Pursuing Your Passion For Pickles (Recipe: Garlic-Dill Pickles)

Written by Lynn Craig of Cookie Baker Lynn.

Pickles seem like a funny thing to get excited about. They’re just cucumbers in jars with liquid and seasonings, right? Right, but some people are quite passionate about their pickles.

A dear friend of mine who is a US transplant living in the UK says one of the things she misses the most is dill pickles. The shops there just don’t carry them. On a trip to visit family in the US she returned home with jars of pickles in her carry-on luggage (not something you can do these days). She got strange looks, but it was worth it to savor just-right dill pickles.

There is a deli in the Pike Place Market in Seattle that flies in their pickles every week from New York so they’ll be “right.”

And then there’s my son. Pickles are his favorite food group. He’ll beg me for a pickle to snack on while I’m slicing some and when he’s eating a sandwich or a hamburger, it’s got to have pickles or it’s not right.

The beauty of canning your own pickles is that you can make them to suit your own personal tastes and needs. Pints or quarts, dill or sweet, garlic or jalapeno, you can choose. And if you grow your own pickling cucumbers (I don’t – I am known as She-Who-Kills-Plants), you can even get just the right variety for the size and type you prefer.

ALL photos by Lynn Craig

Methods and Pickling Basics

Pickles can be as quick and easy as pouring hot brine over cold cucumbers in jars and processing in a water bath. Or you can choose to brine the cukes overnight in a salt water bath to draw moisture out of them so the pickling solution better permeates into them. Or you can barrel ferment them over a period of 3 to 6 weeks. Or process them over 9 days to draw out the best flavor.

The methods of making pickles, the varieties of pickles, and the recipes for making them would fill several cookbooks, so I’m not going to try for all-inclusive here. I’ll walk you through a basic dill pickle recipe, then you can experiment and find the recipe that will be cherished and handed down in your family with your name attached to it.

Imagine having your great-grandchildren bugging their mother for Nana Lula’s Garlic Dills recipe! (Well, that only works if your name is Lula, so try imagining it with your name inserted.)

Some pickling basics:

~ Select only ripe, firm, unblemished pickling cucumbers of the appropriate size for your recipe. Mushy cucumbers will not magically become crispy when brined.

~ Pickling cucumbers have a thinner skin than regular cucumbers, so they are best used within 2 days of harvest.

~ Use pickling or canning salt which is pure salt without additives. Table salt has anti-caking agents and iodine which will make your brine cloudy.

~ Don’t modify the amount of salt, sugar, vinegar, or water in a recipe. They work together to produce a safe pH level for the pickles and a good flavor balance.

~ The jars need to be hot when you fill them. You can run clean jars though a sanitizing cycle in the dishwasher, or fill them with hot water and put them in a pot of hot water over low heat. I like to use the canning pot as a hot water bath. Don’t heat the jars in a dry oven; this can damage the glass.

~ Most pickles need to mature at least a week for the best flavor. Label the finished jars with the date they were made and the date they’ll be ready to eat.

~ Grape leaves or alum are sometimes added to a pickle jar to enhance the crunchiness of the pickles.

~ Chill pickles thoroughly in the refrigerator prior to opening for best texture.

Recipe: Extra-Garlic Dill Pickles

Because garlic is popular in our house (understatement), I made Extra-Garlic Garlic Dills. Again, you can change the amounts if that’s too much for your tastes.

This recipe makes about 7 quart (1 L) jars of pickles. Here’s what you’ll need:

Equipment –

  • 7 glass quart canning jars, wide-mouth
  • 7 canning lids, new
  • 7 canning screw rings, rust-free
  • A large canning pot
  • A rack for the canner
  • A small saucepan for the lids
  • A large pot for the brine
  • A large non-reactive bowl that will hold 7 lbs of cucumbers
  • A wide-mouth funnel
  • Clean towel to set the jars on
  • Clean cloth to wipe the jar tops
  • Kitchen timer
  • Jar lifter
  • Silicone tongs


Day 1

  • 7-8 lbs (4 kg) of 3-4-inch (7.5 to 10 cm) pickling cucumbers
  • 1 cup (250 ml) pickling or canning salt (not table salt)

Day 2

  • 35 peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) pickling or canning salt
  • 7 cups (1.75 L) water, preferably filtered
  • 6-1/2 cups (1.625 L) of white vinegar
  • 21 cloves of garlic, each cut into quarters
  • 14 dill heads
  • 7 grape leaves (optional)

Day 1

1- Scrub the cucumbers gently under running water to remove dirt and prickly bits. Trim off 1/8-inch (3 mm) from each end and prick all over with a fork.

