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Mary's Spicy Garlic Dills

(recipe, Liz Crain)


You can use this basic quick-pickling recipe for just about any vegetable; try cherry tomatoes, onions, green beans, and nasturtium pods as well as cukes. Vary the herbs, spices, and salt according to your taste. To keep the pickles crunchy, I generally add two rolled grape leaves for a quart jar of pickles and four for a large deli jar. The resulting pickles will be tasty and crunchy for at least six months. After then, they tend to soften, but are still safe to eat if refrigerated for up to a year.


  1. 15 to 30 pickling cucumbers, depending on size
  2. 8 grape leaves
  3. 1 head garlic
  4. 1 bunch fresh dill
  5. 3 Tbsp. dried or 6 Tbsp. fresh herbs and spices per jar, such as mustard seeds, peppercorns, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, chilies, cloves, and juniper berries
  6. 10 dried or 5 fresh chile peppers (or to taste)
  7. 3 qt. (12 cups) water
  8. 1 qt. (4 cups) distilled white vinegar (you can substitute any vinegar as long as it is 4 to 6 percent acetic acid)
  9. 1 cup non-iodized salt (pickling/canning salt or sea salt)


  1. Rinse and clean the pickling cucumbers (or any other vegetable that you are pickling) and the fresh herbs and spices. Small vegetables like cherry and grape tomatoes should be left whole; large vegetables should be sliced.
  2. Roll the grape leaves tightly and tuck two leaves into the bottom of each quart jar. Peel and crush the garlic and divide it. Divide the dill as well, and place both garlic and dill in the jars. Add your spices (whole or tied in a cheesecloth pouch) and chiles, then pack in the cucumbers. Each jar should be ¾ full with cukes/vegetables.
  3. Fill a non-reactive stockpot with the water, vinegar, and salt. Heat until the salt has dissolved. Just before it boils, remove from the heat.
  4. Pour the hot liquid slowly into the pickle jars, leaving ½ inch at the top of each jar. Allow to cool, then cap and refrigerate the jars.
  5. Your pickles will be ready to eat in three to four days.


If I still have pickles from the previous summer when pickling season comes around again, I remove the grape leaves and the abrasive spices (such as whole cloves or cinnamon sticks) from the old pickles and purée them into a relish. I'll add a little fresh dill and some of the brine depending on the desired consistency of the relish. It's great added to a quick tuna, chicken, or salmon salad, or whisked in small amounts into a vinaigrette. Read more about pickling in Liz Crain's "Pickling summer’s plenty."