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How to Make Pickles

Crunch, tang, garden freshness—that's what you get when you know how to make homemade pickles. Make these pickle recipes like an expert with a canner or get a little more cool crispness with a refrigerator pickles recipe. Both start with great veggies, basic brines and clean jars at the ready. Set. Can!

By Elizabeth Harris, Contributing Editor and Ellie Martin Cliffe, Senior Editor

Master your condiment skills by starting with some behind-the-scenes scoop from the Test Kitchen. Then practice, taste, tweak and make some more.

Homemade pickles in a mason jar.

Expert tips from the Taste of Home Test Kitchen

  • All about vinegar: Use white vinegar for a little more sharpness. If you're going for milder flavor, use cider vinegar. For extra-crunchy pickles, grab 10%-strength vinegar.
  • What kind of cucumbers make pickles: Cukes labeled as canning or pickling cucumbers are a shoo-in, but you can use traditional ones, too. It's best to choose a cucumber with a thicker skin.
  • Organic vs. conventional: Either works. The key is to buy cucumbers without the shiny wax coating supermarkets use. The wax is edible, but it'll change the texture of your pickles.
  • What is canning salt? It's extra fine and doesn't contain caking agents or additives like iodine. If you don't have canning salt on hand (aka pickling salt), Kosher salt works, too.
  • How to sterilize jars: Wash jars and caps in hot, soapy water; rinse thoroughly. Dry bands on a towel. Put jars in a large kettle with enough water to cover by at least 2 in.; boil for 10 minutes to sterilize. Turn off heat, but leave the jars in the water until they're ready to be filled. Place lids in a separate small saucepan and cover them with water; bring water to 180° and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat until ready to use.
  • What does "adjust caps/lids" mean? This refers to sealing the filled jars with metal lids and screw bands. To properly adjust lids, wipe jar rims with a clean dampened dishcloth or paper towel. Place lids on jar rims with the gasket side down next to the glass. Screw metal bands evenly and firmly over lids just until resistance is met. Then process the jars according to your recipe.
  • How long to process: For bona-fide hot-water-bath pickles (as opposed to refrigerator or freezer pickles), processing time depends on the size of the jar. Most recipes call for either 10 or 15 minutes. The bigger the jar, the longer the processing time.
  • Canning altitude: The processing time listed is for altitudes of 1,000 feet or less. For altitudes up to 3,000 feet, add 5 minutes; 6,000 feet, add 10 minutes; 8,000 feet, add 15 minutes; 10,000 feet, add 20 minutes.
  • One more tip: Because pickles are quick to prepare, get your hot water canner on the stove before you do any pickle prep. It can take a long time to boil.



How to make dill pickles:

What you'll need

Ingredients

  • 11 cups water
  • 5 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup canning salt
  • 12 pounds pickling cucumbers, quartered or halved lengthwise
  • 9 dill sprigs or heads
  • 18 garlic cloves
  • 18 dried hot chilies

Equipment

  • Stockpot
  • Nine 1-quart jars
  • Ladle
  • Canner
  1. In a stockpot, bring water, vinegar and salt to a boil; boil 10 minutes. Pack cucumbers into nine hot quart jars within 1/2 in. of top. Place one dill head, two garlic cloves and two peppers in each jar.
  2. Carefully ladle hot mixture into jars, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot mixture. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.
  3. Place jars into canner with simmering water, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 15 minutes.Remove jars and cool.

Classic dill pickles with hot chilies and garlic.




Classic Refrigerator Pickles:

What you'll need

Ingredients

  • 14 pickling cucumbers
  • 40 fresh dill sprigs
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 1 teaspoon mixed pickling spices

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Dutch oven
  • Jars
  1. Cut each cucumber lengthwise into six spears. In a large bowl, combine cucumbers, dill and garlic; set aside.
  2. In a Dutch oven, combine remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; cook and stir just until sugar is dissolved. Pour over cucumber mixture; cool.
  3. Transfer to jars if desired and cover tightly. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.



No-Cook Freezer Pickles:

What you'll need

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs. pickling cucumbers, sliced
  • 8 cups thinly sliced onions
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups cider vinegar

Equipment

  • 10 2-cup plastic containers and lids
  • 2 Large bowls
  1. Rinse ten 2-cup plastic containers and lids with boiling water. Dry thoroughly. Divide cucumbers, onions, salt and water between two large bowls. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours. Do not drain.
  2. Add 2 cups sugar and 1 cup vinegar to each bowl; stir until sugar is dissolved. Transfer to prepared containers, leaving 1-in. headspace for expansion; freeze up to 6 months.
  3. Thaw pickles in refrigerator 8 hours before using. Serve within 2 weeks after thawing.

Sliced homemade freezer pickles.




For Sweet Pickle Lovers:

What you'll need

Ingredients

  • 20 cups sliced cucumbers (about 12 medium)
  • 3 cups sliced onions (about 4 medium)
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, sliced
  • 1 medium green pepper, sliced
  • 3 quarts ice water
  • 1/2 cup canning salt
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 6 cups white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons mustard seed
  • 3 teaspoons celery seed
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Equipment

  • 2 Large bowls
  • 11 1-pint jars
  • Dutch oven
  • Ladle
  • Canner
  1. Place cucumbers, onions and peppers in a large bowl. In another large bowl, mix ice water and salt; pour over vegetables. Let stand 3 hours.
  2. Rinse vegetables and drain well. Pack vegetables into eleven hot 1-pint jars to within 1/2 in. of the top.
  3. In a Dutch oven, bring sugar, vinegar, mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric and cloves to a boil. Carefully ladle hot liquid over vegetable mixture, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot liquid. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.
  4. Place jars into canner, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool.

Homemade sweet pickles with sweet peppers and seasonings.




In a pickle? Make each recipe your own. Choose your vinegar, herbs, cucumbers and the method that best suits you and your kitchen. How long to can pickles depends on your method—you can make them with as little as 15 minutes of prep and store them for as long as 6 months. Now your homemade sandwiches will be really, really homemade.

Fresh cucumbers for pickling at home.