What is it about a dill pickle that everyone loves? Of course there is the anticipation of the pleasant tangy flavor that makes you salivate before even taking the first bite, but there is something even more important – the audible crunch of the perfect crispy pickle! We love our tried and true dill pickle recipe below, but it wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t crispy.

No one wants to open a jar and bite into a soft and mushy pickle – even if the flavor is outstanding.  So why is it so difficult to get a pickle to become crunchy?  There are several reasons.

Fresh pickling cucumbers ready to be processed into pickles.
Fresh pickling cucumbers ready to be processed into pickles.

The most important way to avoid mushy pickles is to use fresh picked, pickling cucumbers.  Some people don’t realize that standard garden salad cucumbers are not ideal for making pickles. Those cucumbers tend to be larger and contain a thick seed base than pickling cucumbers. And of course, you don’t want to use them if they are overripe. When picking, look for a slim and dark green cucumber with prickly bumps on the skin. If it has begun to yellow or become overly swollen, it will not make a good pickle – save that one to enjoy as a snack or with a salad.

Another important tip to making crisp pickles is to make them within hours of picking, whenever possible.  The water in cucumbers begins to evaporate soon after picking, leaving them to soften quickly. And that means soft and mushy pickles. Also, make sure to cut off the blossom end of the cucumber.  The tip contains an enzyme that can change the overall chemical balance in your pickles causing them to soften.

Pickles can be made by using the water bath method - be sure to follow a specific recipe
Pickles can be made by using the water bath method – be sure to follow a specific recipe

Another possible reason that you might get mushy pickles is by over-processing them.  It is best to have your hot water bath close to a boiling point when hot packing your jars so they don’t spend excessive time in the hot water.  There are also recipes that call for low temperature processing where you keep the water bath temperature at 180 degrees F and process for 30 minutes. If you do try this method, make sure to find a recipe that calls for low temperature processing. We use the Ball Water Bath Canner and Tool Kit to easily make our pickles. 

What about using the ingredient alum, that my grandmother used to tell me about? Alum is no longer a recommended additive for canning pickles per the FDA. However, some people recommend using lime to make crisp pickles. This involves soaking pickles in lime for 24 hours and then making sure to remove all the lime before pickling by washing and soaking the cucumbers in water, because it is not safe to leave lime on the skin during the canning process.  I am not sure about you, but I don’t want to soak my cucumbers in anything that isn’t safe to eat.

Grape leaves from our vineyard will be used to make our pickles crisp.
Grape leaves from our vineyard will be used to make our pickles crisp.

And finally, our secret to crisp pickles – adding half of a grape leaf to each jar.  This really isn’t a secret, rather an old method that has been passed down from generation to generation.  These tannin-rich leaves keep lacto-fermented foods crispy, without negatively effecting the taste of the pickles. For us, it is easy to use grape leaves – we just gather a few from the vineyard, but you can find them by asking neighbors, local vineyards, and of course picking them from wild crops (just make sure they are grape leaves without poison ivy, oak, etc….).

This recipe is our standard dill pickle recipe – but feel free to add additional spices to make them to your liking.

Dill Pickle Recipe – with Grape Leaves

*makes 7 pints

Ingredients:

6 lbs. pickling cucumbers (approximately 3-4 cucumbers per jar)
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water
4 tbsp. pickling salt
7 garlic cloves, peeled
7 tsp. dill seeds
3 1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
4 large, fresh grape leaves

Instructions:

Add spices to the bottom of each jar before adding the cucumbers
Add spices to the bottom of each jar before adding the cucumbers

1. Prepare jars – wash or sterilize them in the dishwasher – keeping them hot.

2. Start water bath now – you want it close to the boiling point by the time you are ready to add your jars.

3. Wash cucumbers – making sure to scrub the skin thoroughly.

Cut cucumbers in spears, wedges or slices
Cut cucumbers in spears, wedges or slices

4. Cut off each end of the cucumber, and slice, dice or spear as desired.

5. In a medium sauce pan, over medium high heat, bring vinegar, water and salt to a boil.

6. In each jar, add 1 garlic clove, 1 teaspoon of dill seed, and 1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns to the bottom.

