Making Homemade Pickles

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Ever wonder if you could make homemade pickles yourself? If I can, you can. Or in other words, if I can can, you can can, too. ūüėČ
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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Homemade Garlic Dill Pickles
Cook Time
15 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: homemade garlic dill pickles, pickles
Servings: 7 -8 quarts
Calories: 101 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
  • 9 pounds pickling cucumbers
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 cups white vinegar 5% acidity
  • 1 cup pickling salt
  • 7 to 8 heads fresh dill
  • 7 to 16 garlic cloves
  • red pepper flakes
  • black peppercorns
  1. Sanitize canning jars and lids according to manufacturer’s instructions for sterilized jars. Keep jars hot. Read the Ball book on this. It's important.
  2. Wash cucumbers. Cut off a bit from the blossom end and discard. Leave cucumbers whole, cut into spears, or slice.
  3. In a large non-reactive pot, combine the water, vinegar, and pickling salt. (Don't use an aluminum pan.) Bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
  4. In the bottom of each hot jar, place a head of fresh dill, a couple cloves of smashed garlic, a 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 2 to 3 peppercorns. Pack the cucumbers snugly into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Pour the hot pickling liquid into the packed jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rim and cap each jar as it is filled.
  5. Process quart jars for 15 minutes, in a boiling water bath canner. Remove the jars and place a few inches apart on a towel on the counter. Leave jars alone to cool at room temperature overnight. Wipe the tops, remove the bands and check to see that the lids are tight. If you can't pry them off with your fingers, you're good. Be careful, though, I once got a pickle shower when a lid didn't seal properly. Refrigerate any that don't seal and eat those up within a few weeks.
  6. Label and store in a cool place. Their flavor will develop over time.
Recipe Notes

Nutritional values are approximate and are based on 1 quart of the recipe (makes 7 total). Refrigerate leftovers promptly and use within 4 days.

Nutrition Facts
Homemade Garlic Dill Pickles
Amount Per Serving
Calories 101 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 16198mg704%
Potassium 813mg23%
Carbohydrates 14g5%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 8g9%
Protein 4g8%
Vitamin A 497IU10%
Vitamin C 20mg24%
Calcium 116mg12%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


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.

You can make refrigerator pickles, too.

I had five small jars of leftover brine and cukes but not enough energy to run the canner again one more time, so I capped the jars, let them cool to room temperature and refrigerated them. Two days later they were ready to eat and the kids love them! This refrigerator style pickle is more like the Vlasics you get at the store. Those are the ones in the top picture.

How did the numbers crunch?

It’s kinda pertinent to know how this makes cents, right? Well, I spent $30 on the cucumbers and another $7 on vinegar, garlic, and salt. The other items I had on hand. I didn’t buy new jars or any canning equipment. I’m still using the utensil set that I bought 16 years ago!

$30 – organic pickling cucumbers and dill + $7 – vinegar, salt, and fresh garlic = $37 investment

$37 divided by 20.5 quarts of pickles = $1.81/quart jar

Of course, we should probably factor in my time which was less than 4 hours if I had worked solid and not dawdled. It took me 5 hours instead. But, we’re not going to count my time, because how do we put a price on that?!

Final cost – $1.81/quart jar

That number works out for me, particularly since I didn’t need to buy any new equipment or supplies. And I’ve got a year’s worth of pickles in my pantry!

homemade pickles PIN

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Jenni says

    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

    • I wish my dad grew cukes instead of zucchini. I don’t like zucchini pickles like I like cucumber ones. But, zucchini out the ears? Oy.

      • Jenni says

        Yeah. My zuchinni is coming great! Good thing my kids love zuchinni bread!

  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:

  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. Trish says

    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. ūüôā

      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.

    • Betty Williams says

      Think the salt would keep them preserved People use to do them in 50 gallon barrels and leave all winter

  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…..

    • Sorry I’m so late in responding. The Pantry Challenge also gets me behind on responding to comments. No, I didn’t think the pickles were spicy hot at all.

  7. Heather says

    I have made 2 gallons of fridge pickles (one gal had a funky taste so i ended up composting them), 6 qts of pickles and 7 qts of zucchini pickles. In the past I’ve made a sweet garlic dill pickle this year I am cutting the sugar. My hubby doesn’t eat pickles, but my boys will eat an entire jar for snack.

  8. Jenna says

    We have attempted to make pickles for 6 yrs now, they are always mushy when they come from the pantry.i also found the crisp granules but still mushy, even the thick ones, I usually slice them for burgers & sandwiches. How were yours? We also pickle peppers but finally figured them out.

    • Mine are a little softer than what we’d buy in the store, but my kids have adapted to them. We’re almost out already and it will be months before cukes are in season! They stay firm if I can find small cucumbers and leave them whole for pickling. Also, did you cut off the blossom end? That can help them hold up better.

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