My husband loves pickles and I must say I really enjoy a good pickle as well.
Summer is the season for those wonderful little Kirby cucumbers to start showing up in your local produce markets. When I saw them at ours, I scooped up a bunch. I've been making bread and butter pickles and dills with the little beauts.
You don't have to have a lot of special equipment to do a few jars. Especially if you are making pints. You can get by with your standard stockpot. There is one item I would recommend having for your own personal safety, and that is a jar lifter. (Don't ask me how I know this!) It is extremely difficult to get hot jars in and out of the boiling water in your stock pot without one. It can be done, but it isn't pretty. I saw one at my local Publix that was packaged with a funnel which would be the only other specialized piece of equipment that is nice to have on hand. The funnel fits exactly in the mouth of a canning jar and has a large opening so when you pour your pickling liquid in, there is minimum spillage. This is nice because anything on the rim of the jar needs to be thoroughly cleaned off to prevent the growth of bacteria. But you can surely get by without one. Just do yourself a favor and buy a jar lifter. Yeah, just do it.
Enough talk of equipment. Let's move on to how to make pickles. I will concentrate on the bread and butter pickles here since those are usually packed in pints which you can process in a stockpot.
For four pints you need about two pounds of Kirby cucumbers (you also see them called pickling cucumbers). They have different skin and flesh texture which makes them better for pickling than your standard salad cucumber. Scrub them good in cool water. Trim off the ends and then slice them (I do about a quarter of an inch thick on my slices). You can also cut up a red bell pepper up into matchstick size pieces as well as a sweet onion. These little extras are tasty pickled and add to the flavor of the whole package. Not to mention they are pretty. Toss all of these veggies with about two tablespoons of canning and pickling salt in a large bowl and then put the whole thing in the fridge for about three hours.
After three hours, remove the bowl from the fridge, pour the veggies into a colander, and let that sit a bit to dry. While that's doing its thing, you can get your jars ready. You always want to pack hot liquid into hot sterilized jars. Wash your jars and lids with soap and water, then fill the four pint jars with water and place them in the stockpot along with the rings and lids for the jars. Fill the stockpot just enough to cover the tops of the jars. Bring that to a boil.
As you wait for the water to boil, prepare your pickling liquid as follows. Bring three cups of apple cider vinegar, two cups of sugar, a cup of water, a tablespoon of mustard seed, a half teaspoon of celery seed, three fourths a teaspoon of turmeric, and a fourth teaspoon of ground cloves to a boil. Turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan.
Once your water boils in the stockpot, you can turn down the heat. Fish out the jars and lids -- use your handy dandy jar lifter for the jars and a pair of tongs for the rest! Dump the water that was in the jars in the pot. I usually dump two of them in the sink. You just need enough water to cover everything again and some of it probably boiled off. Place the jars upside down on a dishtowel for a few minutes. Flip the jars over and pack them with the veggies, leaving a little bit of space at the top. Go ahead and get the water boiling in the stockpot again.
Now you can use the funnel or a ladle and pour the hot pickling liquid over the veggies in the jars. Leave about a half and inch of headspace at the top. Wipe the rims of the jars really well with a damp paper towel, place a lid on each jar and screw on a ring. Don't tighten these too much, they just need to be finger tight.
Using your handy dandy jar lifter, place the filled and lidded jars in the stockpot of boiling water. Adjust the heat so you have a low boil and process for 30 minutes. At the end of that time you get to use your jar lifter again (see how much use you are getting out of that thing!) to gently place the jars on a clean dishtowel.
Now you get to listen for the lovely popping sound that means your jar is firmly sealed. As the jars cool, you should hear each one "pop". If you happen to miss the sound, you can test the seal by gently pressing in the center of the lid. If it gives, then it is not yet sealed. If it is firm, then it is sealed. Sometimes you need to let them cool a little longer. By the time they are at room temp, they should all be firmly sealed. Any jars which are not can be placed in the refrigerator for immediate use. Firmly sealed jars can be stored in the pantry for up to a year.
So that's all there is to it! If you want to learn to do dills, there is a video of the whole process on my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FLkelskitchen/videos.