After adding the the hot brine, release the air bubbles by running a plastic utensil down the inside of your jar.
After adding the hot brine, release the air bubbles by running a plastic utensil down the inside of your jar.

7. Pack cucumbers tightly into each jar.

8. Pour hot brine over cucumbers, leaving 1/4 inch head space.

9. Run a plastic utensil on the inside of the jar to release any air bubbles.

10. Add 1/2 of a grape leaf on top of the cucumbers.

11. Wipe top of jar with a clean damp cloth, add hot lid and band.

12. Place in hot water bath and process for 10 minutes at a roiling boil.  (adjust time based on altitude as required)

Add a half of a grape leaf to the top of the jar for crisp pickles.
Add a half of a grape leaf to the top of the jar for crisp pickles.

13. Remove jars and place on a thick towel. Let cool at room temperature for 24 hours.

14. After 24 hours, check to make sure the jars are sealed by pressing down on the center of the lid. If it does not ‘pop’ then it is sealed. If you are able to press down on the lid, place in the refrigerator and use within 2 weeks.

Wait at least 2 weeks before eating your pickles for maximum flavor.
Wait at least 2 weeks before eating your pickles for maximum flavor.

**It is best to wait at least 2 weeks before opening your first jar of pickles — believe me, it’s worth the wait!

Enjoy!

Mary and Jim

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Crisp Dill Pickles
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Ingredients
  1. 6 lbs. pickling cucumbers (approximately 3-4 cucumbers per jar)
  2. 3 cups white vinegar
  3. 3 cups water
  4. 4 tbsp. pickling salt
  5. 7 garlic cloves, peeled
  6. 7 tsp. dill seeds
  7. 3 1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  8. 4 large, fresh grape leaves
Instructions
  1. Prepare jars - wash or sterilize them in the dishwasher - keeping them hot.
  2. Start water bath now - you want it close to the boiling point by the time you are ready to add your jars.
  3. Wash cucumbers - making sure to scrub the skin thoroughly.
  4. Cut off each end of the cucumber, and slice, dice or spear as desired.
  5. In a medium sauce pan, over medium high heat, bring vinegar, water and salt to a boil.
  6. In each jar, add 1 garlic clove, 1 teaspoon of dill seed, and 1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns to the bottom.
  7. Pack cucumbers tightly into each jar.
  8. Pour hot brine over cucumbers, leaving 1/4 inch head space.
  9. Run a plastic utensil on the inside of the jar to release any air bubbles.
  10. Add 1/2 of a grape leaf on top of the cucumbers.
  11. Wipe top of jar with a clean damp cloth, add hot lid and band.
  12. Place in hot water bath and process for 10 minutes at a roiling boil. (adjust time based on altitude as required)
  13. Remove jars and place on a thick towel. Let cool at room temperature for 24 hours.
  14. After 24 hours, check to make sure the jars are sealed by pressing down on the center of the lid. If it does not 'pop' then it is sealed. If you are able to press down on the lid, place in the refrigerator and use within 2 weeks.
Notes
  1. It is best to wait at least 2 weeks before using.
  2. Recipe courtesy of Old World Garden Farms
Old World Garden Farms http://oldworldgardenfarms.com/

32 thoughts on “The Perfect Dill Pickle Recipe – And The Secret To Crisp Pickles!

  • October 12, 2016 at 5:46 pm
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    Hi, the grape leaf is a great tip! Do you ever ferment your pickles? I’ve found that they tend to be crunchier than standard pickling, and they have all kinds of good bacteria! Check out this recipe if you’ve never tried it- it’s super easy, and you can use this with any kind of veggie! http://www.spoiledtoperfection.com/recipe_pickled-carrots.php Cheers!

  • August 8, 2016 at 2:28 am
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    Can I dill weed, couldn’t. find seeds…

  • August 4, 2016 at 6:36 pm
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    What is the purpose of grape leaves.

  • August 3, 2016 at 8:27 pm
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    Can I use quart jars and just double the recipe

  • August 2, 2016 at 5:27 pm
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    I live at very high altitude so I do not have fresh grape leaves. However, my sister has grape fines. Can I use dried grape leaves? She gave me some leaves, however, I am not ready to make pickles for another week or so.

