Grandma Jay's Spicy Pickles

Before my grandma passed away, she kept a family tradition of making her spicy dill pickles every September. Over the years she refined her techniques and taught us how to make delicious spicy pickles—they rarely turn out as good as Grandma Jay's but they are still good. It was hard to wait to open those jars because they were so delicious, but the longer they sat before opening the better (6 weeks minimum, but waiting 3 months was ideal).

The key to her pickles was soaking the pickles overnight in an ice bath (half water, half ice). You don't want all ice because it will freeze the cucumbers solid. You just want them really cold. Also, when adding the water/vinegar mixture make sure it's just boiling. 


  1. 24 tall pickling jars
  2. 25 lbs. pickling cucumbers (cucumbers that are picked early, like around late August)
  3. 2 qt. water
  4. 2 qt. white vinegar
  5. 1 cup non-iodized salt (it's important that it's not iodized!)
  6. Alum
  7. fresh dill
  8. banana peppers, or peppers of your choice such as serrano or jalepeno
  9. 50 garlic cloves, peeled (2 per jar)

1. The day before pickling, put the pickles in a cooler with ice and water.


2. Also on the day before pickling clean jars and set them out to dry

3. On the day of pickling in a large pot combine water, vinegar and salt and bring to a boil.

4. Prep the jars

While the water is coming to a boil, set jars out and prepare them by putting 2 peeled garlic cloves and 2 sprigs of fresh dill in each jar. Also, add 1/2 TSP of Alum. The Alum will help keep the pickles crisp. On this day we're experimenting with a few peppercorns and a few mustard seeds.

5. Pack those pickles!

My grandma said the next step is better to do one at a time, rather than like an assembly line. Pack as many cucumbers into the jar as humanly possible along with a pepper. Whenever I thought there was a enough cucumbers in there, she would also manage to fit in one more. Normally we keep the cucumbers whole, but for today's batch we're cutting them into spears because we got some plumper than normal cucumbers.

6. Fill the jars and seal them tight

Using a ladle, fill the jars to the top and seal them tightly. Some people swear you need to have an inch of liquid above the pickles in the jar, but we don't really follow that rule and things turn out fine. The key, according to Grandma, is the pickles need to be really cold and the water needs to be boiling. That helps make crisp, crunchy pickles.

Put them in a cool, dry place and let them sit for a minimum of 6 weeks. Before opening a jar, I like to put them in the fridge to help them crunch when biting into them. Hopefully my Grandma will be proud of the batches we made.