2- In a large bowl, layer cucumbers and salt using about one-quarter ofย  each per layer. Add cold water to cover by about 1 inch (2.5 cm). Place a plate on top to weigh down the cucumbers. Cover and let stand at a cool room temperature for at least 12 hours or for up to 24 hours.

3- Soak dill heads upside down in a bucket of salt water overnight. Any bugs on the heads will either drown or crawl away.

Day 2

1- Wash jars thoroughly in hot, soapy water and rinse well. Fill the jars with hot water and place them in the canning pot. Fill the canning pot with hot water, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch (2.5 cm).

2- Cover the pot and bring the water almost to a boil over medium-high heat (30 to 60 minutes). When the water is almost boiling, reduce the heat to keep it at a simmer and keep the pot covered until you’re ready to use the jars.

3- In a small saucepan, bring 2 inches (5 cm) of water to a simmer. Add the lid disks, cover the saucepan, and take it off the heat.

4- Working in batches, with a colander, rinse and drain the cucumbers. Rinse again and drain well. Set aside.

5- In a pot combine the salt, water, and vinegar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often until salt is dissolved. Boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and keep liquid hot. Keep covered to prevent evaporation when you’re not using the liquid.

6- Use the jar lifter to lift a jar out of the simmering water. Pour the hot water out into the sink and put the jar on a towel on the counter. Place 1 grape leaf (if using), 6 pieces of garlic, 4 to 5 peppercorns and 1 dill head into the jar. Pack cucumbers into the jar, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) headspace, and top with 6 pieces of garlic and 1 dill head.

7- Place the canning funnel over the jar and using a ladle, pour hot pickling liquid into the jar, leaving 1/2-inch (1 cm) headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace as necessary by adding hot pickling liquid. Wipe the rim with a clean cloth or paper towel dipped in warm water. Using the silicone tongs, remove a lid disk from the saucepan of hot water and place it on the jar. Screw on a band until it’s fingertip-tight.

8- Repeat steps 6 and 7 with the remaining jars and ingredients.

9- Place the jars in the canner and return to a boil. Process for 15 minutes (start timing after the water has reached boiling). Turn off heat and remove the lid from the canning pot. Let the jars stand in the hot water for 5 minutes. Then use the canning tongs to transfer the jars to a clean towel on the counter and let them stand for 24 hours. You should start to hear the happy pinging of lids sealing as they cool. Any jars that do not seal should be refrigerated. Once the jars are cooled, label them with the name of the recipe, the date made, and the date they’ll be ready.

What’s your favorite pickle? If you have a favorite pickle recipe you’ve posted, feel free to leave a URL in your comment.

About Lynn

Lynn Craig is a mother of four (two out of the nest, two to go) who homeschools, bakes obsessively, quilts sporadically, and occasionally finds time to clean the house. She and her husband live in Bellevue, Washington where she chronicles her kitchen triumphs and disasters on her blog Cookie Baker Lynn.

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  1. This sounds like such a great recipe! Thank you. I can’t wait to try it!

    • Thanks, Kara. I wish you great success with your pickles!

      • hi lynn i brined some cukes from the farmers market let them site in the brine for 3 weeks i got the recp from saveur mag oct issue i think it was a lactobacillas fermentation but after 3 weeks the pickles where mushy and bad any idea what i did wrong ive had great luck with refriderator pickles and wanted a great dill ive seen pickles brining in stores so i thought this might work thanks for your help

      • My daughter is doing a science experiment on how long it takes a cucumber to pickle. I am trying to find an “objective” way to say that the cucumber is now officially a pickle. Any suggestions?

