by Tammy Taylor
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Recently I was given a handful of cucumbers from the veggie garden of a sweet friend. RancherMan won’t eat cucumbers any way but pickled, and a girl can only eat so many raw cucumbers. Instead I set out to preserve them. I use dill pickles often in deviled eggs, making pickle relish and in other dishes but especially in my homemade ham salad, so the decision as to what to do with these cucumbers was easy for me – DILL PICKLES!
My Secret For Making Great Dill Pickles!
Now I’ve made pickles before completely from scratch but I’ve never been pleased with the results. The pickles were often soft even when using special pickling cucumber varieties, adding addition, etc and the brine (no matter what the recipe I used) was always too strong for me. But one day I happened to be visiting a family member who had grown & pickled some of the cucumbers from his garden. He offered a taste of the finished pickles and I loved it! I asked what his secret was and he whispered “Mrs. Wages”.
I had never even heard of Mrs. Wages so he described the package to me and I went looking for it. (by the way I found that you can get various flavors of * Mrs Wages Pickling Mix from Amazon) I gave the Mrs. Wages dill pickle mix a try on our own cucumbers – finally, SUCCESS! That’s the only way I’ll make pickles anymore.
Preparing The Cucumbers
So now that I have a supply of cucumbers to pickle I washed & dried the cucumbers and cut about 1/4″ off each end (supposedly if you don’t cut off the bloom end it can lead to soft pickles.) I didn’t know what variety of cucumbers these were since they were gifts, they may or may not have been pickling cucumbers. Some of them were harvested a bit large for pickling, you usually want to pick the cucumbers when they’re still slender and the skin is dark green & bumpy. After they’ve swelled out they usually have already formed seeds inside and sometimes the cucumber will taste a little bitter or the skin will be tough.
On those larger cucumbers I figured I had nothing to lose. So I tasted a slice off of them to make sure they were not bitter. It was easy to peel them if the skins were tough, and cut the seed section off of each cucumber spear that had seeds formed.
I washed & dried my jars and heated water for my canning lids. I placed the flat disk of the 2-part canning lid into the hot water to soften the rubber seal & then went to work on the preparations. I cut up all the cucumbers, some with the seed section cut out, some peeled, some just sliced into spears.
Then I mixed up the Mrs. Wages mix per the package directions and got the mixture boiling, stirring constantly. I poured the hot mix into the packed jars leaving about 1/2″ from the top of the jar. A rubber spatula was used to remove any trapped air bubbles between the cucumbers. I wiped the rim of each jar, screwed on the 2-part canning lid and turned the hot jars upside down. I don’t like to process my pickles using a water-bath canner, as I’m concerned that may be one of the reasons my pickles were always soft. This procedure typically seals the lid fine overnight, then I can store them in the fridge.
Canning Safety Message:
I MUST say here that I’m not recommending that you skip the canning process, I’m just showing what I did with these cucumbers. I figure back in ‘the day’ they made pickles by soaking raw cucumbers in brine in big crocks in the cellar, so it must be the brine itself that preserves the cucumbers. I decided not to put my cucumbers through the water-bath canning process. BUT you’ll need to read the USDA’s recommendations on safe canning and decide for yourself.
Anyway I let the dill pickles sit in the brine for about 3 weeks to allow the pickling process to continue. The dill pickles were delicious! Although since they apparently weren’t pickling cucumbers they were still softer than we like for snacking. But they are great chopped into sandwich spreads like our homemade Egg Salad or even deviled eggs.
UPDATE: I planted heirloom pickler cucumbers and use them with Mrs. Wages mix to make pickles and they always turn out GREAT! I read that including a leaf from a grapevine right inside your jar will help keep the pickles crisp. Now I don’t know if it’s an old wives’ tale or not, but my pickles are always crisp now!
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