Grandma’s Dill Pickle Recipe

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A traditional homemade dill pickle recipe using fresh cucumbers, fresh dill, spices, and pickling brine. This recipe also gives guidance on the types of cucumbers to grow for pickles and step-by-step instructions on how to make the recipe. Dill pickles are a tasty snack on their own or on a sharing platter but are delicious on sandwiches, burgers, and potato salads.

Grandma's recipe for crunchy Dill Pickles. Using fresh cucumbers, dill, spices, and brine, this flexible recipe follows a simple hot water bath method. Once made, the pickles can be stored for up to a year #lovelygreens #canning #preserving #dillpickles #preservetheharvest #gardenrecipe #kitchengarden #hotwaterbath #cucumberrecipe
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Dill pickles are incredibly evocative of weekends at Nana’s house when I was a kid. Each summer, my grandmother would carry out the ritual of preserving the garden surplus, and of everything she made, pickles were my favorite. Her pantry would be filled with bottles showcasing all the colors of the rainbow: red beets, orange carrots, green beans, and more. Without fail, there would always be jars of crunchy gherkins ready for a little girl to snack on. I loved them so much that I’d even sip the brine!

This dill pickle recipe follows her basic principle of canning pickles with dill, spices, and vinegar. You can use your own homegrown cucumbers to make them or pick up a load at your local farmers market. The process of making dill pickles is easy – you pack raw gherkins into jars, pour over the homemade brine, and water bath them to sterilize and seal them. Once made, your jars of homemade dill pickles are shelf-stable for about a year.

Homegrown Dill Pickles

For me, traditional dill pickles are one of the best ways for a kitchen gardener to connect the dots between all four seasons. From sowing seeds in the spring to harvesting garlic, dill, and gherkins in the summer to preserving the lot and enjoying them in the darkest days of winter. Each jar of pickles contains not only a savory treat but also a year’s worth of experiences.

Grandma's recipe for crunchy dill pickles. Using fresh cucumbers, dill, spices, and brine, this flexible recipe follows a simple hot water bath method. Once made, the pickles can be stored for up to a year #cucumbers #preserving #picklerecipe

Traditional dill pickles are a relatively simple preserve to make, and most of the ingredients are easy to grow in almost any temperate garden. First of all, cucumbers. They’re probably our most beloved fruit masquerading as a vegetable after tomatoes! All cucumbers can be delicious fresh, but some are better for pickling than others. Salad cucumbers are not ideal since they can turn soft and watery. Instead, use gherkins. These are the prickly-looking cucumbers, and some of the best varieties to grow for pickles include Hokus, Cornichon de Paris, and Kirby cucumbers. I’m also growing a heritage variety this year called Dekah, and it looks set to be a winner for dill pickles, too.

Preparing Gherkins for Dill Pickles

Set aside an afternoon for making this batch of traditional dill pickles. The fresher the gherkins are, the better, so if you’re using homegrown, begin by picking them. Some gherkin varieties can have some wicked sharp spikes on them, so be careful and knock them off with the blunt edge of a knife as you’re cleaning the fruit. It’s also best to soak the gherkins in an ice-water bath for several hours before making pickles. It helps to keep them crisp, but this is an optional step. I also find that cutting off the blossom end of the cucumber helps keep them crisp. As does adding a bay leaf to each jar of pickles, both quart and pint jars.

Recipe for crunchy Dill Pickles
Sliced cucumbers about to be packed into jars

Though smaller gherkins, about the lengths of your fingers, can be pickled whole, larger ones need slicing. Mainly because it helps get more of them into the jar! It’s traditional to cut dill pickles into long quarters or spears, but you can cut them however you’d like. When I’m making fermented pickles (a different process), I tend to cut cucumbers into 1/2″ slices. Though I’ve never done it, I can’t see why doing the same for dill pickles would be an issue.

Recipe for crunchy Dill Pickles
Dill seeds, leaves, and flowers give dill pickles its characteristic flavor.

