Fermented Garlic Dill Pickles

I’ve made a lot of pickles over the past 25 years: garlic dills, sweet pickles, bread and butter pickles, pickled beets, mustard pickles, and even dilly green beans. I’ve made tons of cucumber relish and salsa too, but everything I’ve done in the past has been vinegar based. That’s great if you have a huge garden and want to preserve your veggies for winter storage. However, after working for a Paleo diet expert, I’ve come to the realization that I’m not getting much nutrient value from these types of pickles.

The best way to preserve your veggies and get the most nutrition from them is to ferment them. It’s so simple to do, and fermenting has been around forever. And the best part is when you eat fermented foods, you’re adding good bacteria into your digestive system.

It doesn’t take much for special equipment to ferment your veggies. I already had a ton of canning jars (although other jars will work fine). All I needed to do was purchase some air locks (can find a variety of styles on Amazon), and I was all set.

I wanted to experiment with some cucumbers before gardening season arrived so I could decide 1) if I liked fermented pickles and 2) how much garden to plant. Wal-Mart actually had a small bag of pickling-sized cucumbers, so I snagged those and proceeded to start my experiment.

I had enough cucumbers to do 2 quart jars of fermented pickles. One I decided to do as close to my usual garlic dill pickles as possible, and the other quart jar I experimented with some pickling spice. The recipe that was closest to my usual dill pickles turned out terrific, and my youngest son told me I had to make crocks of them this summer when we’re overloaded with cucumbers. These pickles did not last long. The second jar – not so much a success. It fermented as it was supposed to. I just didn’t like the taste of the pickling spice, so the chickens got a fermented treat.

For my experiment, since it was March and fresh dill just isn’t available in Iowa, I used a combination of both dill seed and dill weed in my quart jar, but come summer, I’ll be using fresh, probably a big head of dill per jar. I like lots of dill and garlic in my pickles, but if you prefer less, feel free to adjust the amounts. The red pepper flakes are also optional. Sometimes I would make my usual garlic dills with a small piece of pepper to kick up the flavor, but the pickles will taste just fine if you don’t want the extra heat. I also didn’t have any grape leaves or horseradish leaves ready in the garden yet since it’s March, but I do add them when available. However, these pickles were perfectly crisp without them, so if you don’t have access to the leaves, don’t worry about it. Just be sure to keep the salt-to-water ratio the same so that you have enough salty brine for the fermentation to take place.

The spices and brine recipe are for 1 quart jar. Double as needed depending how many jars of pickles you want to make.


Fermented Garlic Dill Pickles

6 to 8 pickling size cucumbers (whole or slice into chunks as you prefer)

1 to 2 cloves garlic, peeled

1-1/2 tablespoon dill seed

1/2 teaspoon dill weed

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Grape leaf or horseradish leaf (optional – this provides tannin to help keep pickles crisp)

For the Brine (per quart):

3 cups water (room temperature)

3 tablespoons fine sea salt (can use canning/pickling salt too)


To each quart jar, add the grape or horseradish leaf if using, the garlic, and the spices. Pack your cucumbers in tightly. Combine brine ingredients until the salt is dissolved, and pour the brine over the cucumbers.

Add a glass weight to the jar to keep the cucumbers submerged in the brine, and place an air lock to the top of the jar. Let the jar sit on the counter for 2 to 3 days out of the sun. How fast fermentation takes place will depend on how warm the room is. Ideal temperature would be around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so if it’s wintertime, it will take longer, and fermentation will definitely speed up when it’s hot.

You’ll see the brine turn cloudy after a day or two. Don’t panic – that’s what you want to happen. It means things are fermenting as planned. After a couple of days, remove the air lock and the glass weight, and taste a pickle. It should be crunchy and full of dill and garlic flavor. If it isn’t, replace the glass weight and air lock, and let the jar sit for another day before re-tasting. When you’re happy with the pickles, remove the air lock and glass weight, place a different lid on the jar (I use a new canning lid and ring), and put the jar in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

Note: If you slice your cucumbers, the slices will ferment a bit quicker than if you leave the cucumbers whole in the jar. My whole cucumbers took about 4 days in mid-March before they were fermented all the way through, but my slices were ready in 2-1/2 days.


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How to Make Corned Beef

My family loves corned beef, and not just for St. Patrick’s Day. We could probably eat corned beef and cabbage on a monthly basis, but it’s not always possible to find a good corned beef when we get a craving for it. And when you do find it in abundance, especially around March, the price can sometimes be cost prohibitive.


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We like to buy meat in bulk and repackage it into meal-sized portions. We do this with pork loin, ground beef, sirloin when it’s on sale and brisket. We stumbled across a large beef brisket that was on sale, so we picked one up and portioned it into several different meals. With what was left, Kevin decided he wanted to try making corned beef. I have no idea where he found his brine recipe, or I’d link a credit to the site, but the smell of it when he was finished made my mouth water, so I think he found a good one. The brine he used is plenty for an 8-pound brisket.


