Homemade Pickles!

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Homemade Pickles, attempt 1

Homemade pickles, attempt 1.

When we first got into canning, the very first thing Adam wanted to make was pickles. So when we came across a big basket full of cucumbers at St. Lawrence Market last weekend (5.5lbs for $7, not too bad), we decided to take the plunge.

It’s a long process – step 2 begins 12-18 hours after step 1, so you need to have things timed properly. This weekend we decided we’d make it work on Sunday – and did step 1 as soon as we woke up (late) on Sunday morning, and still found ourselves finishing the process after 11 p.m… Next time I think we should aim for a Saturday.

Anyway – the process really isn’t very difficult, and besides my major flub that I think I corrected decently well, I think we did an ok job. We’re going to leave it a few weeks (or as long as we can stand) before we open them, but here’s the process:

STEP 1:

  1. Wash cucumbers and cut off any stems.
  2. Layer with ice in a huge bowl (we did a smaller batch than the recipe called for – 5.5lbs instead of 8… I have no idea how we would’ve had room for 8lbs!).
  3. Layer the mini cucumbers in ice.

    Layer the mini cucumbers in ice.

  4. Pour a mixture of water and pickling salt over the cucumbers to cover.
  5. Pour salt water over the cucumbers.

    Pour salt water over the cucumbers.

  6. Stick in the fridge for 12-18 hours, with something over the bowl to weigh the cucumbers down. We used 1L mason jars and an inverted plate.
You've gotta have a lot of room in the fridge!

You've gotta have a lot of room in the fridge!

STEP 2:

  1. Prepare a spice bag of pickling spices (which you can make yourself or just buy prepared) by tying some up in a square of cheese cloth.
  2. Pickling spices!

    Pickling spices!

  3. Boil water, vinegar*, sugar, pickling salt, and the pickling spice bag for about 15 minutes
  4. Steeping some pickle juice.

    Steeping some pickle juice.

  5. Take the cucumbers out of the fridge and rinse well.
  6. Getting all of the salt off.

    Getting all of the salt off.

  7. Pack the jars full of cucumbers, leaving at least a 1/2″ room on the top.
  8. Put spices into the jars – mustard seeds, dill, and garlic (which is optional in the recipe, but I went ahead and added extra… you can never have enough garlic!)
  9. Ladle the pickle juice into the jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace.
  10. Mmm, pickle juice.

    Mmm, pickle juice.

  11. Seal the jars and boil for 15 minutes.

And then you have – PICKLES!

Pickles!

Pickles!

* … And here I admit my fears for this batch, along with my extreme stupidity:

First of all, I’m worried that our water is too hard. Toronto water is “moderately hard”, and apparently you need fairly soft water for a good pickle. So… we’ll just have to see what happens.

Secondly… about my * above. When I first made the pickle juice, I was too focused on converting everything from the 8lb batch to the 5.5lb batch (not an easy conversion!), and somehow I managed to leave out the most important ingredient: vinegar. Oh yes, I’m that stupid. Luckily I figured it out pretty quickly – reopened the jars, poured the water back in to the pot (straining to keep the spices in the jars) and added the vinegar. At that point I was tired and grumpy – so we didn’t let it boil the full 15 minutes with the vinegar, so… it’ll just have to be good enough. I really hope that didn’t totally muck it up.

And finally… it didn’t say so in my canning cookbook, but I’ve read a few places that you should let pickles sit for 24 hours to 2 weeks before you open them to let the flavours meld a bit. I wanna open them NOW! Anyone have any tips for me on that one? Ah well, we can probably wait to open them until next week.

Update: We’ve opened three jars total now, and man are they tasty! The first only a week or so after canning – very very strong, but still yummy. Each jar has progressively gotten better the longer we’ve waited to open them, so hopefully jar 4 will be the best yet. We’re definitely not done with making pickles! So worth it!

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6 Responses to “Homemade Pickles!”

  1. tigress Says:

    hi cari,

    pretty good for your first try. here’s my thoughts-

    hard water could be a problem, better to buy spring water if you have hard water. but it may not be, only you’ll know when you taste them.

    adding the vinegar later should be fine, boiling the vinegar less is also ok, just never boil it down more, you want to make sure you have a high enough level of acidity or in this case vinegar to water ratio. so you never want to boil it down more than a recipe says.

    wait to eat those pickles! the acid mellows over time and if you taste them now you might think, oh no! when actually they are good.

    my first time out with canned cukes, all my pickles came out mushy – 8 jars of ’em. so don’t be discouraged if they are not perfect on your first try!

  2. mrsmarshall Says:

    thanks for including the recipe. I’m hoping to do some canning next year… this year the priorities are not in my favor.

  3. Cari Miller Says:

    I’ll let you know once we taste if they turn out. If they do, I’ll post the exact recipe with quantities. I’m holding off until at least next week to open… I hope they’re tasty!

  4. Cari Miller Says:

    Just updated: We’ve opened three jars total now, and man are they tasty! The first only a week or so after canning – very very strong, but still yummy. Each jar has progressively gotten better the longer we’ve waited to open them, so hopefully jar 4 will be the best yet. We’re definitely not done with making pickles! So worth it!

  5. tigress Says:

    hey cari,

    how do they taste now? usually they get even better with age.
    unless…..they are all gone!

    😉

  6. Cari Miller Says:

    Yeah, this batch is all gone already!

    I will say that the last jar we opened was by far the best… and that was about a month after this batch. We just so happened to open the last jar of our first batch on the same day we did this:
    https://lifeatnumber71.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/mowglis-own-a-huge-haul-of-pickles/

    And we’ve yet to touch those. Soon!

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