random directions so they do not all stack on top of each other. Top with another small sprig of dill or the dill flower head. (You can also put the dill on the sides of the jar for a pretty look.)

  5. Place the water, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, salt and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil.

  6. Once the brine has boiled, carefully pour the hot brine into the jars with the cucumbers. Tap the jars to remove any bubbles and wipe dry the rims of the jars. Cover the jars with the lids and tighten with the bands, just fingertip tight.

  7. Return the large pot of water with a rack in the bottom to a boil. Place the jars back into the pot of water on the rack, ensuring that the jars are covered with water by at least 1 inch. Process jars in boiling water for 1o minutes. If you are using pint jars, remove them at this time. If you are using quart jars, turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the hot water for another 5 minutes before removing them.

  8. Carefully remove the jars from the water using tongs or a jar lifter and let them rest on a towel on the counter. The jars should seal or “pop” as they cool down. Place any jars that do not seal properly in the refrigerator where they will be good for 1 to 2 months. Properly sealed pickles should last up to a year. Enjoy and share with your friends and family!!

Advertisement - Continue Below
Advertisement - Continue Below
Advertisement - Continue Below

Comments (4)Post a Reply

  1. We used to canning pickles etc. Now we don’t down size our home to apt living and we miss a big garden . We don’t canning nothing any more we miss it but we wish we can but our health is not good any more .we wish we can get fresh veg s or homemade canning .jam or
    Any kind we don’t drive have to give it up to paid other doc Bill’s we live in our need your easy recipe sound good have a good day

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *