I make my own pickles every year, and win bunches of ribbons at the county fair for them. Sandwich dill slices are my family's favorite. Making and canning pickles isn't hard and doesn't require a bunch of fancy equipment.
We grow our own cucumbers for pickling. After trying a bunch of different varieties, the kind I like best is called Snow's Fancy Pickling Cucumbers if you are so inclined to grow your own next year. You can get pickling cucumbers at the grocery store, as well as all the other ingredients.
Here's everything you'll need; white vinegar, sugar, pickling salt, pickling spices, dill seed, mustard seed, hot peppers, garlic and bay leaves. That's our bay laurel in the planter. Besides the cucumbers and bay leaves, we also grow our own hot peppers, garlic and dill seed for this recipe.
The first thing I do is sterilize my pint jars, bands and lids. That's my pasta pot. I put enough water in the pot for my jars to stand upright plus an inch or two and boil everything for 10 minutes. You can reuse jars and bands, but it's important to use a new lid every time you can.
For the brine, I start with 1.5 tsp. of pickling spice tied up in a piece of cheesecloth. That little bundle goes in a saucepan containing 2 cups of white vinegar, 2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of pickling salt. You can use regular table salt if you want, but pickling salt makes the brine really clear (not cloudy).
Simmer for 15 minutes.
While the brine is simmering, I take a spare pint jar and use it to measure where to cut the tops off of my cucumbers to make sure they will fit. From here I will cut them into nice thick slices.
After the jars have sterilized for at least 10 minutes and the brine has simmered for at least 15 minutes, I fish a hot jar out of the pot with kitchen tongs and fill each one with a bay leaf, a fresh hot pepper, a peeled garlic clove, 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds and 1/4 tsp. of dill seeds.
I shove as many cucumber slices as I possibly can fit into each jar (they shrink a little during processing) then pour hot brine to fill the jar within 1/4 inch of the top. For cucumbers of this size, I can fit approx. 2.5 into each jar. If I've gotten brine on the very top of the jar I use a paper towel to wipe it off then top it with a sterile lid and band.
Once all of my jars are ready to go, I put them back into the boiling water. It's important that they are submerged with a least an inch of water over the tops of the jars.
They get processed for 10 minutes, then removed from the boiling water. After 20 or 30 minutes, you'll hear the lids 'pop'. As long as the lids pop, they are safe to store outside of the fridge until the jar is opened. If for some reason one doesn't, just pop that jar in the fridge. It takes about 2 weeks for the flavors to develop.
Here's an action shot! I use this same recipe to make my own whole pickles and pickle relish. If I have leftover brine, I store it in the fridge and heat it up the next time I have enough cucumbers to pickle. Making pickles isn't difficult, I hope you'll give it a try!