Mouth-watering dill pickle recipe from my Grandma Zelda
Grandma’s house always had a distinct smell.
No, it wasn’t that classic “grandma smell.” 🙂
It was THESE pickles. Grandma’s pickles. The best pickles on the planet!
- Packed with flavor unlike any pickles sold in the grocery store.
So without further ado, here’s Grandma’s pickle recipe with tons of useful tips.
But first, here’s a little background on Grandma Zelda and her pickles.
Love, laughs and pickles
Grandma’s life was a lot like her pickles: Zesty and full of spice.
Zelda, as she was known to non-grandchildren, lived in St. Paul, MN for most of her life.
She was charming, engaging and wryly/dryly funny.
Great audience, too, laughed at all my (bad) jokes.
She was also a classic grandma. She loved to eat and feed her loved ones.
Sometimes she served brisket. Sometimes she served banana bread. Sometimes she served cold cuts.
But she ALWAYS served some of her homemade pickles.
This pickle recipe is credited to my grandma.
But here’s the deal:
I’ve had similar homemade pickles that didn’t use my grandma’s recipe. In fact, in a blind taste test, I probably wouldn’t know the difference between hers and another version.
But of the “other versions” of homemade pickles I’ve come across, the ones that taste like Grandma’s were all of Minnesota origin.
Share these pickles with someone from Minnesota, and they’ll be familiar with the taste. People from other states, on the other hand, usually haven’t tried anything like this.
Now that I reside in Chicago, maybe that’ll change 🙂
Useful tips for Grandma’s Pickles
These pickles are easy to make. Since there’s no cooking involved, just pickling, they’re hard to screw up.
But there’s several tricks I’ve picked up over the years.
Here are some of the most useful tips in making Grandma’s pickles.
Go to the farmer's market to get the ingredients. Shop local.
Late July is the prime season for pickling cucumbers. Any earlier or later, and you'll have a tough time finding the cukes you need.
Rinse and scrub the veggies. The cucumbers we got were mostly clean, but it never hurts to get any remaining dirt off the crevices.
Grandma's pickles come whole, but we experimented with coin slices for one of the jars. Will let you know how it went.
Use proper knife technique. That is, unless you have a drink in hand. And isn't that half the fun?
Wait until the end to clean up. Lots of preparation and slicing before you're ready to load the jars.
Fill the gaps between cukes with the other veggies (carrots, celery, etc). Insert the thinner end, first. Makes it easier to wedge 'em in the crevices.
This is pickling spice. Not the easiest to find, but in most grocery stores if you look hard enough.
Use a pitcher to add (filtered) water. Helps get the level perfect.
Yes, that's my Vitamix container.
Gently flip the jars upside-down and back to mix. No need to shake 'em.
Legend has it that the pickles end up more consistently flavored if they're set to "cook" in a cool, dark and quiet place where they won't be disturbed.
Or, perhaps that was just the natural condition of my grandma's basement!
UPDATE 2015: Learnings from Year 2: Break the process into two days. Day 1 is getting all the supplies. Day 2 is prepping, jarring, and pickling.
Do not used radishes or colored carrots.
If you get baby cucumbers, keep them whole. If you can only find larger pickles, don't hesitate to slice them into spears (quarters).
When picking pickling cucumbers, be sure to avoid the soft ones. They may be okay to pickle, but are probably close to going bad. (We learned this the hard, ehem, soft and squishy, way.)
Grandma's pickles. Homemade and super flavorful.
- pickling cucumbers - 5-10 whole (as long as they're packed tight)
- carrots - couple of spears
- celery - couple of spears
- hot pepper - one whole (serrano is good)
- garlic - 1 clove (whole)
- kosher salt - 1 T
- pickling spice - 1 T
- sugar - 1 t
- dill - 1 small handful
- water - filtered, if possible
- Wash / scrub cucumbers + all other veggies.
- Peel carrots, garlic.
- Cut carrots and celery into spears.
- Add cucumbers to jar.
- Add other vegetables.
- Add salt, pickling spice, sugar, garlic.
- Add dill.
- Add water to the top.
- Cover and close the jar.
- Turn over once or twice (gently) to mix.
- Store in a cool, dark, quiet space.
- Turn over (and back) daily.
- For half-dills: Pickle for 2-5 days.
- For full-dills: Pickle for 5-10 days.
- For crazy-spicy dills: Pickle for 10-21 days.
- Ingredients above are for each jar.
- Estimated time is for one jar. We made 24 jars. Excluding the farmer’s market and grocery store runs, it took us about four hours.
- After a few days, the pickle jars will start to “cook.” You’ll start to hear the jars * pop * from the tops expanding. Let them continue cooking unless they start to leak. If they do leak, twist the jar open to release pressure.
- Open the jars over the sink. There’s usually a lot of pressure (pickle juice) that will need to be released.
Last thing: Give a jar or two (or ten) away. Few gifts bring this much joy. You’re welcome. 🙂