Crunch, tang, garden freshness—that’s what you get when you know how to make homemade pickles. (Already popped open a can? Try these recipes reserved for pickle lovers.) Whether you’re canny at canning, prefer the ease of the refrigerator or don’t want to heat up the stove at all. we’ve rounded up the best methods for making those green goodies you’ll be sneaking downstairs to snack on. The Taste of Home Test Kitchen has rounded up their best behind-the-scenes tips. Read through this guide, then get canning!
Things to Know Before You Start Pickling
Before you get started, there are a few important tips for best-ever pickles. Follow them and be sure not to make any of these common pickling mistakes.
1. Choose the Right Vinegar
Use white vinegar for a little more sharpness. If you’re going for a milder flavor, use cider vinegar. For extra-crunchy pickles, grab 10%-strength vinegar.
2. Know Your Cucumber
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 work. 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.
3. Don’t Use Table Salt
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.
4. Sterilize Your Jar
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
The Canning Method
Taste of Home
- 9 cups sliced pickling cucumbers
- 1 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup canning salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 4 bay leaves
- 12 garlic cloves, crushed
- Large nonreactive bowl
- Crushed ice
- Dutch oven
- 4 wide-mouth, 1-pint jars with lids
- Steam canner—this one from Amazon makes the process so much easier ($56)
Step 1: Soak the cucumbers
In a large, nonreactive bowl, combine the cucumbers, onion and salt. Cover with crushed ice and mix well. Let stand 3 hours. Drain; rinse and drain thoroughly.
Step 2: Prepare the vinegar and cucumber mixture
In a Dutch oven, combine sugar, water, vinegars, mustard seed, celery seed and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cucumber mixture; return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 4-5 minutes or until heated through.
Step 3: Fill the jars
Carefully ladle hot mixture into four hot wide-mouth 1-pint jars, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Add three garlic cloves and one bay leaf to each jar. Remove air bubbles and if necessary, adjust headspace by adding hot pickling liquid. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.
Step 3: Can, can, can!
Place jars into a steam canner with simmering water. Bring to a boil; process for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool.
If you don’t have a steam canner, no worries! Simply add the jars to your canner, ensuring that they are completely covered with water, and process for 10 minutes.
Test kitchen tip: Keep in mind that 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.
The Refrigerator Method
Taste of Home
- 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
- Large bowl
- Dutch oven
Step 1: Prep the pickles
Cut each cucumber lengthwise into six spears. In a large bowl, combine cucumbers, dill and garlic; set aside.
Step 2: Heat up the mixture and pour over cucumbers
In a Dutch oven, combine remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; cook and stir just until sugar is dissolved. Pour over cucumber mixture; cool.
Step 3: Refrigerate
Transfer to jars if desired and cover tightly. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
The No-Cook Method
- 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
- 10 2-cup plastic containers and lids
- 2 Large bowls
Step 1: Sterilize containers and start prep work
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.
Step 2: Mix in sugar and vinegar, and freeze
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.
Step 3: Thaw before eating
Thaw pickles in refrigerator 8 hours before using. Serve within 2 weeks after thawing.
Ready to take on another challenge? Try our best pickled recipes.
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