Old-Fashioned Brined Dill Pickles
20 pounds pickling cucumbers, 3 to 6 inches long
3/4 cup whole mixed pickling spice
2 to 3 bunches fresh dill
2 1/2 cups vinegar
1 3/4 cups salt
2 1/2 gallons water
Cover cucumbers with cold water and wash thoroughly but gently. Remove blossom ends. Drain and wipe dry. Place half the pickling spice and a layer of dill in a 5-gallon crock or glass container. Fill the crock with cucumbers to within no more than 5 inches of the top. Place a layer of dill and the remaining pickling spice over the top of the cucumbers.
Mix the vinegar, salt and water and pour it over the cucumbers. Cover the cucumbers with a heavy plate that fits inside the crock. Place a weight on the plate to keep the cucumbers submerged and completely covered with brine. Cover the crock loosely with a clean cloth. Keep the pickles at room temperature, ideally at 75 degrees F. In about 3 to 5 days scum will tart to form on the brine. Remove it daily with a metal spoon.
Do not stir pickles. Always keep them completely submerged in brine. Add more brine as necessary, following the original proportions of vinegar to salt to water.
After 3 weeks of fermentation, the dills will be ready to be put up in jars. At this point, the brine may be cloudy due to the development of yeast during the fermentation period. Strain the brine, or make a fresh brine of 1/3 cup salt and 4 cups vinegar to 1 gallon water. The strained brine makes a better pickle because its flavors have blended with the cucumbers and dill. Bring the brine to a boil. Pack the pickles, along with some of the dill from the crock, into clean, hot quart jars. Do not pack too tightly. Cover the pickles with hot brine, leaving 1/2 inch headspace; seal. Process in boiling water bath 15 minutes.
Yields 9 to 10 quarts.
Pairs Well With
For a strong garlic flavor, add 10 to 20 garlic cloves to the pickling brine. For a mild garlic flavor, add 1 garlic clove to each jar of pickles before processing.