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The simplest way to preserve some summer vegetables is by pickling them. Everything from mushrooms, beans, cauliflower, peppers, peaches, artichoke hearts, broccoli, cabbage, watermelon, pears, green tomatoes to cucumbers will find their way into a pickle jar before each summer ends. The favorite of many when pickling is the dill pickle. Delicious as a snack, on burgers, in salads or in many other ways, the dill pickle is one of the easiest items to can.

It is well known that pickling serves two purposes. It adds a deliciously spicy flavor and preserves the vegetable or fruit so it can be enjoyed throughout the year. When choosing cucumbers for pickling be sure they are fresh and unwaxed. Check the firmness and avoid using an under ripe or over ripe product. The two methods of pickling are fermentation and fresh pack pickling. The primary preservatives in both methods are brine and vinegar. Spices, sugars and herbs are often added to give specific flavors.

To begin making your dill pickles, you will need 1\2 gallon of water, 1\3 cup of salt, 1\2 cup of vinegar, 4 pounds of pickling cucumbers (these should be between four and five inches long), 15 sprigs of fresh dill, 30 peppercorns and 15 cloves of garlic. Thoroughly wash the cucumbers and utensils you will be using. To make your dill pickles by the process of fermentation, place 1\2 of the dill, peppercorns and garlic in the bottom of a one gallon crock. Be sure all the spices are evenly distributed on the bottom. Add the cucumbers and place the remaining dill, peppercorns and garlic on top. Make the brine by mixing the vinegar, salt and water together. Pour the brine mixture over the top of the cucumbers and spices being careful to completely cover all the ingredients. Place a heavy plate over the mixture to keep the cucumbers submerged. The plate should be under about two inches of the brine mixture. Allow one to three weeks for the fermentation process to work. As bubbles and scum begin to form, remove daily. The fermentation process is complete when bubbles and scum stop forming. With this pickling process, the pickles can be placed in glass jars in the refrigerator and will last for around three weeks.

Using the same ingredients you can also make your dill pickles by what is called fresh pack pickling. To do this you will need 4 pounds of pickling cucumbers, 1\2 gallon of brine solution made by mixing 1\3 cup of salt with 1\2 gallon of water, 4 garlic cloves, 8 heads of dill, 4 teaspoons of mustard seed, 1 1\2 cups of vinegar, 3 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon sugar and 3 cups of water. Begin by thoroughly washing the cucumbers and then soaking them overnight in the brine solution. Using glass jars, divide spices equally into each jar. Remove the cucumbers from the brine and pack tightly into the jars. Heat vinegar, salt, sugar and water until it comes to a rolling boil. Immediately pour over the cucumbers and spice leaving a space of about 1\2 inch from the top. To complete the canning process, place self sealing lids on the jars and tighten. Place the jars in a large pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and allow to boil for 20 minutes, adding hot water as needed to keep jars submerged. Immediately remove from the water and place on racks to cool.