Pickling is a wide-ranging and widely-practiced form of food preservation. When we pickle whole foods, such as produce like cucumbers, or other garden vegetables, or fish, or meats (like pork), we take the bounty of summer months and save it, extending the availability of those perishable goods into the seasons when such food is unavailable to us. This is the meaning of the term “putting food by”. By not letting such food go to waste, we rely less on precarious or problematic food-distribution methods and become much more self-sufficient in the process. (And, let’s not forget, pickles are delicious).
Start with your ingredients organized and your cucumbers sliced before canning.
We’ll be talking about quick process pickles, the most widely-known and easiest to jump into as the name “quick process” suggests. But if you love pickles and pickling, there is a whole world of fruit pickling, fermented pickles and relishes out there for you. We’ll even include a quick run-down of the canning process.
For Prep You Will Need
- A pickling mix, either store-bought or homemade, which contains herbs and spices (dill, hot peppers) and will ultimately depend on what flavors you want.
- A pot to mix the vinegar and pickling mix in
For Canning You Will Need
- A water-bath canner (a large pot specifically for canning).
- Mason jars, pint-sized or large enough to hold your pickles
- Adhesive lids and sealing rings
- A jar-grabber, which are special tongs made to grip a mason jar
- A ladle
- A slotted spoon
Selecting Your Cucumbers for Pickling
Jars of homemade dill canned pickles.
Good pickles start from good produce. You want fresh, green, “warty”, pickling cucumbers and not overripe, yellow and white, smooth cucumbers. These will have developed seeds and you don’t want those. Also, overripe cucumbers make mushy pickles. Select ones that are no more than two inches in diameter.
Three or four cucumbers will fill a pint jar. To make them fit better, it may be wise to cut the ends off and cut the pickles into spears, or cross-wise for bread and butter pickles.
To start, wash your cucumbers in cold water and cut them as you wish. Start your vinegar simmering and add the pickling mix.
Set up your canning equipment. Either sterilize your jars and lids in the canner before you start canning or in a dishwasher with a “sterilize” setting before starting. To sterilize equipment in the canner, immerse it completely in boiling water and set is aside to air dry thoroughly. Since pickles sit inn a brine, excess water isn’t as dangerous as in other canning recipes, but hot, wet equipment is hard to handle and could be dangerous. At any rate, you should start boiling water in your canner, so that the jars are covered by about an inch of water.
When your jars and lids are sterilized, you can start filling your jars with cucumbers. Make sure to leave enough head room at the top, (at least a half-inch, so that the can will properly seal). Also, brine will circulate around the cucumbers, so you shouldn’t pack the jar tight, so that it can’t.
Use a ladle to fill the jars with the hot pickling mix and vinegar. Make sure to cover the cucumbers with liquid.
Now affix a lid and ring tightly to your jars. Place them in the boiling water in the canner, using your jar grabber. Let each jar sit in the canner for about ten minutes, to allow the heat to kill any stray pathogens, and to allow a vacuum within the jar to seal the lid. You can fill and place jars in the canner as you go. When ten minutes are up, remove the jar from the canner and, with an oven mitt or dishtowel, loosen the ring a little. Now allow jars to cool as you finish and remove the rings.
Be sure to check the seal on your jars. If they are loose, or pop off, do not put them in storage. Check the rim of the jar for nicks or replace the lid with a new one, affix a ring and set them back in the canner for ten minutes.
Store your pickles in a cool, dry, place. Be sure to wait a few weeks for the cucumber to absorb the brine fully for that distinct pickle taste. -MIKE KLEPFER