Dill Pickles can be made from those big orange cucumbers too

Back in 2014 I posted a column about making sweet pickles from big overripe cucumbers. I included a recipe my mother used and still makes for her church. She’s now almost 88. 

The recipe was called Ruth’s pickles and I found out after I posted the column that it was named for the story in the Old Testament of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth gleaned the field after the harvest, salvaging what she could. In this case the big orange cucumbers were left after the marketable ones were picked.  

Therefore, the final product was called “Ruth’s pickles” after her. One of my readers, Deb Smith, supplied me with that information. That recipe has been a part of our family since I was a teenager. 

I’m a fan of them, but I also love dill pickles. My middle son is a type 1 diabetic and has been for 19 years. He doesn’t eat sweet pickles. He’s been on his own for some time now, but I thought it might be cool to experiment with overripe cucumbers to produce dills. 

My concern was maintaining the crunch without a flinty skin. Peeling them was an easy fix for part of that problem. I thought removing the gelatinous mature seeds might solve The other dilemma, so I played around with several recipes until I found a brine that gave me the flavor I wanted. 

I thought that the flavor of apple cider vinegar overpowered the garlic and dill, so I settled on white vinegar. In order to preserve crispness, I added some sugar and a touch of calcium chloride. My recipe is probably not totally accurate as I’m a taster. I keep adjusting until the taste feels right to me. 

Another thing I did was let the brine simmer for a while before adding it to the jars. That way the garlic and dill taste might be stronger sooner.  

I did not cook the dill sprigs or whole garlic cloves. They went straight to the jars. Only minced garlic and dill seed were cooked with the brine. I didn’t process them. Instead I stored them in a relatively cool spot though not in the refrigerator. After six weeks all the jars remain sealed. 

I tried a jar within three days, and I was encouraged. At six weeks the quality was even better. I’m not saying they are as good as they would be had I used young pickling cucumbers, but I’m satisfied with the results.  

I thought about pickling some of the orange cukes without peeling and removing the seeds, but I knew what the result would be, and it wasn’t worth wasting ingredients. 

Thus far, I think the experiment was a success. Time will tell. My desire was to find another edible use for those overripe cucumbers. I love the sweet pickles, but I also love dills. Most of all, I love to experiment. 

My recipe is as follows: 

Approximately 10 pounds of prepared cucumber pieces 

10 cups white vinegar and 10 cups water 

1 cup pickling salt 

½ cup sugar 

6 Tablespoons dill seed 

10 teaspoons fresh minced garlic 

20 fresh dill sprigs 

20 cloves of garlic 

All ingredients except the cucumbers, dill sprigs and garlic cloves are simmered in a brine for about ten minutes. I packed the cucumbers tightly in sterilized jars and added two sprigs of dill and two cloves of garlic. Then I added the boiling brine mixture over the cucumbers until all were covered. After placing lids and rings on the jars I let them cool for a few hours until the jars sealed. Had any not sealed I would have placed them in a water bath for a few minutes and given them another chance to seal. Fortunately, this wasn’t necessary.  

Next time I’m making dill relish. I might add a few red peppers for color. 


Jar of ripe dills

 Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I recently retired from teaching high school agriculture after 25 years teaching with my wife. Until recently I wrote a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper (dailyadvance.com). I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that can be purchased on Amazon in Kindle format. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone (presently out of print), a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death (this one is not yet published). In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books. I also wrote a romance novel titled Virginia. It is available on Amazon and is a different type of romance from a man's perspective.
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4 Responses to Dill Pickles can be made from those big orange cucumbers too

  1. Teresa says:

    Try putting a grape leaf in the bottom of you jars. it will preserve the crunch

  2. Nancy Hirsch says:

    Hi Ted, Thanks for the dill pickle recipe. The first time I tried it with the cold packing 6 of 8 cans sealed but the second time none of them did. I could see that the brine level went down when I opened the jars but do you know why this would happen? I need to get a water bath canner than can accommodate the quart jars. Is it safe to wait two days and then finish canning them or should I just put them in the fridge and not seal them? I did open the jars and added water to bring them back to 1/2″ head room. Thanks so much.

    • tedmanzer says:

      If you have the space I might just refrigerate that batch, although it should be safe to water bath them because of the amount of vinegar. The brine level could have dropped if the cucumbers dried up some before you started pickling them.

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