Homemade Corned Beef

8-pound beef brisket, trimmed of excess fat

2 quarts water

1 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup white vinegar

4 tablespoons sugar

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon mustard seed

Pinch ground cloves

4 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped or smashed


Trim beef brisket of as much fat as you desire. Fat does add flavor, so you may want to leave some on the brisket.


corned beef 2


Combine all ingredients except for the garlic cloves in a large saucepot, and bring the mixture to a boil. Cool to room temperature (or cool quickly in the refrigerator).

Put the beef brisket in a large, sealable plastic bag (or use a large plastic container like we did). Pour in the brine, and add the peeled and chopped garlic cloves. If using a plastic bag, squeeze out excess air and seal.

corned beef in brine


Place the sealed bag in the refrigerator for 6 to 7 days, turning the bag every other day. Remove the brisket from the bag, and discard the brine. Cook brisket as desired, or package meat for freezing for a later date.
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Canning 101: Kidney Beans

kidney beans canned 2


Canning isn’t just for summertime and fall when the gardens are overloaded with fresh vegetables. While I do most of my canning then, I also do some canning in the winter. If the guys are lucky to get a deer during hunting season, I’ll often can quarts of venison, which makes a quick meal. Last winter I decided to try my hand at canning dry beans, and since then, I’ve been canning a lot of them. It’s so easy to do, and I can’t believe I’d been canning for over 20 years before I even tried it.


I’ve canned chili beans, pork and beans, black beans, and now I’ve canned kidney beans. The grocery store had packages of kidney beans in its discount bean – why I can’t figure out because dried beans don’t go bad or spoil – and being the frugal grocery shopper that I am, I scooped all they had to can. I came home with five 1-pound packages, each marked down to $0.50 – cheap eats when you consider a single can of kidney beans can be around $1.


The hardest part about canning dried beans is waiting. While you can do a quick boil on the beans the same day that you can them, I like to soak them overnight and process them the next day.


To can any kind of dried bean, first rinse the beans. You’d be amazed at all the dirt, little rocks and other debris that lurks in those packages. Once you’ve rinsed them, pour all the beans you want to can in a large container, and cover them with water, having about 2 to 3 inches of water above the beans. Let set overnight.


The next day, drain and rinse the beans. Place beans in a large stockpot, and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 30 minutes.


While the beans are cooking, prepare pint canning jars, leaving them hot until ready to use. When the beans are ready to can, fill pint jars 3/4 full with the beans. Cover with boiling water, or use the hot liquid the beans cooked in (which is what I do). Add lids and rings, and tighten the rings just until finger tight.


Process pint jars in a pressure canner at 10 pounds of pressure for 70 minutes. Once the pressure reduces, remove the jars, and let set undisturbed in a cool place for 12 hours. Test lids. If a jar hasn’t sealed, place it in the refrigerator and use it fairly soon in your favorite recipe.


kidney beans canned


I started with 5 pounds of dried beans, and I ended up with 20 pint jars of processed kidney beans.

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Canning 101: Homemade Horseradish

My husband likes to make homemade horseradish. He may not make it every year, depending on how quickly we go through it, but it’s something that’s easy to make, although it will “scent up” your kitchen if you work it up inside 🙂 He got his recipe from a co-worker, and it’s a good one to have on hand, especially if you grow your own horseradish like we do.

In the fall, dig up the horseradish roots – as much as you want to prepare. Kevin always digs in late fall, and this year he was able to wait until Dec. 11 as it stayed warm enough that the ground hadn’t frozen, and he could still get the spade in the ground. Here’s one of the largest roots he dug up this year:

horseradish root

After digging the roots, cut off the crowns, but don’t throw them away. You can save them and replant in the spring, or share with your family and friends so they can start their own horseradish patch in the garden. Scrape or peel the roots as you would a carrot.

horseradish scraped

Cube up the roots into manageable pieces, small enough that they won’t ruin a food processor. Believe me, these roots are tough, and we’ve gone through several commercial-grade food processors making horseradish in the past.

To each cup of cubed horseradish root you add to the food processor, add 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar. Pulse the ingredients until smooth and creamy. You’ll want to have an open window in the room you’re working – when you open up the lid to the food processor, you’ll understand why 🙂

Pour prepared horseradish into clean pint jars. Add lids and rings. Store horseradish in the refrigerator.

horseradish prepared all jars

When horseradish is fresh, it will be snow white in color, and as it ages, it turns creamy white in color. The intensity of the flavor will mellow as it ages, but this keeps for several months in the refrigerator. Use it as you would use store-bought horseradish: in cocktail sauce (add to ketchup) or add to mayonnaise and sour cream to make a tasty dipping sauce for prime rib or roast beef. I even use it in my barbecue sauce for a little extra kick. Enjoy!

