Pickling – An essential skill for home canners

By guest writer Tracy Falbe

Pickles from the grocery store will not compare to the wonderful pickles you can make yourself and preserve with home canning. Most of my life I detested pickles, but when I learned how to can food, I tried a cucumber pickle recipeā€¦and loved it. You’ll find the recipe below after I explain how pickling works.

The preservation process known as pickling has been around a lot longer than factory-made canning jars. Although pickled foods can last for weeks, even months, you can put them up for a whole year when you combine pickling with home canning. Two more appealing aspects of pickling are it is easy to do and it greatly expands the types of foods you can safely preserve in a boiling water bath canner.

In my previous article that introduced home canning “Good eatin’ from the old timers’ pantry” I explained how the acidity of foods determines which canning method can be safely used. High acid foods can be canned successfully in the boiling water bath and low acid foods require processing in a pressure canner. However, low acid food, which includes most vegetables like cucumbers, corn, okra, beans, peas, zucchini, and peppers, can be pickled and then safely preserved with the simple boiling water bath. With pickling, the acidity of the food is increased by storing it in a pickling solution made with vinegar, which significantly boosts the acidity of the food product. The pickling solution can be enhanced with sugar and spices and thereby create a delicious canned food. Pickling your own foods and canning them really illustrates the high quality food you can obtain with home canning.

Cucumber pickles are a very affordable food to preserve with home canning. Cucumbers generally do not cost much, and, in the summer, home gardeners will happily give you a bag of the prolific vegetables for free. And if you would like to grow some cucumbers, you do not need much space. Four or five plants will bury you in cucumbers. Other vegetables that are great when pickled are beets, zucchini, and okra.

Important to know about pickling:

When making any pickled product, use 5 percent vinegar. This will be specified on the jug’s label. Sometimes you will see 4 percent, but do not use that vinegar for pickling because it is too weak. Also you will need to use pickling salt, which does not have iodine added. The iodine will make the canned goods cloudy. Pickling salt is readily available and it will be labeled as pickling or canning salt.

Sweet bread and butter cucumber pickles canning recipe

10 medium cucumbers

3 medium onions

1/4 cup pickling salt

1 cup 5 percent vinegar

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon mustard seed

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Slice the cucumbers thinly and slice the onions too. Place the sliced cucumbers and onions into a large bowl. Pour the pickling salt over them and cover with water. Place a large plate on top of the vegetables to push them down into the brine. Allow the cucumbers and onions to stand for at least 2 hours or overnight. I usually prepare the vegetables in the evening and can them in the morning. This is technically known as a short brine method because the vegetables are only soaking for less than a day.

The next step is to drain the cucumbers and onions from the brine. In a stock pot, add the water, vinegar, celery seed, mustard seed, sugar, and turmeric. Bring everything to a boil and add the cucumbers and onions. Boil gently for 10 to 12 minutes until vegetables are tender. As water cooks out of the cucumbers the solution in the pot should increase.

Pack the pickles into sterilized canning jars and cover with the spicy vinegar solution. Leave 1/2 inch of space at the top, wipe clean the jar rims and apply the lids and bands. Process the pint jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars and let them set undisturbed for 24 hours. You will likely hear the jar lids pop within the first few minutes, but don’t touch. The next day, check to make sure the lids have sealed, wipe the jars and lids clean, and store in a cupboard or pantry for up to one year. Label your jars with the date you made them so you will know when they expire.

I have found that depending on how much moisture cooks out of the cucumbers, I sometimes need to boil some extra water to get enough solution in the jars to reach within 1/2 inch of the top. Just add a little boiling water as needed.

If you are entirely new to home canning you can get the directions for sterilizing the jars and processing with a boiling water bath off the box of canning jars and also at my website Canning Local http://canning.falbepublishing.com

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2 Responses to “Pickling – An essential skill for home canners”

  1. nancy Says:

    after you pick your cucumbers how long can you keep them before canning them, and should they be refridgeated?

  2. Jason DeLille Says:

    How do I make sure the pickels don’t get soggy? They always turn out that way. Am I just boiling too long?

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