I'll be the first to admit that I usually complain about canning season. That is, about everything except canning pickles. These are my favorite thing to can! Perhaps it's because I can do it in small batches, and it doesn't consume a whole day. Or perhaps it's because all the ingredients are fresh and home-grown.
I only use whole cucumbers for my pickles. I pick and store my baby cucumbers, up to a week, in plastic bags in the fridge -- UNWASHED -- until I have enough for a batch. (Washing them causes them not to store as well.) Also, if you're as addicted to canning pickles as I am, I suggest planting at least 3 hills of pickling cukes (we plant Pioneer Pickler). That way, when the cucumbers begin coming on, you can accumulate enough for a batch quickly. And, once you have canned enough pickles, you simple pull up the plants.
8 pounds cucumbers (I can whole cucumbers -- baby size. I think they stay crisper that way.)
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. canning salt (I don't know what canning salt is. I just use regular iodized table salt.)
1 quart vinegar (4 c.)
1 quart water (4 c.)
3 Tablespoons mixed pickling spices (in a tea diffuser or tied up in cheesecloth)
fresh or dried heads of dill -- 1 per jar
cayenne pepper or pieces of hot pepper
whole garlic cloves, peeled -- one per pint jar
ground mustard, fine
Wash cucumbers well; drain. Combine sugar, salt, vinegar and water in a large saucepot. Add spice bag to mixture; simmer 15 minutes.
In clean pint jars place: head of dill, 1 clove garlic, 1/4 tsp. ground mustard, 1/2 inch piece of hot pepper (no seeds) or 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper. Next, pack in clean, fresh cucumbers leaving 1/4-inch headspace.
Ladle hot liquid over cucumbers, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust 2-piece canning lids. (I like to soak my lids in just barely simmering water for 5 minutes before putting them on the jars.)
Process pints and quarts 25 minutes in a boiling-water canner.
Note: After canning the pickles, allow 6 weeks before eating them so they'll reach their full flavor.