Canning Pickles How-To

A few days ago, my Grandma Biggs calls me and asks if I would like to can pickles with her. Being a person who loves dill, garlic pickles, and also being a person who LOVES mason jars, and also being a person who loves that sort of thing... canning... of course I said YES! I have always loved the idea of canning. I have had little experience with canning fruits and vegetables, but I absolutely love the idea of saving fresh fruits and veggies for later, soaking them in syrups or fermenting them. It is a beautiful way to save. On Saturday, my Grandma Biggs bought fresh dill, 25 pounds of pickling cucumbers, and mason jars. Oh my goodness... when I came over on Sunday and saw that huge bag of pickling cucumbers, I about fell over. I didn't think we were going to be canning 25  pounds of local pickling cucumbers. I was up for the challenge of course. 
The bag of cucumbers was the size of the welcome mat... 
25 pounds, hello!
We dumped all of those pickling cucumbers in her sink, filled the sink with cold water and ice cubes, and we scrubbed all the dirt from the cucumbers. There actually wasn't a whole bunch of dirt on the cucumbers. It was nice. The Grower's Outlet did a really good job of cleaning before purchasing. Of course there was some dirt, but there really wasn't much. 
We left for the farmer's market and let the cucumbers soak in the cold water. We were gone for about 3 & 1/2 hours. The reason we soaked the pickling cucumbers was the firm them after they have been off the vine, and without a drink for however many hours. Veggies/plants tend to soften and wilt when they are off the vine or stem, or out of their growing place, and of course they wilt without water, so to firm them up or make them look a little "happier", just give them a drink of cool water and they will perk right up. 
That is why we soaked the pickling cucumbers. 
Now, Here is the canning pickles how to...

Here is what you'll need...
~pickling cucumbers (your choice of poundage)
~Mason jars (we used wide mouth, self-sealing, quart jars){however many you need, depending on the poundage of cucumbers you use}
~scrubby (to scrub and wash the pickling cucumbers)
~2 gallons of white, distilled vinegar or Pickle Perfect vinegar (Also, more or less vinegar, depending on how many jars you are going to use)
~tap or filtered water (amount depends on the amount used above)
~4 dill plant tops. (Amount depends on above)
~Selected spices to your taste. (We used mustard seed, and celery seed, and garlic)
~Pickling salt
~pickle firmer
~Alum (optional)
~Different sizes of pots (Big, Medium, Small)

First, soak the pickles for about 2 to 3 hours in ice cold water. Once they are done soaking, remove from water and pat dry or air dry. Begin sanitizing the mason jars and the lids. To do this, use a huge pot to hold the mason jars. Fill the mason jar with about 2 inches of water, and fill the pot with about 8 inches of water. Boil the water, and keep mason jars in the pot until you are ready to use them. The longer you heat them, the cleaner and more sterile they are. Do the same with the mason jar seals and lids, fill a smaller pot with about 4 inches of water, and sanitize the seals and lids. Now begin making the brine. 2 quarts of vinegar, 2 quarts of water, 1 cup of sugar, and one cup of pickling salt (different than regular salt). Pour the vinegar in first, then the water, then the sugar and salt. Bring the brine to boil and stir so the sugar and salt does not stick to the bottom. Next, skin the garlic, and cut the garlic in halves (this releases flavor). Use metal tongs to take out the mason jars, and pour out the water. In the mason jar, place 2 to 3 dill cuts, 1/4 teaspoon pickle firmer, 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed, 1/4 teaspoon alum, 1/4 teaspoon celery seed, and 4 to 6 pieces of garlic. Now, shove as many pickling cucumbers in the jar as you can. If you need to cut up the pickling cucumbers lengthwise of in half to make more fit and fill in gaps, please do (because we did!). Next, fill to half the lid line with brine. The more pickles you fit in the jar, the less brine you need, the more you save on vinegar! ha. Once the brine is in, use tongs to take a seal from the boiling pot, and use the tongs to take a lid from the boiling pot. Use a pot holder to screw on the lid to the mason jar tight, and place the closed mason jar back in the HUGE pot. The heat will help seal them. Once the jars are sealed, wait three to four weeks to let the pickles ferment, and then enjoy! 
Here it is in collage form...
Seriously, almost done, bear with me....
There! Pickles in 40 easy steps! ha. It's because I showed every single step and what it looked like after I did that step. We used up all 25 pounds of the pickling cucumbers, and we made 23 jars of cucumbers. WOW. We were very proud.
23 jars of pickles.
I had the process down. We were moving through those jars, and the pickling cucumbers like there was no tomorrow! The production line was fabulous.
"Fun pictures"
Please excuse my messy hair... I had been around steamy pots, foul smelling vinegar, and lots of garlic.
These are the "fascinating" pictures. It was so neat to see that just after a few minutes of soaking in the boiling hot brine, the pickles' color started to transform. It faded from a healthy, bright, cucumber green, to an old, faded, wrinkled pickle green. It was really nifty!
When we were done with the pickles, and after we labeled them and I packed my half, we had one left over. We decided to save it for a special occasion, and we picked Christmas. So, we labeled one of the jars our "Christmas Pickles", and we wouldn't open it until Christmas day, that way, the whole family can try the pickles all together. 
This was a wonderful experience. I love spending time with my Grandma Biggs, and hearing stories of how she used to can pickles with her father. We ate our cheesecake that we purchased from the farmer's market, and ate some rhubarb cake (which was delicious!). It was a long process, and a long, fun day. We produced 23 jars of pickles! I couldn't believe it! 25 pounds in 23 jars. My goodness gracious! 
Here is an Instagram photo... as always.
Our next canning project (we hope, that is, if we have enough time...) is peaches!