    • I know this is an old post, but I’m about to can my first batch of pickles! I live outside the U.S. now and have been craving some good dill pickles. The only problem is I ordered pint jars, not quart. What do you think I would change/cut down in the recipe for these smaller jars?

      • 2 pints make a quart just divide up as necessary

      • you will need to make chips or spears or use small cukes in pints not large whole ones .. most people use quarts for whole or spears.. other than that the recipe should be the same except canning water bath would be shorter since they are smaller jars

  2. Kevin Bourque says

    This year I planted several pickling cucumber plants in my garden hoping that this time of year I could make some awesome dill and/or hot pickles. Alas, the cucumbers are large (massive even).

    Do you have any suggestions for the type of cucumbers to plant?

    • I would start with a seed catalog that is specific to your area and growing conditions. Usually they will list varieties and discuss the attributes of each. I had high hopes for a variety named Rita one year, but unfortunately (as I mentioned above), I am not a gardener, and they died.

      If you’d like to try making pickles with your bigger cucumbers, there are recipes for that size. You need to slice them into spears to get them to fit in the jars. If you can’t find a recipe with Google, let me know and I’ll send you one.

      • i read that you have a recipe for a larger cucumber..didn’t realize you had to use a certain cucumber…good to know~ will plant something diff next year.. but did want to make pickle chips..would like to see your recipe tho

  3. oh, pickles! I agree with your son – if the burger doesn’t have pickles, well it isn’t right ๐Ÿ™‚ And extra-garlic pickles? Heaven!

    (And, how weird of a coincidence is it that my great-grandma’s name was Lula? Wow!)

  4. I am definitely all for the extra garlic pickles. We just made nine quarts of fermented garlic dills yesterday. So good!

  5. Great recipe! I re-read it, it sounds like you put uncooked cukes in the jars, right? I’m not missing something there?? (I am hoping my 4th planting of cukes kicks out enough little green nuggets to run a batch or two!)

    • You read it right, Adam. Uncooked cukes go in the jar. What a great experience to make your own pickles from seed to jar!

      • Assuming it goes OK ๐Ÿ˜‰ it will be the second time. All outside this time. My wife began a strict “no pickling in the house” mandate after my last batch. She says even the dogs were crying because of the vinegar fumes (I think she was exaggerating).

        • Sounds like a great story, Adam! Let us know how it goes this time, if you get the time. Hopefully there will be no crying dogs. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • Try keeping the lid on the pot with the pickling liquid when you’re not using it. That will cut down on the evaporation and, hopefully, the fumes.

  6. Melinda Pickworth says

    Oh, Lynn! I think I am that dear friend of yours with the dill pickle craving, carrying the dill pickles jar on the plane. ( wouldn’t be allowed now.) Actually, the huge jar I took back wouldn’t fit in my carry on luggage, so I carried it everywhere like a prize handbag! And I did get lots of pointing fingers and laughs.
    How sweet of you to remember my love of the dill pickle! Truth be told, I love all God’s piclkes, but especially this kind of dill pickle.
    If ever I am successful at growing some pickling cucumbers this will be the recipe for me to try. Lord knows, I am not going to get the ones I like here in the UK. And I love proper dill pickles with or without loads of garlic. Cheers x

    • Melinda- you are awesome. Who knew pickles across the ocean are so very different? Fortunately, we have this tutorial from Lynn.

    • Well spotted, dear! Yes, it’s you. I think you need to wrangle one of your new gardening buddies into growing pickling cukes for you next year.

  7. Yum yum yum! I just made 8 pints of bread & butter pickles with my Dad yesterday, I love this season!

  8. Oddly enough, though dill pickles are my favorite, I have been making these bread and butter pickles lately:

    They are so good and easy to make! And, I have been known to do crazy things like putting 10 – 12 of them on a burger at the same time. LOL

  9. Dill pickles are sooo hard to find here and they’re the only ones my hubby likes. I’ve been wanting to make my own for a while.. now I don’t have an excuse. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Serindipity! Never made pickles before but now I have the perfect recipe and, for the first time, am growing the right kind of pickle. WOot! Thanks Lynn!!

