Holiday Gift Idea: Homemade Sour Dill Pickles
One of my favorite holiday traditions in my extended family is for me to make sour dill pickles as gifts for everyone! For many years I have been making them with the “help” of my best friend’s son who has slowly become more and more helpful as he has grown. Sadly this year the biggest pickle lovers in the family have now moved to other cities and you can’t bring a jar of pickles on the plane. So this year I’m hoping some of you will pick up this tradition and make some pickles as gifts for your friends and family!
Edible gifts are a lot of fun, and I’m heavily in favor of them, but usually they tend to be sweet treats. It can be nice to get a really well made, delicious, special, item like homemade pickles that you can eat without worrying about making yourself sick. My husband’s brothers sometimes devour these in a single sitting. They are that good. They are also very easy to make with just some minimal preparation time. You can also pickle any other kind of vegetable you please, like carrots or beets or green beans if you prefer.
These are a simple fridge pickle, not a fermented pickle. And these aren’t properly canned so you need to keep them in the fridge, not the cupboard. They do take 2 weeks to properly marinate and become pickles so try to make these around 2 weeks before you plan to give them. Admittedly I have not managed that in years as I always have to make them after flying into the city. Just tell the recipient the date when they can eat them (or mark it on the jar).
If you want to learn about proper canning technique (which is great, I just can’t be bothered with it for these gifts) please check out the wonderful, Marisa’s website, Food in Jars, she is the Queen of canning.
Go forth and pickle! And give pickles!
- 6 lbs field cucumbers or small hothouse cucumber (approximately)
- 6 cups white vinegar
- 6 cups water
- 6 Tbsp kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp mustard seeds
- 2 Tbsp dill seeds
- 12 sprigs dill (optional)
- 12 cloves garlic (optional)
- red onion or shallot (optional)
- 6 dried chilies
- 12 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks smashed into pieces
- 2 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 Tbsp allspice berries
- 2 Tbsp fennel seeds
- 2 Tbsp celery seeds
- 6 bay leaves
- Chop up your cucumbers into long pieces. The ones I usually get for making pickles are small and I cut them into 4 to 6 pieces lengthwise. But you prefer smaller "chip" style pickles then cut then that way.
- Pour the vinegar, water, salt, mustard seeds, dill seeds, and any of the other additional whole spices suggested here. Obviously they will change the flavor a bit so consider what you like. Obviously only add the chilies if you want spicy pickles. Bring the brine to a boil on medium heat and turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
- While the brine simmers, fill the jars with the cucumbers. You will add approximately 1 lb of cucumbers to each jar but sometimes it may be a little less or more. Just fit in as much as you can. If you like, add a few pieces of red onion or shallot, cloves of garlic or sprigs of dill to the jars. They add a bit more flavor and then you get some pickled onions or garlic as well! But these are totally optional.
- Once the brine has simmered for 10 minutes (be sure to put your kitchen fan on during this process as the vinegar smell can get intense and make you cough otherwise) pour the brine over the vegetables in the jars. Fill them up to the brim. It's hard to get this amount just right so you may have some leftover or occasionally you may not have enough. If you don't have enough just boil up another cup of water and vinegar along with a Tbsp of salt and use that to top everything up.
- Once the brine has cooled to room temperature place the lids on the jars and seal them. Leave the pickles in the fridge for 2 weeks. Once 2 weeks is up open and enjoy!
Note: If this is your first time pickling and you don't have a big whole spices collection (that's normal! I don't expect everyone to be crazy like me), you can usually get something called a "pickling spice mix" in the spices section that you can use in place of the whole spices. It usually includes mustard seeds, coriander seed, cinnamon, bay leaves and sometimes dried ginger. It's meant to kind of give you the classic pickle taste. You should use about 6 to 8 Tbsp for this amount of brine.
How long do these keep?
Hi, Robin! In the fridge, these will keep for at least a few months — I’ve never had them go bad. I think I’ve pushed them as far as a year. They are, after all, in vinegar, so it’s pretty hard for anything to grow. They do need to be in the fridge, though; they won’t keep at room temperature like “real” pickles.