    • August 2, 2016 at 7:33 pm
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      Make plans to see your sister in the next week, or whenever you ARE ready. If that is impossible, then have her mail some to you. It only takes two days to get to your front door. In some instances,one day, if the conditions are right.

  • September 28, 2015 at 3:04 pm
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    Thanks, hope maybe I can find some alum around here for crispiness. As for dill, I was lucky to find a packet of seeds 3 years ago and got a little bit, but the resulting seeds didn’t grow and impossible to fine here now. As for grape leaves, I’ve never seen or heard of grapes grown anywhere in the Philippines, so that’s absolutely a no-go. I”m just going to have to try my luck with what I can find and/or grow here. Sigh. $7 for a small jar of imported pickles – when you can find any – is way too much.

    • December 30, 2015 at 10:49 am
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      I have read that tea leaves will work the kind in you have in the kitchen … it is the tannin sp? in these that work … I think it said about 1 tsp per jar. Search for recipe using tea leaves. Hope this helps

  • August 3, 2015 at 7:34 pm
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    My pickles tasted very vinegary. What did I do wrong and/ or what do I need to do different

  • July 27, 2015 at 10:47 am
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    Can you use grape leaves in other types of pickles, such as sweet?

  • July 22, 2014 at 10:55 pm
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    Looks delicious! Can I use fresh dill from my garden- maybe a head per jar?

    • July 23, 2014 at 8:31 am
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      Absolutely! In general 1 tablespoon of dill seed = 3 heads of fresh dill. So one head per jar would work!

  • July 18, 2014 at 9:07 am
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    This is great! I just watched an episode of “Victory Garden” about pickling. They used grape leaves in the pickles for crispness. The timing of your recipe is perfect!

  • July 11, 2014 at 1:09 pm
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    Are these pint jars?

  • July 1, 2014 at 3:34 pm
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    Hello,
    This might be a dumb question but following the above recipe, how long will these be safe to store?

  • June 30, 2014 at 12:32 pm
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    I pickled peppers would a grape leaf in the top help them?

  • June 27, 2014 at 12:05 pm
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    We LOVE homemade pickles & your recipe is going to be used soon. Would you happen to have a good recipe for watermelon rind pickles? Here in South Georgia, watermelons are a food group unto themselves during the hot summers!

  • June 27, 2014 at 12:01 pm
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    I have added the grape leaf to each jar the past two years, and it really does make a difference! I also grow my own dill and use it in the jars. I like the way it “looks”, plus makes me feel good to know how fresh it is. I want to plant garlic this fall, after reading your post on it. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

  • June 27, 2014 at 11:23 am
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    yummy! So good. I will def have to try this. Our neighbors have grape vines running all over their yard. I am sure they won’t mind. πŸ™‚

  • June 27, 2014 at 11:08 am
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    What is pickling salt? Can I just use sea salt?

    • June 27, 2014 at 1:34 pm
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      Generally no. Pickling salt has a specific sodium and mineral content ideal for pickling. Any other salt will result in pickles being too salty.

  • June 27, 2014 at 10:53 am
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    Are you using pint size jars?

  • June 27, 2014 at 9:49 am
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    Great article. I like the addition of the grape leaf. I’ll have to try that with my own recipe!

  • June 27, 2014 at 8:32 am
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    Can you make these without using grape leaves?

    • June 27, 2014 at 8:45 am
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      You sure can Karen – it is just an extra way to make them more crisp.

  • June 27, 2014 at 8:16 am
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    Sorry misread the article the refrigeration was for an unsealed jar. Sorry. How long can you store these on the shelf aprox.
    Thanks

    • June 27, 2014 at 8:26 am
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      No problem at all πŸ™‚ They can store about a year on the shelf – and thanks for the compliments on the blog! πŸ™‚

  • June 27, 2014 at 8:14 am
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    Love the idea of the grape leaf. You state to wait 2 weeks but then say use within 2 weeks seems like you would have to be gobbling down a lot of pickles. Also any idea how to keep them longer not refrigerated.
    Thank You love your helpful emails

Comments are closed.

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