Garlic and Dill as Flavorings

To make traditional dill pickles, you’ll need dill. Fresh dill is best, and it’s usually ready to pick around the same time that cucumbers are. You could use dried dill from the grocery store in a pinch, though you won’t have the beautiful decoration inside the jar from dill flowers. Both the flowers and seeds have a more intense flavor than dill leaves on their own. Add all three – dill leaves, flowers, and seeds – for a truly delicious batch of dill pickles. They’ll taste incredible!

Garlic is a must for dill pickles, too. At least in my book. Again, you could use purchased garlic cloves, but it’s even better if you grow your own. It’s easy to grow garlic, and it’s again ready around the same time as cucumbers and dill. Other spices and ingredients, like salt, peppercorns, and vinegar, come from the shop, and you can order jars online if you don’t already have a local supplier.

Growing two gherkin plants up a DIY cucumber pallet trellis.

Growing Cucumbers

Cucumbers grow well in temperate climates, and I’ve found that one of the easiest ways that you can grow them outdoors is on a DIY Cucumber Pallet Trellis. You can also grow them up strings or netting or let them clamber over the ground. One year, I even grew them up an old metal headboard! The benefit of growing them elevated, though, is that the gherkins don’t come in contact with the ground. That saves them from being eaten by certain pests, makes them easier and cleaner to pick, and makes them easier to find on the plant.

Smaller gherkins are best for pickling.

For my zone 9 garden, I tend to sow cucumber seeds in 3″ pots in April, and usually in the house where the plants will be safe from cold snaps. They grow on for about a month before I plant them either outside in the garden or inside my polytunnel. They love rich, well-drained soil and a position in full sun. This year, I have two plants growing on a cucumber pallet trellis, three growing inside a pallet planter in the greenhouse, and one growing up a string in an auto-pot in the polytunnel.

Grandma's recipe for crunchy Dill Pickles. Using fresh cucumbers, dill, spices, and brine, this flexible recipe follows a simple hot water bath method. Once made, the pickles can be stored for up to a year #lovelygreens #canning #preserving #dillpickles #preservetheharvest #gardenrecipe #kitchengarden #hotwaterbath #cucumberrecipe
I use white reusable Tattler lids for most of my preserves.

More Preserving Recipes

This is a traditional dill pickle recipe, but there are a few other ways to make pickles. First, there are refrigerator pickles, which are similar to this recipe but are refrigerated instead of water-bathed. Then there’s fermented pickles, typically made in a fermentation jar or crock. These have actually become my favorite since they’re tasty and filled with gut-friendly microbes from the fermentation process. Here are some other recipes and ideas to explore:

Grandma’s Dill Pickle Recipe

Lovely Greens
How to make classic homemade dill pickles using fresh cucumbers, dill, spices, and brine. This recipe follows a simple hot water bath method.
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 15 minutes
Resting time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 8 per jar
Calories 11 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • pickling cucumbers / gherkins
  • 1 Tbsp dill leaves
  • 1-2 whole dill flower heads
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorns
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Sea salt or Kosher salt
  • Preserving jars & lids

Instructions
 

Prep Work

  • Set your clean canning jars out on your work surface. They don't need to be sterilized since the water bath at the end will kill off any microbes, but they do need to be clean. For each quart jar, you'll add half a teaspoon of black peppercorns, two whole garlic cloves, a bay leaf, about 1 Tbsp dill leaves, and 1-2 dill flowers.
  • Wash the gherkins and trim off the blossom ends if you wish. Start packing them into your jars, trying to get as many in as possible. If the fruits are small (less than 3" long), put them in whole, but if they're larger, cut them into wedges. This helps to get more into the jar and also for easier serving once the jar is opened.

Make the Brine

  • For approximately every four quarts of tightly packed gherkins, you'll need to bring two quarts of water and one quart of white vinegar to a boil. Add 1/2 cup of salt and stir until dissolved. Let this cool until just warm, and then pour it into each of the jars, filling to a centimeter (just less than 1/2") below the top of the jar's brim. If there are air bubbles in the jar, try to remove them by poking at them with a butter knife or debubbler.
  • Clean the tops of the jars with a clean rag and then fit on your preserving lids on. Screw the rings on snugly, but not overly tight.

