Making Salt Free Dill Pickles
My family LOVES dill pickles. It’s kind of an obsession with us. My wife favors sweet pickles the most, but she also enjoys good dill pickles. When I first was told I needed to go low/no sodium for my heart, and I thought that would be the end of pickles. Are there salt free dill pickles?
I basically started sobbing. Once the salty tears were wiped away, I began my quest for reduced sodium, low sodium, or no sodium pickles. There were only a few options available in stores and online. The ones online were pretty costly to ship, so I needed a better alternative.
Modifying Mom’s Recipe
My Mom had made and preserved pickles once when we were younger, but I could never find her recipe. I did however find several recipes online and with the help of my wife and children we went to the farmer’s market. We gathered our ingredients and dug into the job back in the kitchen. Our first batches (in fact three batches) were horrific! We screwed up the taste profiles, or the brine mixture.
It was our first time trying it, so we expected some trial and error. Finally we got a batch that not only turned out good, we thought it was great! The recipe mentioned these would last several weeks in the refrigerator, but they barely lasted the week in our house. So if you might want to make more. The only salt is that which naturally occurs in the cucumbers.
Many people have asked me about the mention of adding grape leaves to the jars in the recipe. It is an older tradition and usually is for pickles that will be canned and preserved longer than the refrigerator pickle recipe that this is. There are many old recipes that include different techniques, such as adding alum, lime (the chemical lime, not the fruit), Calcium Chloride, and many more ideas. The best tip, is the one I learned from this post about crispy pickles from Penn State; to cut the blossom ends off of the cucumbers. The blossom contains enzymes that will soften and break down the cucumber over time.
If you do want to go the grape leave route. Most grape leaves found preserved in the greek or mediterranean aisle are packed with sodium. I usually get grape leaves from local wineries. The leaves are a bit smaller than the stuffing kind found in stores.
You can also add some more hot chilies or jalapenos if you want the heat.
Save The Pickle Juice
When the pickles are gone, you can always use the juice to do a quick pickle of any veggies. Just shred or slice and immerse for a while. You can also use it to make my Low Sodium Creamy Dill Pickle Dressing!
The Recipe for Making Salt Free Dill Pickles
Here is the recipe that was our success:
- 3 1/2 lbs small un-waxed cucumbers or slice larger cucumbers into slices and spears.
- 1/2 lb white onions - You can use the pearl onions or just cut standard onions into 1 inch chunks. 1 inch or less in diameter
- 12 stalks fresh dill preferably with seed heads
- 9 cloves garlic - peeled
- 1 qt white vinegar
- 3 cups water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 3 tsp mixed pickling spice check to make sure salt-free – McCormick’s makes one that is salt free
- 1 tbsp red chili flakes
- 1 tbsp mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 12 Grape leafs *Optional! Cutting the blossom end off the cucumber also works to keep the cucumbers crisp. this is the secret to keeping the pickles crispy
- 3 Quart size jars with lids mason jars work best
Scrub cucumbers clean with a veggie brush and rinse the dill in water, shake off excess water.
Cut the dill stems to a length where they will fit into your jars
Place vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan of at least 2 1/2 quarts capacity, and bring to boil.
While brine is heating,Divide all the spices into equal amounts per jar and pack jars with layers of dill, garlic, onions, red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, and cucumbers.
Layering so spices are on the bottom and top of the cucumbers.
Add one teaspoon of mixed pickling spice to each jar and 4 grape leafs for crispiness.
Pour boiling hot brine into jars, filling within 1/2 inch of top, and seal.
This will yield about three quarts/jars of pickles.
Allow the jars to cool then place into the refrigerator for 1 week to "pickle"
The longer the time in the refrigerator the more the flavors soak in.
The pickles should be good in the refrigerator for up to 8 weeks.