Canning 101: Easy Applesauce

It’s apple season here in eastern Iowa, and I’ve already made some caramel apple pie filling, but I have scads of apples yet to work with. I haven’t made applesauce in years, so I thought it was high time I did. Our sons love it, as do our granddaughters, so I know I won’t have any problem getting rid of it.:)



20 pounds apples, cored and sliced
2 cups apple juice, apple cider or water
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Place cored and sliced apples and the 2 cups of liquid in a large stockpot, and cook the apples until they’re soft and mushy, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Using a food processor or stick blender, blend the apples until you reach the consistency you want. I like smooth applesauce, so I blended for approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon, and stir the apple mixture until everything is well combined.

Pour hot applesauce into sterilized, hot pint jars. Process in a water bath canner for 20 minutes.

Yield: 13 pints

Canning 101: Caramel Apple Pie Filling

Fall is apple season on our little homestead, and when we’re blessed with an overabundance of apples like this year, I make apple pie filling. I decided to change up my usual pie filling recipe by substituting brown sugar for half of the sugar in my normal recipe. This makes a delicious caramel filling that goes great with apples.



Caramel Apple Pie Filling

6 to 7 pounds apples, peeled, cored and sliced
Fruit Fresh or lemon juice to treat apples
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 cup ClearJel
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white vinegar
10 cups water

Peel, core and slice apples. Treat with Fruit Fresh or lemon juice to prevent browning.

In a large stockpot, combine both sugars, ClearJel, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, vinegar and water. Stir until combined. Heat over medium-high heat until the mixture thickens slightly.

Pack apples into hot quart jars, and pour the hot syrup over the apples, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Process jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Yield: 7 quarts

Canning 101: Mushrooms

Today my husband decided to take a little stroll in the timber, and he came back with a really nice hen of the woods mushroom. We forage both in the spring and in the fall for wild mushrooms, and hen of the woods can be found in late fall, usually right before frost, providing the conditions are right.

The one he found today is a really nice one at 10 pounds. Not the biggest he’s ever found, but also not the smallest. It will take a few jars to get this sucker canned. 🙂


These mushrooms are pretty much solid all the way through. You do need to trim off the bottom where it sits on the ground, and check for bugs and other critters as you cut it up and clean it. If you find them fresh like this one is, there’s a lot of good eating.

While I realize that the current edition of Ball Blue Book doesn’t condone canning wild mushrooms, older versions of this publication had no warnings against it, which is when I learned how to can what we would find. You have to know what you’re foraging for, as there are mushrooms out there that may look similar but are deadly, not so much the hen of the woods but especially other types of fall mushrooms that we like to look for. My husband and I have hunted wild mushrooms for decades, so we know what is good to eat and what will kill you, and we’ve researched all kinds of mushrooms in various publications. That said, if you’re going to hunt for wild mushrooms, if you’re a newbie take someone with you who has experience and knows what the good ones look like.

Mushrooms must be pressure canned because mushrooms are a low-acid food, and these aren’t being pickled (pickled mushrooms can be water bathed). A water bath canner doesn’t get the temperature high enough to kill off any potential bacteria (botulism). Again, this isn’t an approved Ball Blue Book recipe, so proceed at your own risk, but I’ve pressure canned mushrooms this way for over 20 years, and I’m still here. I found these instructions in my Mirro canner manual, which I purchased over 20 years ago. Use half-pints or pint jars only, as using quarts isn’t recommended.

For this 10-pound mushroom, I ended up with 25 half-pints of canned mushrooms. Nice return for a stroll in the woods. 🙂

Canning Mushrooms

Wild mushrooms
Canning salt

Trim mushrooms of any debris, and soak in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse mushrooms. For hen of the woods mushrooms, dice mushrooms into bite-sized pieces.

In a large stockpot, cook mushrooms gently for 15 minutes.

Pack hot mushrooms into prepared hot jars, and cover with boiling water, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Add canning salt to each jar (1/4 teaspoon for half-pints, 1/2 teaspoon for pints). Adjust lids and rings.

Process jars in a pressure canner at 10 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes (same time for both half pints and pints).

After processing, remove jars from canner, and let sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours before moving.

To use: You can use these mushrooms in any recipe that you would normally use store-bought canned mushrooms.

Canning 101: Sweet Honey Corn Relish

On a visit to my stepdaughter’s a few years ago, I first tasted corn relish. That in itself is an amazing feat, considering I live in Iowa where corn is found everywhere in the summer. Since then, I’ve been on the hunt for a tasty corn relish that I could can and enjoy during the winter when fresh sweet corn isn’t available.

