Gourmandistan

Creating our own candied dill pickles because nobody else will

Steve, though quite familiar with and capable of enjoying kosher dills, half-sours and sweet pickles, had never heard of candied dill pickles until he took up with Michelle, who had learned of their existence way back when her mother began to put them in Julia Child’s potato salad. Michelle expanded the role of candied dills to tuna salad, and after introducing them to Steve, quickly made him a convert.

For decades, we would pick up a jar at our local grocery every couple of years, as our home consumption of tuna salad and potato salad rarely took more than a couple of spears at a time. But when, some months back, we decided the aging jar in our refrigerator needed to be replaced, we could find no available candied dill pickles anywhere. Michelle thought they might be a seasonal item, so we waited until picnic season arrived and still no jars appeared on any shelves around. Concerned for our future ability to transform tuna and/or potatoes into salad, for a moment we thought about ordering some online. (Egads, you can apparently order them from Walmart.) We weren’t alone. Many others throughout the South and Midwest have been bemoaning Kroger’s discontinuation of the candied dills.

But then we remembered we’re Gourmandistan, where we often make things ourselves even if we don’t need to. Michelle turned to her bookshelf and found recipes for “transparent pickles” in Nashville Seasons, a 1964 Junior League cookbook Michelle suspects may be where her mother first came across this sort of pickle, compliments of a Nashville friend. (It was also the first cookbook Michelle owned, if you don’t count Betty Crocker’s New Boys and Girls Cookbook.)

After reviewing the recipes and finding them seemingly quite simple, Steve volunteered to make a batch of candied dills. Disdaining the calls for alum, he purchased a jar of locally-made dills and soaked them in ice-cold water for several hours. Instead of pickling spices, he substituted mustard and celery seed plus some ground ginger. After making a sugar and vinegar “brine” with the assorted spices, Steve put the pickles in a Mason jar and let the stuff sit for a few days, turning every so often. The result was exceptionally good, and to Steve’s enjoyment, very easy to make.

Whether you have commercial candied dill pickles close at hand or not, Gourmandistan encourages you to try and make some yourself. Your tuna and potato salads will be the better for it.

CANDIED DILL PICKLES

(adapted from “Miss Minnie Jackson’s Pickle Recipe” and “Transparent Pickles” in Nashville Seasons)

  • 16-ounce jar dill pickle spears
  • Approximately 2 c. granulated sugar
  • Approximately 1 c. cider vinegar
  • 1 TB celery seed
  • 1 TB mustard seed
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger

Drain jar of dill pickles and put spears in ice water for about 2 hours. Change water and leave pickles for about 1 hour more, then drain. Cut pickles into 1 inch chunks. In a quart Mason jar, alternate slices of pickles with  1-inch layers of sugar until all pickles are covered with sugar. Pour cider vinegar into Mason jar, close and shake vigorously. Do not worry if the sugar does not dissolve completely. Place jar on counter and leave for two or three days, turning jar every so often. After a few days have passed, transfer candied dills to a smaller container, discarding any excess sugar brine, and refrigerate.

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12 comments

  1. If only I’d know to look for them in Kroger when I had the chance. I do hate it when large stores take it upon themselves to discontinue products one has been using for decades. No doubt they have filled the space with something you’ll never buy!
    I will have to try your recipe instead 😉

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