Best of Show Dill Spears

Twenty-five years ago (1983), my husband, daughter and I were living on two acres of land on the Ohio/Indiana border.  Fruit trees took up about one acre and a huge vegetable garden took up the other half, barely leaving enough room for a small house.  My husband loved his mini-farm and spent every spare minute away from his normal job working in the garden.  He got excellent results and from the first asparagus in April to the remnants of the garden in the fall, I tried to use everything he hauled into the house every day.

He enjoyed walking down the rows of the garden in the early summer, pointing to each plant and telling me what kind of vegetable it was and how many plants he had.  He did this every day – a little boring, but he was so proud of his garden.

We always had a bumper crop of cucumbers and I processed them immediately to be sure we had crisp, crunchy pickles all year around.

The first year I seriously entered a county fair was in 1983 when I was brand-new to canning and preserving.  Imagine my surprise when we went to the fair and saw I had won a blue ribbon and a coveted BEST OF SHOW rosette for my Dill Pickle Spears.  That year, they had gotten creative in displaying canned goods and had them arranged on an old red wagon.  At the very top was a big, beautiful rosette and a completely empty pickle jar.  The judges told me they had liked the pickles so much that they had eaten all of them with their lunch that day.

Here’s the recipe:


  • Servings: Approx. 10 quarts
  • Print

  • 4 lbs. pickling cucumbers, cut in spears
  • Dill seeds
  • Whole peppercorns
  • 2 cups of 5% acid strength white vinegar
  • 4-1/2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup pickling salt

Place spears in sterilized hot quart jars.  Add 1 tsp. dill seed and 3 peppercorns to each jar.

Combine the vinegar, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Pour over the cucumbers, filling to within 1/4″ of jar top.  Seal and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

I’ve found an asparagus steamer is good for processing just a few jars. Let jars cool on a rack before storing. Allow pickles to cure for at least 2 weeks before using for best flavor.

Makes approximately 10 quarts 

This is a good website for canning and preserving foods.

As a Best of Show Winner, I had my picture taken and there was a small article in our local newspaper with the recipe.

My husband passed away 4 years ago and since the dill spears were his favorite and not mine, I don’t make them any more.  But I think of him every time I drive by a big vegetable garden and remember the first Best of Show ribbon I ever won.

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Lillian Applegate Westfelt was a mother of 4, grandmother of 6, and great-grandmother of 3. She was an 86-year-old widow living in a nice little bungalow with her oldest daughter and a beagle-dachsund named Addie. She passed away in November, 2018.

18 thoughts on “Best of Show Dill Spears”

  1. Was surfing net about fairs. Your blog about winning first blue ribbon brought back memories of my first.

  2. Hi Lillian, I’m using your recipe for my first batch of pickles.
    I was able to get 3 pints and 1 quart out of this recipe. I hope they turn out okay.
    So many people say not to use a canner for dill pickles or they won’t be crisp, but I don’t want to take any chances, so I’m following your instructions.
    I did put half a clove of garlic and a dried red pepper in two of the jars. My son grew dil this year on his little apartment patio, and he gave me the plant to use in my pickles :).
    Thanks for sharing your recipe. Wish me luck!

  3. A friend left me in charge of her pickling cukes while she visited her daughter who has moved to Kenya. I’m experimenting and tried your recipe for dill spears today for the majority of jars. I thick sliced a batch and added 1 tsp sugar to see what that will do. I hate to wait to see what turns out. Thanks for the recipe. Gail in New Hampshire

    1. Thank you for your comment and for your idea of adding sugar. I’d probably like them better that way. Hope they turn out well for you – I’ve been using this method for almost 30 years. Lillian P.S. We traveled from southwest Ohio to New Hampshire one year for vacation and I loved the area.

  4. Hi, Just made my first batch of pickles, using your recipe..Actually I’ve never canned anything before. It is our first big garden and it’s totally running over with cucumbers..Thanks for posting your recipe.looking forward to seeing how it turns out..:)
    Melanie in Alabama

    1. Thank you for letting me know – I hope they turn out well for you. With your good, fresh garden produce, you have an advantage. Lillian

  5. Thank you for sharing. My husband is exactly the same when it comes to his garden. Every morning he goes out to view everything, and every evening, he pulls in the driveway from work and goes straight to the various gardens to check things over. Today is a dill pickling day, as he has grown a bumper crop of cukes this year. I am making some whole using a recipe I have used in the past. But some are too big for that, so I’ll make spears with your recipe. Thank you for remining me to cherish these days.

    1. Thank you for your sweet comment. I wish your husband luck with his garden and I wish you luck with your canning. I’ll bet he loves your whole dill pickles. Lillian

  6. Hi Lillian,

    I just came across your page and find your story quite touching. Thanks for sharing. Please clarify about the 10 min ….is that starting as soon as you put the jars into the pot or once it starts reboiling? Making pickles for the first time in yrs. with our daughter who planted cucumbers in our garden. Thanks! Monica

    1. Thank you for your nice comments. The 10 minute period in the boiling water bath begins after the water starts boiling again when the jars are inserted.

      I love that you’re making pickles with your daughter who planted her own cucumbers. Lillian

  7. I made these this summer. I wasn’t sure how long to let them sit. Usually I allow my dill pickles 3 months. I couldn’t wait and opened a jar after about 2 1/2 months. They are delicious, almost ate the entire pint myself. I added garlic. So glad I found this recipe as I am able to use larger cucumbers to cut into spears. THANKS for passing this along.

    1. Thanks so much for letting me know. I’ve also added garlic to the batch and enjoyed it. I know what it is to have a lot of big cucumbers to process quickly. Lillian

    1. How exciting and how nice of you to let me know. I’m so glad that my late husband’s favorite pickle is still winning awards. Was it at a county or state fair? Lillian

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