Got Cucumbers? Make Pickles!
I grew up eating my Aunt’s homemade pickles but amazingly I never tried to make them myself until last summer. I have limited veggie garden space so I only grew one kind of cucumbers: the slicing kind. But last year I had a free package of pickling cucumber seeds so I gave them a try. The vines were very heavy producers and I had to do something with all the fruit! I made ‘bread and butter’ pickles and they turned out so tasty! In fact, friends and family who live out of town ask to have them shipped! By the way, the pickling cucumbers can be used as slicing cucumbers if you let them grow a little larger to a diameter good for slicing and eating fresh.
What’s the difference between slicing and pickling cucumbers?
Pickling cucumbers are shorter and blockier than slicing cucumbers. They should be harvested for pickles when 1″ – 1 1/2″ in diameter and 4″ – 6″ long. Slicing cucumbers have a larger mature size and are harvested when about 2″ in diameter (length varies depending on variety). There are bush varieties or vining varieties for both slicing and pickling types, the vining varieties need a trellis for support.
How many pickling cucumbers are needed for a batch of pickles?
For the Bread and Butter Pickle recipe below, 15 cups of sliced cucumbers are needed. That’s 15 – 20 cucumbers, depending on their size. I ended up with eight vines this year (I planted from six packs) and accumulated the fruit over the course of a week in order to get enough for a batch of pickles. Cucumbers will keep 7-10 days in the refrigerator.
What supplies/equipment are needed to make pickles?
You’ll need canning jars with lids and bands (Ball canning jars are available at many supermarkets, hardware stores, and stores like Target or Walmart). Save the jars after you eat the pickles, they can be reused although you will need to get new lids each time you make a new batch of pickles because the seals are only good for one use. A water bath canner is needed to process the pickles so they are preserved for up to a year. This is basically a big pot with a rack and is pretty inexpensive. I got mine at Walmart for about $20.
How to make pickles
There are lots of recipes for making pickles: dill pickles, sweet (bread and butter) pickles, even spicy pickles. The pickles can be whole, spears, or slices. The Ball canning website has both recipes and instructions on the canning process.
Bread and Butter Pickle Recipe
15 cups sliced pickling cucumbers
3 thinly sliced onions
1/4 cup Kosher salt
4 cups crushed ice
2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
Place cucumbers, onions, salt and ice in large bowl and weight down by placing a plate with a half gallon jug of water on top of the cucumber/onion mixture. Let sit for 3 hours to extract excess water from the cucumbers. Drain and rinse cucumbers thoroughly.
Mix remaining ingredients in large pot, add cucumber and onion mixture. On medium low heat, bring almost to a boil, but do not boil. Ladle into sterilized jars (wash jars in hot soapy water then heat jars in pot of simmering water until ready to fill). Seal in sterilized jars by placing new lids and bands on jar, and processing for 10 minutes in a water bath canner. See detailed water bath canning instructions on the Ball canning website (click here). Remove jars from water at end of processing time. After cool, check jar lids to be sure they are sealed. The lid should not flex up and down. If the lid did not seal, store in refrigerator. Jars that are sealed properly can be stored in a cool dark place for up to a year. Label jars with the type of pickle and date you made them so you are sure to use within the appropriate time.