Water Bath the Dill Pickles

  • Place a metal preserving rack or towel at the bottom of a deep preserving pan or large stock pot, and then place the jars inside. The jars should be at least an inch apart, and the pan needs to be deep enough to have the jars inside, with over an inch of water comfortably covering the tops.
  • Cover the jars with warm/hot water from the tap, cover with a lid, and then bring the pan to a boil. Remove the lid and boil the jars for fifteen minutes and no longer.
  • Lift them out of the water, using a jar lifter. Set the jars on the counter and allow them to cool to room temperature. You'll know that the jars are properly sealed when you hear the lids popping.
  • Allow the pickles to infuse with the brine for at least two weeks before eating them. Stored in jars in a cool cupboard, your pickles will last up to a year. Once opened, keep them in a fridge and eat them within a month for the best flavor and texture.

Notes

You could add spices to your dill pickles if you would like, including mustard seeds, horseradish, red pepper flakes, and coriander seeds. 

Nutrition

Serving: 100gCalories: 11kcalCarbohydrates: 2.3gProtein: 0.3gFat: 0.2gSaturated Fat: 0.1gSodium: 1208mgFiber: 1.2gSugar: 1.1g
Keyword cucumber, pickling, preserving
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Recipe Rating




78 Comments

  1. I have a steam canner for making pickles. Do you think this will work for this recipe? I usually steam pickles in my canner for 10 minutes, but I work with a boiling brine. Should I use your recipe with room temperature brine and steam for 15 minutes, as when using a hot water bath?

    1. Hi Mike, and I’m not familiar with using steam canners. However, if you’ve used one before to make pickles, then you could probably use this recipe too. Speak with a rep from the manufacturer, though, to get better advice.

  2. Cindy Glazier says:

    Can I substitute dill seeds for fresh dill? If so, what would the amount be per quart?

    1. Yes, you could, and though I’ve not tried it before, I’d try by using half the amount of fresh dill leaves.

  3. When do you start timing the 15 minute boil? As soon as you turn on the flame or once it comes to boil? Last time I made pickles it was mush! TY.

    1. Hi Pepper, you can boil from 10-15 minutes, but it needs to be a rolling boil the entire time. The main causes of mushy pickles are many though, and include cooking too long and making pickles with the wrong type of cucumbers. For really crisp cucumbers, try to use smaller gherkins and add a tannin to the jar too. The tannins in grape leaves, horseradish leaves, and even oak tree leaves can help keep pickles crunchy over time.

  4. When processing multiple batches can you drop the jars in the water bath while it boiling or do you need to cook it down first? My pot will hold 6 jars at a time and it take forever to bring it to a boil.

  5. Can you add the pickle crisp to this to help keep them crisp or ensure they are?

    1. I don’t use pickle crisp so can’t give much information on that product but from what I understand you can add it directly to the brine. Should work fine :)

      1. Also how long before I can open a jar to taste? Some recipes say 5days to a week. Others say 2 weeks.

        1. There’s no exact time but the longer you can wait, the better the pickles will be.

  6. 5 stars
    Such a great pickling recipe, I used this last fall and I’m at it again this year. I’m picking green beens with it today.

  7. Laura Olrich says:

    My dill plant has plenty of leaves, but only one head. I can’t find fresh dill heads anywhere, but I do have dried dillweed. If I use the fresh leaves per instructions, how much dry should I add to each jar as substitute for fresh dill heads? Thanks so much! Hoping to can this weekend. Laura

      1. Sylvia Pennell says:

        When pickles are ready to eat are they salty

  8. I made these last night I’m so excited to try them in a few weeks. Like the other woman that posted I also had a lot of the brine left over. I’m planning on making more tonight with the leftover Brine do I need to heat it up first and let it get to room temperature again or can I use it just as it is?

    1. It’s better to warm it first but as long as you water-bath the jars, using room-temperature leftover brine should be safe.

  9. 5 stars
    Sounds amazing! I’ve made your dill pickle pasta before and I was a huge fan. I’ll have to try your Dill Pickle recipe next. Thanks for sharing!