  11. Bread and butter pickles are my favorite.

    I have always been so intimidated by pickling, thinking it required all sorts of special equipment that I don’t have. But reading your recipe and looking at your photos, I finally feel like this is a feat that I can accomplish in my own kitchen.

    One question: to make sure the flavors blend, how long after canning would you recommend waiting to open jars?

    Can’t wait to pick up pickling pickles at the farmers’ market!

    • The cookbook I was looking at said to wait at least a week before opening. Another recipe I have says to wait for 8 weeks. The longer you wait, the stronger the flavor will be, although that’s not true indefinitely (ie – the jar at the back of the pantry won’t sear your tongue when you open it 11 months later).

  12. I do love dill pickles and yours look wonderful. Do the grape leaves add flavour?

    But what I’m really wanting to make this summer are pickled beets. There’s nothing so wonderful as pickled beet and sharp cheddar sandwiches on multigrain bread!

    • Me, too! I’ve had pickled beets on the brain lately. Have you made them before?

      The grape leaves really don’t add any kind of flavor, they’re just there to help the crisp factor. You can do without them, if they’re not available to you.

      • I haven’t made pickled beets before, Lynn. I only just this summer got over my fear of canning. My father-in-law makes great pickled beets and I’ve asked him to send me the proportions he uses. I’m still waiting…..

        Interesting that the grape leaves help keep the dill pickles crisp.

  13. My husband is requesting I make spicy pickles. What can I add to this recipe to make them spicy? Fresh hot peppers? Crushed red pepper? Anyone have any experience and wisdom share? Thanks!

    • I have used Hot sauce, crushed dried hot pepper, whole fresh hot peppers, dried whole hot peppers, and cayenne pepper powder to make them hot. Try a jar with each and see what works best for you.

  14. I just made these today. They were fantastically easy and look delicious!

  15. Hi Lynne. I am trying to find a recipe for pickle juice. My gf loves using the juice in her caesars but i dont want the pickles. Would it be the same to make your recipe but just omit the cukes? ty

  16. What modifications are necessary to use this recipe for pickle slices?

  17. Hannah Miller says

    You said most pickles need at least a week to pickle. I followed your recipe (except I made 2lbs instead of 7, which was surprisingly hard to modify the recipe for) and am hoping to taste them as soon as possible. 1 week? 2 weeks? 3? Thanks! I’ll let you know how they turn out ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I have tasted my pickles before I even can them. They just won’t have the full flavor yet so don’t judge them to harshly.

  18. Gloria Mitchell says

    This is the first time I have ever made pickles and chose this recipe because it sounds so good! I did notice that this recipe has considerably less salt that other recipes. Is that because of the brining?

  19. I just made a batch of these pickles!! I have always been a bit afraid of canning but these turned out great. I added a red thai chili to each jar as my boyfriend and I like spicy pickles. Thanks Lynn!!!

  20. Why do you salt the pickles beforehand? Does this help the process somehow? Thanks, I’m excited to pickle!

  21. I am eager to try this recipe. I have been making sweet pickles for years (which my husband says I should sell) and have yet to find a dill recipe I like. I hope this is the one. I also make a great pickled beet. I did go to Angie’s post and am also going to try her bread and butter pickle.

  22. I just made a batch of these pickles and am looking forward to trying them. I do have a question though. I cam across a website that said that a 1:1 vinegar water ratio is needed to make pickling recipes safe. This recipe has less vinegar then water, is this still acceptable for safety purposes?

  23. Hi, I love this recipes, but I live in Arizona and can not get fresh dill (no where in my area) or pickling cucumbers (not that are fresh anyway). so can I sub something for the dill, and can I use regular cucumbers? Thank you for the help and the great recipe.

    • Stephanie says

      You should be able to get pickling cukes at any one of several farmers markets. I know I have seen them at the downtown Farmers Market in Phoenix.

  24. Lisa Johnson says

    I’m about to try out your recipe for garlic dills and I have, maybe a goofy question. I’ve never seen grape leaves in the store, probably never looked, but I sure have tons of fresh ones around the house. Can I use fresh grape leaves?

    Thanks for the recipe!

