I don’t make dill pickles anymore! I used to, for years. And when I did make them, many in my family like them and feel that the recipe I use is a great one. But in the past few years, I have not made anymore. Let me take you back to explain why, and share my pickle recipe with you.
In 2004, husband Norm and I bought our “forever home” in southwest Minnesota. In October of 2005, we retired from Historic Murphy’s Landing in Shakopee, Minnesota, and moved down here. Norm got a job and I stayed home, planning to start retirement in January.
On November 22, 2005, Norm fell and hurt his neck. He had only been working for about 6 weeks, so had no insurance at work. I took him to the VA in Sioux Falls, where they discovered that his neck was broken. He spent a week in the hospital, getting a “halo” to hold his neck still so that it could heal, as surgery was not an option.
Long story short, we had no income. Disability for Norm and Social Security for me wouldn’t be available for months.
Then my brother Charles stepped in. He sat with me at the kitchen table and said “how much money do you need a month?” I was looking at a house payment, electricity, propane (for heat and cooking) and food, at the bare minimum. It took a while to figure out just what we needed. When that was figured out, he promised me that he would give me that amount every month until we were able to handle it by ourselves. It ended up that he paid me, monthly, for 9 months!
When I told Charles that I would pay him back “some day” he said “Pay me in pickles!”
Beginning that summer, I grew cucumbers until they came out of my ears. I made dill pickles until THEY came out of my ear. Nearly every quart I made was for Charles. Now, Charles could eat a quart of pickles in less than one day. When I gave him pickles that had not “cured,” I’d put a date on the jars, wrap them in newspaper, and warn him to not TOUCH until they were ready. It was hard for him, but he made it, most of the time.
Charles got the majority of the pickles I made through the years. I let others have some quarts, but most were designated for my brother. I figured if I made 10 to 20 quarts a year, I would have him paid off in about 50 years or so. I continued making pickles for Charles until the spring of 2011.
That May, Charles left us. His passing was sudden and unexpected and devastating. And I have not made dill pickles since then. I gave away all the ones I had in the pantry so that I didn’t even have to look at homemade dill pickles. If someone in the house wants dills, we purchase them.
I still make pickles, but they are bread-and-butter, sweet sticks, sweet chunks, and other sweet pickles. The dill in my garden is used for baking and cooking and I give away most of it. Losing my brother has changed my pickling habits.
I want all of you to enjoy these dills–they ARE good ones! And think of my brother while you enjoy!
Now, here is the recipe that was the key to my success and Charles’ delight.
3 quarts water
1 cup vinegar
½ cup salt
fresh dill heads
Mix water, vinegar and salt in saucepan, bring to a boil, then cool. Fill sterilized quart jars with fresh crisp cucumbers; place 1 sprig of dill and ½ clove of garlic in each jar. Pour vinegar mixture over cucumbers, boil in water bath for 10 minutes. Use well water or other non-filtered water. Hard water makes better pickles. Let “cure” for a month, at least – 2 months if you can wait that long.
If the cukes are too large, cut in slices. I stuff in as many cucumbers as I can get into the jar. If they are sliced, you can bend them around and get more in.