  10. How long will the pickles last in the pantry ?

    1. Dill pickles have a shelf-life of one year. After that time they can still be edible but the pickles may go soft.

  11. 5 stars
    Amazingly Delicious!

  12. I have been using this recipe for the past 2 years. My family loves it. The local stores don’t have fresh dill with the flowers so I just use the leaves and dried seeds. I also add 1/4tsp mustard seed to each quart jar. And I have tried spicy by adding a little crushed red pepper or even fresh sliced jalapeños.

  13. cathie christensen says:

    I’m wondering if there’s any way to reduce the salt? Any time we can cut out some, I like to try. Thankss

  14. Sauerkraut Billy says:

    Thanks for such a great recipe! Can’t wait to try it at home the next time I decide to tackle a pickling project!

  15. Did you have extra brine? I had 6 quart jars so I half doubles the reciepe. I used 3 quarts water to 1.5 quarts vinegar and o had a lot of brine left.. I just hope they still turn out

  16. Jupiterrose says:

    Interesting recipe but I am a little confused about the quart. a quart of what? I have figured out that a quart is a little less than a litre but does it refer to the vinegar, the water, the gherkins? Thanks in advance.

  17. Trina R. White says:

    Have you ever used grape leaf when canning pickles?

  18. Donella Rideout-Martini says:

    Made these and they got 8 thumbs up from my family. We wee able to try some just before it was time to can the next batch. Your recipe will be my 100% go to for yummy dill pickles from now on. THANK YOU!!!!!!!

  19. I don’t have cucumbers, but lots of zucchini, so I’m going to try to make dill pickles out of some of them as an experiment. Worth a try I have so much squash to find a use for.

    1. I’m interested to learn how they turn out. I don’t think they’ll have the ‘crunch’ but they will probably be tasty.

    2. Jupiterrose says:

      I have a lovely curry recipe for pickeling zucchinis which my mum used to make. I can send it to you if you are interested.

  20. Jennifer Butt says:

    I just made these pickles. I hope they taste as good as the dill smells!

  21. This is the same wonderful recipe that has been in my family for years . At least 100. The only different thing that we do is add a grape leaf to the very top just before putting on the lid. These are just sooo good.

  22. Love this recipe so much! Thanks for sharing. Is there any way to reuse the brine after enjoying the pickles?? Just curious if you have maybe tried it or had any success with that. Thanks again!

    1. I remember drinking it as a kid! haha :) I’m sure there’s a use for it but haven’t tried myself. Keep in mind that it’s been cooked in the jar, opened, and possibly left in the fridge for a while though. It might be best to just make more brine if you need some.

    2. Jupiterrose says:

      Yes, I have a recipe for lentils which uses pickeling brine. Every time I make lentil salad I use some brine instead of vinegar ad it tastes really good. I am sure you could substitute it for vinegar.

  23. any suggestions if I do not have the dill leaves and heads?

    1. Dill pickles without dill? You could use dried dill if you don’t have access to fresh (most large grocery stores should have both).

  24. Where can I get dill leaves? I am not growing the cucumbers myself.

    1. Try a local Farmers Market if you can’t find fresh dill available at your local supermarket.

    2. Hi! I see you used the Tattler lids… how tight do you screw on your bands? They recommend not too tight. But I personally, am having issues when I don’t. Do you recommend putting the bands on tight?
      Thank you in advance!

  25. Thanks for sharing the recipe ~ I can't wait to try it! Do you have a table for how long they need to be int he canner for based on location? I am at over 6000ft above sea level. Thanks!

  26. Howdy! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having difficulty finding one? Thanks a lot!

  27. Oh my goodness I have been obsessed with making pickles! I posted something recently as well. I just can't get enough of them! However, I've been doing refrigerator pickles for the extra crisp — have yours retained the crispiness in the water bath?

  28. I just found your site–It's fantastic! We're off-grid in Northern New Mexico. One of my goals (along with fifty others) is to grow all the ingredients for making pickles. This will involve a greenhouse and more rainwater catchment, so it's a next-year-goal… But now I have an awesome recipe when I'm ready. Thanks for this!

