Making Homemade Pickles

Ever wonder if you could make pickles yourself? If I can, you can. Or in other words, if I can can, you can can, too. ;)

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Making homemade pickles - Ever wonder if you could make pickles yourself? If I can, you can. Or in other words, if I can can, you can can, too.

Homemade pickles make me think of summers in Minnesota. For most of my childhood summer vacations, my parents loaded four, then five kids, into a van and we drove cross-country at lightning speed — because that’s how my dad, aka Rocket Man, rolls. Visiting with my aunts Peg and Sandy and my Gramma John were the culinary highlights of the trip since they were all three such good cooks.

And they made pickles.

They all had gardens and knew how to can. That wasn’t something our family did back in California. My mom didn’t grow up on a farm or with a garden, so that’s not something she did in her childhood home or her adult home, either. Plus, it was the 80s when those domesticky things were falling out of style.

When FishPapa and I bought our first home sixteen years ago, it was in a small farm town on the Central Coast of California. I went ollalieberry picking with the kids and grew a garden. Our neighbors raised a cow. Just one. And I learned to make jam.

By reading a book.

A few years ago I learned to make pickles. By reading blogs.

Two years ago, I bought pickling cucumbers: 10 pounds from Abundant Harvest Organics, and a few months later 10 pounds from local JR Organics. Those 20 pounds of cucumbers converted into a lot of pickles. The supply lasted us about 18 months. We ate the last jar near Christmas time. And then we were sad.

You see, I don’t like all the junk, namely food colorings, that they add to commercial pickles. Sure, I can buy a ginormous jar at Costco for cheap, but it’s full of junk. Organic pickles are kinda pricey. In that lull since Christmas I bought a few jars which the kids inhaled in a matter of minutes. I was waiting and waiting for cucumber season so we could make our own again.

When I first made them, I wasn’t sure it was worth the DIY. Ask me again next summer. I’m still tired from doing this last week:

Making homemade pickles - Ever wonder if you could make pickles yourself? If I can, you can. Or in other words, if I can can, you can can, too.

30 pounds of pickling cucumbers resulted in a lot of pickles! 18 quarts in the pantry and 5 pints in the fridge. I realized how easy it is to make refrigerator pickles with the same pickling liquid that I used for the ones I canned. This will fill the gap next time we run out.

Actually, we really enjoyed the pickles I made a few years ago. We were generous with sharing them with friends and family, but when we saw our jar unopened at the grandparents over the holiday, we took them back. Well, we actually ate them up right then and there.

Making homemade pickles

So, here’s how the Big Pickling Day went down:

Making homemade pickles - Ever wonder if you could make pickles yourself? If I can, you can. Or in other words, if I can can, you can can, too.

1. I sorted and washed the cucumbers.

The pickling cucumbers came in a variety of sizes and they were pretty muddy. So, I sorted them into small, medium, and large and scrubbed them well. I also cut off a bit from the blossom ends because I read that helps them not get too mushy.

2. I got equipment ready.

At the same time I sanitized my jars in the dishwasher and gathered my gear. This is the canning equipment I use for pickling:

Making homemade pickles - Ever wonder if you could make pickles yourself? If I can, you can. Or in other words, if I can can, you can can, too.

We ended up using every quart jar we own and many of the pints. This bums me out a bit since I use those jars year round to store homemade baking mixes and prepared foods.

3. I brushed up on my pickling knowledge.

One can only wash so many pickles at a time without going numb in the brain, so I revisited blog posts that have been helpful in the past as well as a few new ones.

Making homemade pickles - Ever wonder if you could make pickles yourself? If I can, you can. Or in other words, if I can can, you can can, too.

4. I prepared the jars and the pickling liquid.

The cukes I bought came with dill heads as well as regular fresh dill. I divided those up between the jars and added peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and smashed garlic cloves. Unfortunately, I didn’t have dill seed and since I’d already been to Walmart twice in the previous two days, I was reticent to go back. These won’t have as much of a dill flavor as other pickles, but honestly? I’ve never used dill seed before — just pickling spice in a batch my husband didn’t like — so I think we’re good.

For the pickling liquid, I adapted this recipe from the back of the Mrs. Wages Pickling Salt. That’s what I used last time and our family loved it. Hopefully, that is still the case. I vaguely remember adding bay leaves in the past, but I didn’t see that in my rereading this time, so I didn’t use it.

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Comments

  1. I’m attempting to grow pickling cukes this year in the garden so we can make pickles. Every time they sprout, those darn birds get them!! Lol. I’m gonna get though, I want pickles

  2. Stephanie M. says:

    Interesting that the topic of pickles should come up today. Just yesterday, I was in the supermarket and I was looking at some pickling cucumbers and got to thinking that it’s been a while since I’ve made some. I think its great that you make so many and put them away in “storage.” I would do that too if I had a large family and husband who liked pickles. My husband does not like pickles so I’m the only one that eats them here. Because of that, when I make pickles, I only make enough for me to enjoy for a couple of weeks. My mother’s neighbor who is from Poland showed me how to make them and I just put them into a large glass lidded jar and in the fridge. When they’re gone, I can always make more. But you’re right about how much better the home made ones are. I agree!

  3. I’ve never learned how to can (although I would like to). I make homemade pickles as well, but only do a refrigerator version. They are spicy and packed with flavor. Here’s my recipe: http://twoforksonelove.com/spicy-refrigerator-dill-pickles-no-canning-required/

  4. Brighid says:

    Can you recommend a recipe for sweet and spicy pickles? That’s the kind my family likes best.

    Don’t make a ton of pickles without confirming that your family likes it too. I did that two years ago and it was sad.

    Lastly, if you’re making pickles with either spears or whole cucumbers, wide mouth jars are best. You can just guess how I learned that one too!

    • I know that from experience as well. The first time I made pickles I used a recipe that called for some sugar and spices. My family did not like that at all. This version is their fave.

  5. I have a very old recipe that calls for equal parts water and apple cider vinegar and 3 cups salt/gallon of vinegar. I add garlic, a tablespoon of dill seed per quart, and several dried hot peppers. The result is a hot, faintly smoky, salty pickle that we adore. One thing I do differently – and I am not advocating this, as it is not proper canning, but it always works for me, is that I pour the hot brine over the pickles in the jars, seal, and let cool without further processing. as long as the jars seal I keep them on the shelf. I have been making these pickles for about 7 years very successfully. In fact, because I don’t process them in boiling water these pickles are really easy to make – I do about 100 quarts a year, using my own Cukes. Sometimes a jar will become unsealed in the pantry, which I attribute to the jars being knocked against each other in the pantry as I shift them around. If I find an unsealed jar I discard it. If there are any readers near St. Louis I have tons of cucumbers left!

    • Yes, as the proprietor here I have to stress that Trish is right in not advocating her method. :)

      The “open kettle method” is not recommended by canning experts since the jars don’t always seal properly. I know lots of folks who’ve used this method, but it comes with food safety risks.

  6. Lea Ann says:

    I got a ton of cukes yesterday and this is exactly what I was planning to do with them too!!! And….i have never canned before, gotta admit I am a little scared. i am going to make some fridge pickles and some canned ones too…..quick question though…..did the red pepper make them hot? My family, except for me, doesn’t like heat and I have seen several recipes for garlic pickles with red pepper in them…..

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