Cooking: Pickles


Making Homemade Pickles


Ingredients

  • Cucumbers - fresh, crisp - not wilted, soft or overripe! Thos ebest for cucumbers are the smaller, underripe ones, also refered to as gherkins, cornichons, Kirby cucumbers (kirbies),and sometimes lemon cucumbers
  • 4 cups of vinegar, apple cider, bottle.

Directions - How to Make Pickles


Step 1 - Selecting the cucumbers

It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality cucumbers!  
At right is a of picture cucumbers from my garden - they are SO easy to grow. But be sure to grow the varieties that are labeled "pickling cucumbers" - they will be much more crisp!  

The picture at right shows a good cucumber for pickling (bottom) and a bad one (top).  The good one is dark green, firm, and not bloated.  It has lots of warts!
The bad one is overripe, it has yellow or white areas in the skin, and the warts are almost all gone.  If you cut it open, you will see developed seeds.  You don't want seeds!
For cucumber pickles, use cucumbers intended for pickling that are no more then 2 inches in diameter. Start with crisp raw vegetable varieties to get crisp pickled vegetables.
The most important factor in getting crisp pickled vegetables is to start with fresh, just-picked vegetables. Overripe cucumbers make mushy pickles. Vegetables become soft as their pectin structure changes due to microbial activity, excess heat or improper handling. As each day passes, vegetables lose crispness. Once a vegetable is soft it cannot be made firm again.


Step 2 - How many cucumbers?

It takes about 3 or 4 cucumbers to fill a pint jar.  Each cucumber is about 4 - 5 inches long and you will cut off the ends so they will fit with -inch to spare.


Step 3 -Wash and cut the vegetables!

I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the fruit in plain cold water.
You will need to cut the ends off (about -inch, the blossom harbors microbes that can cause softening. ) and then slice them lengthwise if you like spears.  I remove both ends, but, since the enzymes are in the blossom end, the key is removing the blossom end; you can leave the stem end on, if you like.
You can also leave them whole or cut them cross-wise for bread-and-butter pickles.
Set them aside for use in step 7.


Step 4 - Get the jars and lids sanitizing

The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle.  I get that going while I'm preparing everything else, so it's done by the time I'm ready to fill the jars.  If you don't have a dishwasher, submerge the jars in a large pot (the canner itself) of water and bring it to a boil.
Be sure to let it go through the rinse cycle to get rid of any soap!
Get the canner heating up
Fill the canner about 1/2 full of water and start it heating (with the lid on).

Start the water for the lids
Put the lids into the small pot of boiling water for at least several minutes.  Note: everything gets sanitized in the water bath (step 7) anyway, so this just helps to ensure there is no spoilage later!)

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Step 5 - Mix the vinegar with the pickling mix and bring to a near boil

OK, you can make your own pickling mix from spices, salt, dill, etc.; but it is MUCH more time-consuming, complicated, and prone to problems.  ( If you want to make your own seasoning see this page! )This method produces pickles which are just as crisp - as long as you pick very firm cucumbers.  It also helps to add 2 grape leaves to every jar (I kid you not, they have something in them that makes the pickles crunchier).
The stores (grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger and Safeway and local "big box" stores, sometimes even local hardware stores) sell several varieties of mixes - Kosher dill, bread-and-=butter and sweet pickles are the most commonly seen.  And be sure to get them by July - they tend not to re-order them when they sell out.  Mrs. Wages "quick process refrigerator pickle mixes" are the easiest, as they do not even require a water bath canner (but must be stored in the fridge!).  The others require canning as shown in these instructions, and may be stored on the shelf.

Pickle Mixes
To interject a crass commercial here - hey, my wife says I've got to pay for the website somehow :)  I have found the best (crispest, best tasting) pickles from a mix are with the "Mrs. Wages Polish Dill Refrigerator Pickle Mix" They REALLY are good AND you don't need a canner - you store them in your fridge right after making them.  They're ready to eat in 24 hours!  Our affiliate sells the mixes (and at really good prices, too)
Whether you want dills or sweet pickles; canning them or straight into the refrigerator; there is a mix for every taste and need here!Get them all here, delivered direct to your home,  at the best prices on the internet! Get everything you need to make pickles: mixes, salt, brine, etc. here! or here:


Step 6 - Heat the pickle mix

Bring the mix and vinegar to a near-boil - just simmering! The directions on the packet will tell you how much vinegar to add, it's usually about 4 cups
Be sure to use a NON-metal pot - or a coated metal (teflon, silverstone, enamel, etc.) without breaks in the coating. the metal reacts with the vinegar and makes the pickle solution turn cloudy.


Step 7 - Fill the jars with cucumbers and put the lid and rings on
Pack the raw cucumbers from step 3, whole or slices in and pour the simmering pickle mix liquid over them. Fill them to within -inch of the top, seat the lid and hand-tighten the ring around them.  

Step 8 - Boil the jars in the canner
Put them in the canner and keep them covered with at least 1 inch of water. Keep the water boiling. Boil them for 10 minutes (or as directed by the instructions in the pickle mix, or with your canner). Remember to adjust for altitudes and larger jars! Note: some mixes, such as the Ball Kosher Dill mix call for only boiling for 5 minutes - I'll let you know how that works out! generally, the longer you process the jars, the more mushy (less crisp) the pickles will be.

Step 9 - Done
Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight)  You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.
When can you start eating the pickles?  Well, it takes some time for the seasonings to be absorbed into the pickles.  That's at least 24 hours, but for best flavor wait 2 weeks!  Ah... the wait...

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