Once upon a time homes didn’t have freezers or refrigerators, so in order to preserve food, it had to be pickled.
To pickle something really just means to put it in a jar of vinegar and/or salt for a long time. Together, the salt and vinegar prevent bacteria from growing and spoiling whatever you’ve pickled, usually vegetables but you can also pickle meat like mussels, clams or chicken, and of course you can also pickle eggs.
But today we’re going to talk about pickling cucumbers.
Besides the cukes themselves, you’re going to need some basic supplies:
• A candy thermometer
• A stone crock
• A weight
• Canning salt
• White or cider vinegar
• Boiling water canner
At this time of year, you’ll find most of these items at a hardware store. Or your grandmother’s house. Heck, ask around the neighborhood and see if someone will part with their jars in exchange for a jar of homemade pickles!
One more item you should pick up before you get started is a copy of the Ball Blue Book of Canning so that you can ensure you’re canning safely.
Now, to get you started, I’m going to share a couple of fabulous pickle recipes with you:
Grandma’s Famous Bread and Butter Pickles
- 6 pounds cucumbers, washed, sliced
- 2 pounds onions, peeled, sliced
- 1/2 cup canning salt (make sure it’s called “canning salt”, table salt won’t do)
- 4 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons mustard seed
- 2 tablespoons celery seed
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 quart apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon ginger
In a large bowl or container place sliced onion and cucumbers, sprinkle with canning salt, cover with ice. Refrigerate for three hours. In a large pot, bring to boil, the sugar, mustard seed, celery, turmeric vinegar, peppercorns, and ginger. Sugar should be dissolved and boiling, then drain the pickles and onions well, add to boiling mixture. Immediately fill pint and quart jars with cucumbers, onion and juice mixture. Leave 1/2 inch head space for expansion. (follow instructions with your canner) Process for 30 minutes keeping the temperature at 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grandma’s Famous Dill Pickles
- 10 small pickling cucumbers, thin slice cut from each end
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons canning salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
- 4 teaspoons dill seeds
- 4 small cloves garlic, peeled, smashed
Process jars in canner according to canner instructions. In a sauce pan combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar; bring to a boil. Place 1 teaspoon dill seeds and 1 clove of garlic into each jar, then pack in cucumbers. Pour boiling mixture over cucumbers leaving 1/2 inch head space for expansion. Process 30 minutes keeping the temperature at 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
A few more tips:
• Always label and date your jars so you know when you made them.
• Store pickles in a cool dark place
• Follow your canner instructions to a T
• Always check your seals
There you have it, you’re good to go!
The bonus is that once you have the method and the gear, you can pickle just about anything.