Homemade Pickles – It’s a Big Dill!

I never knew how incredibly easy it is to make homemade pickles.  But now that I’ve made them, I want to do it all the time.  I love that you can put your stamp on them by adding your own special ingredients!

Pickling cucumbers to make “pickles” can be traced back as far as 2030 BC from their native roots in India.  Pickling was a necessity back then as a means to preserve food for long periods of time. This was important for sailors who could take them on long journeys and not have them spoil, but also for families needing food to survive over the lengthy, cold winters.

Homemade pickling can be done a couple of different ways.  One is to use salt brine and the other is to add vinegar. The salt brine method is used when you want to ferment the cucumbers.  Cucumbers are naturally found covered in lactobacillus (a type of friendly bacteria or probiotic). Lactobacillus helps with digestion. Fermenting them in salt brine causes this healthy bacterium to grow, while at the same time suppressing any bad bacteria that may cause spoilage or disease. Additionally, salt helps draw the moisture out of the cucumber, so it can be replaced with the salty brine and give them a lot of flavor.

Vinegar negates the fermentation process, so if you’re looking for probiotic benefits, you want to avoid using vinegar.  The benefit to making pickles with vinegar is that it allows you to make a salt-free version without losing the pungent flavor in the process.

Pickles come in wide variety of shapes, sizes and flavors. They can be cut into strips or slices and made into dill pickles, kosher dills, sour pickles, bread and butter chips (sweet pickles) or made hot and spicy.

Generally, store bought pickles are loaded with salt.  For example in one brand, 2 ½ pickle chips contain about 16% of our daily recommended amount of salt.  In another instance the serving size is 2/3rds of a pickle (who eats only 2/3rds of a pickle??? – I don’t know) and contains about 10% of our daily recommended amount of sodium or salt.

These pickles also contain artificial ingredients like polysorbate 80, Yellow 5, high fructose corn syrup, calcium chloride, sodium benzoate and natural flavors.

The homemade versions have simple ingredients and are low in calories. Plus they contain a little bit of nutrition; fiber, protein, iron (7% of your daily recommended amount), potassium and calcium. And they are high in antioxidants, most notably from all of the spices.

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Basic recipe – makes 1 pint (about 5-6 spears)


  • 3-4 sprigs fresh dill
  • 1-2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
  • 3 pearl onions (whole) or a few chunks chopped sweet onions
  • Sprinkle of black peppercorns (about 10)
  • Sprinkle organic black mustard seeds (about 10)
  • 1-2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon salt-free pickling spice – I used a local spice shop; Savory Spices mix consisting of Saigon cinnamon, Lampong black peppercorns, brown and yellow mustard seeds, ginger, coriander, dill seeds, mace, allspice, juniper berries, cloves, chiles, cracked Turkish bay leaves.
  • 3 mini seedless cucumbers, cut into spears or slices
  • ½ plus 1/8th cup water
  • ½ plus 1/8th cup vinegar (can use distilled white vinegar, white vinegar condiment – with grape must or apple cider vinegar)
  • OR 1 ¼ cup of water mixed with ¼ teaspoon of sea salt (in place of the vinegar if you want to ferment them).

Optional add ins: celery stalks, fresh jalapenos, banana peppers or habaneros, dried chili peppers, fennel, grape leaves, cinnamon, celery seeds, nutmeg, caraway seeds, sprinkle of honey, granulated garlic or other vegetables such as carrots, peppers or asparagus.


  1. Add fresh dill sprigs to the bottom of a pint-sized mason jar.
  2. Add in garlic, onion, peppercorns, mustard seeds, bay leaves, pickling spices and any optional ingredients.
  3. Place 5-6 cucumber spears on top of spices in the jar. They should line up with the top of the jar.
  4. Pour in vinegar and then water.
  5. Cover with a Mason jar lid, tighten the lid and then shake jar to mix in all of the ingredients and spices.
  6. Place in the refrigerator and let sit for 2-3 days or 2 weeks (if you use salt brine and want it to ferment).
  7. Serve with you or your families’ favorite summertime meal.
Nutrition Facts with added salt
1 pint – Servings: 3
Amount per serving  
Calories 28
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0.1g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 44mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 4.2g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1.4g 5%
Total Sugars 1.5g  
Protein 1.3g  
Vitamin D 0mcg 0%
Calcium 36mg 3%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 68mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet.2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Recipe analyzed by VeryWell