Hi there! Mama here. 
Don't they look pretty?

Well, I finally finished loading all of the pictures for this post and phew! Talk about visual overload! I went a little overboard, but I feel like it was necessary. You see, this was my first time canning, and even though it's a fairly straightforward process, I think it's definitely something you need to see done once by someone who knows what they're doing. Thus, the insane amount of pictures.

So here's the story: It all started out with our annual summer pilgrimage to my best friend's family homestead in Rockford, Michigan. I was talking about my "30 Goals In 30 Weeks" blog series, and when I mentioned that one of my goals was to can something, what started out as a typical visit ended in an afternoon making delicious homemade pickles! 

It was a happy coincidence that I got the opportunity to complete my first "30 Weeks" goal with my best friend Tiffany, with expert advice from her mother Connie of Grand Shire Farm. Connie is a Master Gardener who sells herbal soup and dip mixes at Fulton Street Farmers Market, the oldest and largest farmers market in Grand Rapids. She was at the market bright and early Friday morning, and when she heard I'd never canned, she loaded up her trunk with fresh pickling cucumbers from the market so that we could can and pickle them!
I'll show you our process below, but if you're going to try this one yourself I highly recommend working with someone who's done it before! Never having canned, I had no idea all that went into it when I'd made it one of my 30 goals. You need a large pot called a "canner" with a special rack insert to hold the canning jars (you can get one for anywhere from $20-$70 on Amazon or at your local all-in-one store), a few tools to make the process easier, and then of course the pickles and seasonings to make the pickling solution that you pour in around the pickling cucumbers. 

We made two kinds of pickles in one canning session (bonus!): Sweet Bread and Butter Pickles and Dill Pickles. So consider yourself warned: This is a ridiculously long, photo-jammed tutorial!

Homemade Bread and Butter Pickles

Makes 6-7 pint-sized canning jars.
Ingredients
15 cups sliced pickling cucumbers
3 onions, thinly sliced
1/4¼ cup coarse salt
4 cups cracked ice
2 ½ 1/2 cups cider vinegar
2 ½ 1/2 cups sugar
3/4¾ teaspoon turmeric
½1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
Directions
1. Get a bumload of small pickling cucumbers (we got 1 large bucket). Wash and slice (round for the sweet pickles, long for the dills), then mix in salt and cover with ice. Allow to stand 3 hours. Get really excited during the three hours and check to see if the pickles are actually getting colder. It won't help the process along, but it'll keep things interesting while you wait. Drain thoroughly.
2. Once the pickles are good and chilled, sterilize your jars in near-boiling water (or wash well in hot soapy water) and let dry. You can boil the lids in a saucepan on the stove.
3. Next, fill up your canner about halfway with water. Begin heating on HIGH.
4. In another large pot (NOT the canner that you're boiling water in!), combine vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, and mustard seed. Add the drained cucumbers and onions, then cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it ALMOST boils, but TRY NOT TO ACTUALLY LET IT TO BOIL.
5. Remove from heat. Using a wide-mouth funnel, carefully ladle the pickles and juice into the canning jars. Press down the contents of each jar with a spoon, and then continue to fill up to about 1/4 inch below the rim of the jar. Try to work as quickly as possible without burning yourself! I didn't burn myself, which is weird if you know my history with hot things.
6. Once the jars are filled, run a butter knife around the inner rim of each jar, going about 2 inches down, to release any air bubbles from the jars. If you hear a sucking noise, don't be alarmed--that's the point.
7. Wipe any spills from the rim of each jar with a washcloth, then use a magnetic tool (this helps prevent burning your fingers) to place the hot, sterilized lids onto the jars. Holding the hot jar with a towel or potholder, twist the lid bands TIGHTLY onto the jars. 
8. Place the jars onto the canning rack. If you have any empty spaces on the rack (for example if you didn't have enough to fill all the jars), fill an empty jar with water and put a lid on it, then place it in the empty space. This will help so that the other jars don't have extra room to rattle around and clink together, and possibly break.
9. Place the rack into the canner and cover. Make sure the water goes at least 1-2 inches above the tops of the jars. Once the water in the canner boils again, cook for 10 minutes.
10. Using special canning tongs with rubber on the ends, lift the jars one by one out of the canner and place onto a dry towel. Be careful not to set them down too hard or they could bust!
11. Let the jars cool, then store in the refrigerator (or a cool, dry place) for 2-3 weeks before eating...if you can wait that long.
 For the dill pickles, we used a cold method (the cucumbers stay cold, not the solution you pour on them). 

Homemade Dill Pickles

Makes 7 pint-sized canning jars.
Ingredients
30 to 40 medium cucumbers
3 tablespoons mixed pickling spices
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup salt
1 quart vinegar
1 quart water
7 sprigs fresh dill
7 grape leaves
7 garlic cloves, sliced

Directions
1. Follow steps 1, 2, and 3 above (rinse and slice cucumbers, mix with salt and ice, chill for 3 hours, sterilize jars and lids, fill up canner with water, and heat water on high setting). Rinse the cucumber spears and pour the pickling spices into a small cheesecloth bag and tie it shut (I think a tea infuser ball might even work here as long as your pan doesn't have any special coating).
2. Combine the sugar, salt. vinegar, and water together in a large pot, then toss in the cheesecloth bag. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
For the jars, we used fresh grape leaves and dill from Connie's herb garden, and whole garlic cloves, sliced into pieces.
3. Put one grape leaf, one garlic clove (sliced up), a bunch of cucumber spears, and finally a sprig of fresh dill into every jar. Be sure to really stuff the spears in close and tight together, as many as you can fit. 
4. Next, use a wide mouth funnel to pour the hot pickling solution from the pot into the jars until it comes to about a quarter inch below the rim. 
5. Once the jars are filled, follow steps 6-11 in the tutorial above: Run a butter knife around the inner rim of each jar (going about 2 inches down to release any air bubbles), wipe down rims with a washcloth, put on lids, twist rim bands tight, place on canning rack, lower into the canner leaving 1-2 inches of water over the top, cover and boil for 15 minutes, use canning tongs to remove the jars from the pot, and cool completely. 

Connie let me lower the rack into the pot for the dill pickles after I'd watched her do it with the sweet pickles. See why I recommended that you work with someone who knows what they're doing the first time around? :)
Throughout the evening, we could hear little *pop* sounds as the cooling lids sealed themselves. It scared me the first time and I thought maybe I'd done something wrong, but Connie told me that was what was supposed to happen and it's just sealing the jars, which made me feel better (and slightly foolish).

And then voila: Homemade pickles! Not too shabby, huh? 
I just opened a jar of each at a birthday party we hosted this past weekend, and they were fantastic! My husband prefers the dills. I think the dills go great alongside a big juicy hamburger, but I prefer the bread and butter pickles for snacking on. Yum-o!

I really hope you enjoyed this tutorial--mostly because it took FOREVER to put it all together! A big thank you to Connie and Tiffany for the opportunity, and thank YOU for reading! If you try this at home, be sure to comment and let me know how it turned out!

-♡- Mama

This post is part of a series: 30 Goals in 30 Weeks Before I'm Thirty. Basically, in an effort to do something fun and meaningful before I turn 30, I'm completing one goal each week for the 30 weeks leading up to my 30th birthday. I have a list but no particular order, to leave a little wiggle room for unexpected opportunities that may arise (like they did in Week 1!). I hope you'll join me and maybe even set some goals for yourself as you follow along! 
 


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