  25. Hi Lisa,

    You want fresh grape leaves. I’ve never seen fresh grape leaves at a store maybe one of your neighbors grows grapes? I like to use grape leaves, I think they help keep the pickles crisp but you can make great pickles without them as well.

    I’ve also used cherry leaves (popular in the Ukraine).

    Lynn, your garlic dill recipe looks yummy.

    BTW, I am a fan of all things pickled, am the Oregon State Fair Pickle Judge.

    Ingrid (aka Mapickle)

  26. Patricia Chapman says

    I am ready to make the garlic dill pickles using the cukes I have grown, but I would like to make spears. Can you post or send a recipe for spears. I love your blog, I too am a Christian and concerned about what my family eats. I am gradually changing what my husband prefers, one dish at a time.

  27. This recipe sounds great. I have an abundance of zucchini right now do you think I can pickle it using this recipe?

  28. Markie Obrien says

    Why do you show a picture of dill in flower as the dill to use, when any farmer’s daughter know you use green mature seed heads. City Slickers, I swear.

    • Markie Obrien says

      Any produce processed with good amount of vinegar doesn’t need to be water bathed. Putting jars in the cold oven turning it up to 200 then 250 a bit later with lids dropped in recently boiled water is sterile for vinegar pickles.. The time it takes to pack the jar with dill, garlic and pickling cucumbers is enough to cool the jar before filling with boiling brine. The handle of a wooden spoon is of great assist when packing hot jars.
      To make dill pickles without brining:
      3 cup H2O
      1 cup CIDER vinegar
      1/4 cup canning salt (4Tbsp=1/4 cup)

  29. just made a batch tonight, cant wait to try them
    g aka JoesPickles

  30. I am about ready to put my last batch of jars in the boiling water to process. I am praying they turn out tasty! I added different chile peppers from our garden to spice them up ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the recipe!

  31. I tried this recipie and it came out a little dissipointing.. they did not have enough dill, so I would recommend adding more dill then said.

  32. Hi I followed the recipe exactly as written. I did not, however, use grape leaves. The flavor of the pickle were amazing, but they were unbelievably soft and soggy. They were so mushy that there is no way that the grape leaves could have been the sole cause. Does anyone have any explanation for what I may have done wrong?

  33. Hi, in your recipe for garlic-dill pickles on day 2 there is no mention of how much sugar to use in making the brine. Would you please email me the proper amount.
    Thanking you in advance

  34. Hey there,
    Why do you recommend processing them in a water bath? I really didn’t think that was necessary for pickling.


  35. Ken Robinson says

    I am growing some small native cucumbers, that have been the traditional food of our Australian Aborigines for thousands of years, but have never been, been grown in the garden before, they are about three quarters of an inch long and half an inch in diameter, and are tropical.
    I want to try pickling some, and would appreciate some ideas.

  36. I made these last summer, and when we opened a jar (about 1.5 months later), they were really sour and yummy, but with a sweet aftertaste. Still good, but wondering if you’ve ever heard of this? I did not use grape leaves, as I could not find any fresh ones. I made the extra-dill pickles. Yum!

  37. Denny Nelson says

    So Lynn, If you don’t have access to grape leaves and really prefer alum anyway, how much would you add to the recipe and at what stage?? Incidentally, I don’t wash my cucumbers by hand but I do clean them. I use my washing machine! Don’t laugh, 10 minutes on gentle is all it takes and any cukes that are not sound in the middle will fall apart and you won’t waste your time canning them. They rub up against each other and clean out all the dirt. One rinse cycle through your washer afterward cleans it out too.

  38. Just made my first batch EVER last night! Grew them from seeds this year. Very excited. We are huge garlic fans, so my husband added a few more pieces to each jar. We used “Pickle Fresh” instead of grape leaves, as I couldn’t find any. My only concern is that I couldn’t convice my Hubby to not cut them into spears ahead of time….so this batch may be a little soggy. But the good news is that the next crop should be ready in another week or so! And we will try a couple flavor variations as well. Thanks for the instructions! A great sucess and no one got burned!! :*)

  39. Do you suggest using pickling lime in the initial rinse as well?
    This is my first time pickling but I have read it is important in ensuring that your pickles will be firm and crunchy.

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