I found this corn relish in one of my canning books, The Pickled Pantry: From Apples to Zucchini by Andrea Chesman (available on Amazon in print and Kindle editions), where I’ve found several delicious pickle and relish recipes. This one is a hit too.

The recipe says you’ll end up with 5 pints. I followed the recipe exactly and got 7 pints.



Sweet Honey and Corn Relish

8 cups raw corn kernels (from 10 to 12 ears)
2 onions, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cups honey
3 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar (5%)
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 tablespoon pickling or fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ClearJel

Combine the corn, onions, green and red bell peppers, 1 cup of the honey, 3 cups of the apple cider vinegar, celery seeds, salt and cayenne pepper in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the honey.

Stir together the ClearJel and the remaining 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar until smooth. Stir into the corn mixture, and boil gently until thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste and add more honey if desired.


Ladle the hot relish into clean, hot pint-sized canning jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles, and seal.

Process jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Let cool undisturbed for 12 hours. Do not open for at least 6 weeks to allow the flavors to develop.

Yield:  5 pints

Canning 101: Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

When my sons were visiting their grandparents, they had dinner with friends of the family, and Shirley made a red cabbage salad. My boys were in hog heaven and asked if I could get the recipe (which I did – and it’s awesome).

When going through my canning books, I stumbled across a recipe for red cabbage with apples that is really close to Shirley’s recipe. This is an easy way to have a side dish ready to go when you’re making pork or lamb for supper – all you have to do is open the jar, heat it through and serve.
red cabbage
Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage
4 1/2 pounds red cabbage
1/3 cup pickling salt
5 1/2 cups red wine vinegar (5%)
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/4 pounds (about 4 to 5 medium) tart apples
1 3/4 cups (2 medium) chopped onions
Remove and discard bruised outer red cabbage leaves. Quarter, core and slice cabbage 1/2-inch thick. In a large bowl, toss cabbage with pickling salt until well combined. Cover, and let stand in a cool location for 24 hours. Rinse cabbage, drain and dry thoroughly on several layers of paper towels for 6 hours.
In a large stockpot, combine red wine vinegar, brown sugar and black pepper. Cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer gently for 5 minutes, or until the brown sugar dissolves. Keep liquid hot while filling jars.
Just before filling jars, peel, core and shred the apples; treat to prevent browning. In a large bowl, toss together the red cabbage, apples and the onions.
Pack into prepared hot pint jars, and pour the hot brine over the vegetables, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Process jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Yield: 7 pints

Canning 101: Pickled Marinated Mushrooms

One of my goals with this blog is to keep track of recipes I’ve already tried or that I want to try but haven’t gotten around to yet. This marinated mushroom recipe is one I haven’t tried yet, but I love pickled mushrooms. I have so many different canning and preserving books and recipes, and I don’t want to try to remember where I put the recipe when I’m ready to make it.

This recipe comes from The Home Preserving Bible by Carole Cancler. This book contains multiple terrific-sounding preserving recipes that I’m itching to try, but this marinated mushroom recipe caught my eye first. The book is available on Amazon (both the print and Kindle versions), and it’s one I highly recommend to both newbie canners and seasoned canners alike, as it has a wealth of preserving information, not just canning but other various methods such as how to cure meats, fermentation, salt curing and more.

ETA: I made the recipe today, and while the recipe says it makes 7 half-pints, I ended up with 14 half-pints. I followed the recipe exactly, but perhaps the mushrooms I used were larger than the recipe author’s. Just wanted you to know you may end up with more than 7 half-pints.




Pickled Marinated Mushrooms (raw pack only)

5 1/2 pounds small, whole button mushrooms
6 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
2 quarts water (or as needed)
1 1/2 cups olive or salad oil
2 cups white vinegar (5%)
6 tablespoons finely chopped onions
3 tablespoons diced red bell pepper or hot chilies
2 3/4 teaspoons oregano leaves
2 3/4 teaspoons dried basil leaves
2 3/4 teaspoons pickling salt
21 black peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, cut in quarters

Select fresh, unopened mushroom caps less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Wash in several changes of water until no more grit remains. Trim stems, leaving 1/4 inch attached to the cap.

In a saucepan, combine mushrooms, bottled lemon juice and water to cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Drain mushrooms.

In another saucepan, combine mushrooms, olive oil, white vinegar, onions, red bell pepper or chilies, oregano, basil and pickling salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and keep mixture hot while filling jars.



Before filling a hot jar with mushrooms, add 3 black peppercorns and 1 piece of garlic to each jar. Evenly distribute mushrooms and oil-vinegar brine between the jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Process mushrooms in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

Makes 7 half-pints

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