    1. It's amazing how different gardening spaces are around the world but there's one thing they all share in common – challenges. For me, it's getting enough sunshine. In your area it's probably the opposite! Hope you have luck growing your dill pickle ingredients next year :)

  29. The only problem with pickle making is the fumes given off by boiling vinegar which is why my husband makes the pickles outside on a camping stove!

    1. You could try heating without boiling to keep the fumes down…you just need the brine warm enough that the salt dissolves. The boiling/sterilisation part would take place in the hot water bath.

  30. First off, let me say that seeing the "Made in the USA" label on your bottle tops made me smile – it's nice to know we manufacture more than just war these days.

    Also – I'm pinning this recipe – it seems easy and yummy and straight to the point – all hallmarks of great recipes, in my humble opinion. Yay, tradition!

    I just made bread and butter pickles along with my first run of dills, and both recipes were good, but nothing to write home about. I'm always on the hunt for new recipes!

    1. Thanks for the pin Lindsey and hope you have luck with this recipe…it's simple but classic :)

      And LOVE the Tattlers…I wish they were easier to get a hold of here.

  31. I love dill pickles, especially homemade ones. My grandmother always made them in a crock. My recipe is similar to yours. I haven't made them in a few years but plan on it this year. Yummy.
    Love your pictures. Made me hungry for a dill pickle right now.

      1. 5 stars
        Have made your receipe and used grape leaves from my vines washed my batch was crispy and tasty now I’m going to make 24 quart jars thanks so much for the simple recipe fresh dill as well maureen Liebman la Quinta calif

  32. They look delicious and your instructions are so clear and easy to follow.
    I must give this a try.
    Your Tattler lids are interesting – that's the first time I've seen them.

    1. They're not available in the UK and I only found out about them through another blogger, Sunnybrook Farm. Love them though!

  33. Think it is a special gift to your nana to follow in her footsteps,that generation lived the green life.

    The parcel arrived early in the week full of soaps,HB insists we always have the lavender soaps
    on hand for his baths/showers!
    Wish I could have visited your stall beautifully laid out as shown in your post,yummie honeys.
    Hope your BH w/e is having better weatherthan here we have thick cloud with a sharp north east
    wind.

    1. Really great to hear Judith! I smiled when reading that HB loves the lavender soap :) Maybe one day you'll be able to visit my stall to say hello if you ever make it to the island. Enjoy the soaps! :)

  34. They look delicious Tanya. You are right, it is lovely to have things from the summer put by to eat in the depths of winter. I'm rapidly running out of space in the freezer for things though, so pickles are a great idea. How is your allotment doing?

    1. Allotment is doing great but is getting a bit out of control at the moment! I hope to spend more time weeding/harvesting this week!

  35. Mmmm, yum. I love the taste of pickles but, sadly, don't have the storage space to can lots of veg. Yours look glorious and love the timing of growing it all together – as nature intended!

    1. Shame about that Caro…it seems that storage is your main challenge! Do you not have any room in your kitchen cupboards? How about under the bed?

  36. Now I want pickles! Your photographs are just beautiful – that deep green and the greeny-gold dill. Lovely.
    Mary

  37. Where was this recipe two weeks ago when I was pickling my gherkins, it looks delicious. I do have some more gherkins ready to go so I will try it out xxx

  38. Those look really nice, I can smell them from here. That is so neat that you got some of the Tattler lids, they cost more but you will have the use of them for years so it is a good deal.
    Our cucumbers couldn't handle the wet weather, I guess disease spreads quickly, so like tomatoes I will try again next year. Are you really going to wait until winter to eat them?

    1. Thanks again for recommending them to me! I couldn't find them for sale in the UK but fortunately was able to purchase them through a US Ebay seller.

      Shame about your tomatoes and cucumbers…I certainly know what it's like as a gardener having to contend with wet weather (last year was the worst!). And yes, there should be plenty left for the winter…my plants are popping out gherkins left and right :)