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How to make pickles - made easy, and illustrated!
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This month's notes: Apples, pears, Fall raspberries are still available, but already picked. It's time to make applesauce and apple butter! There are still outdoors farm activities: sleigh rides, and choose and cut your own Christmas tree farms. Check out my easy canning directions, and here are some great gift ideas, like canning equipment or ice cream makers for the chef in the family!

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This month's picking tips:  [Apples] [apple festivals] [apple variety guide] [Raspberries] [unusual fruits] Directions how to make: [applesauce] [apple butter] [jams] [How to freeze corn] [canning corn] [Canning tomatoes] [Making pickles] [pesto] [salsa] [spaghetti sauce] NEW: How to make ice cream and ice cream making equipment and manuals And [MANY MORE CANNING DIRECTIONS]

Making Homemade Pickles
Using the "Quick process" method

Making and canning your own pickles, gherkins, kosher dills, bread and butter, sweet pickles, etc. is one of the easiest things you can do with produce!  Here's how to do it, in easy steps and completely illustrated.   It is much faster than the old method your grandmother used with tons of pickling salt and de-scumming the brine! Ugh!  This method is so easy, ANYONE can do this!  It's a great thing to do with your kids! I'm experimenting with the various techniques, such as soaking the cucumbers overnight in lime solution first, using "pickle crisp" etc. I'' revise this page as I taste the results in the weeks to come!

Types of Pickles

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Fresh-pack (or quick process) pickles are cured for several hours in a vinegar solution or are immediately combined with hot vinegar, spices, and seasonings. Examples include dills, bread-and-butter pickles and pickled beets. Quick Process is what these instructions show.  Other types are:

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Fermented pickles are vegetables soaked in a brine solution for 4 to 6 weeks. During this time, lactic acid bacteria, naturally present on the surface of vegetables, grows. Other microbes are inhibited by salt. The color of the vegetables changes from bright green to olive/yellow-green, and the white interior becomes translucent. Examples include dill pickles and sauerkraut. See this page for making Fermented Pickles and Sauerkraut

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Refrigerated dills are cucumbers fermented for 1 week in a salt brine and then stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

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Fruit pickles are whole or sliced fruit simmered in a spicy, sweet-sour syrup. Examples include spiced peaches and crabapples.

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Relishes are made from chopped fruits or vegetables that are cooked to a desired consistency in a spicy vinegar solution. Examples include corn relish and horseradish.

Ingredients and Equipment

bulletCucumbers - fresh, crisp - not wilted, soft or overripe!
bulletQuick Process Pickling mix -  It usually goes for about $2.00 to $4.00 per packet. A packet will make about a dozen pint jars. 
bulletClear vinegar (5%, apple cider vinegar works well.  Store brand is about $1.25 for a 64 oz bottle.
bulletJar grabber (to pick up the hot jars) 
bulletLid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water where you sterilize them. ($2 at WalMart, Target, and sometimes at grocery stores)
bulletJar funnel ($2 at WalMart, Target, and sometimes at grocery stores)
bullet1 large pots; teflon lined, glass or ceramic.
bulletLarge spoons and ladles
bullet1 Canner (a huge pot to sterilize the jars after filling (about $30 to $35 at mall kitchen stores, sometimes at WalMart (seasonal item).  Note: we sell many sizes and types of canners for all types of stoves and needs - see canning supplies
bulletPint canning jars (Ball or Kerr jars can be found at Publix and WalMart - about $8 per dozen jars including the lids and rings).  Be sure to get wide mouth jars to fit the pickles in!  Pint size works best! 
bulletLids - thin, flat, round metal lids with a gum binder that seals them against the top of the jar.  They may only be used once.
bulletRings - metal bands that secure the lids to the jars.  They may be reused many times.

Process - How to Make Pickles

Step 1 - Selecting the cucumbers

It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality cucumbers!  

At right is a of picture cucumbers from my garden - they are SO easy to grow. But be sure to grow the varieties that are labeled "pickling cucumbers" - they will be much more crisp!  

 

 

The picture at right shows a good cucumber for pickling (bottom) and a bad one (top).  The good one is dark green, firm, and not bloated.  It has lots of warts!

The bad one is overripe, it has yellow or white areas in the skin, and the warts are almost all gone.  If you cut it open, you will see developed seeds.  You don't want seeds!

Overripe cucumbers make mushy pickles!

 

Step 2 - How many cucumbers?

It takes about 3 or 4 cucumbers to fill a pint jar.  Each cucumber is about 4 - 5 inches long and you will cut off the ends so they will fit with 1/4 inch to spare..

Step 3 -Wash and cut the vegetables!

I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the fruit in plain cold water.

You will need to cut the ends off (about 1/4 inch) and then slice them lengthwise if you like spears.  You can also leave them whole or cut them cross-wise for bread-and-butter pickles.

Step 4 - Get the jars and lids sterilizing

The dishwasher is fine for the jars.  I get that going while I'm preparing everything else, so it's done by the time I'm ready to fill the jars. Be sure to let it go through the rinse cycle to get rid of any soap!  It's also a good time to start heating up the water in the canner and the small pan of water to boil the lids.

 

 Lids:  put the lids into a pan of boiling water for at least several minutes. Note: everything gets sterilized in the water bath (step 7) anyway, so this just helps to ensure there is no spoilage later!)

 

   

Need lids, rings and replacement jars? 

Get them all here, delivered direct to your home,  at the best prices on the internet! 

Step 6 - Mix the vinegar with the pickling mix and bring to a near boil

OK, you can make your own pickling mix from spices, salt, dill, etc.; but it is MUCH more time-consuming, complicated, and prone to problems.  This method produces pickles which are just as crisp - as long as you pick very firm cucumbers.  It also helps to add 2 grape leaves to every jar (I kid you not, they have something in them that makes the pickles crunchier).

The stores (Wal-Mart, Publix, Kroger, etc.) sell several varieties of mixes - Kosher dill, bread-and-=butter and sweet pickles are the most commonly seen.  And be sure to get them by July - they tend not to re-order them when they sell out.  Mrs. Wages "quick process refrigerator pickle mixes" are the easiest, as they do not even require a water bath canner (but must be stored in the fridge!).  The others require canning as shown in these instructions, and may be stored on the shelf.

Bring the mix and vinegar to a near-boil - just simmering!

Be sure to use a NON-metal pot - or a coated metal (teflon, silverstone, enamel, etc.) without breaks in the coating. the metal reacts with the vinegar and makes the pickle solution turn cloudy.

Step 7 - Fill the jars with cucumbers and put the lid and rings on

Pack the cucumbers, whole or slices in and pour the simmering pickle mix liquid over them. Fill them to within 1/4 inch of the top, seat the lid and hand-tighten the ring around them.  

Step 8 - Boil the jars in the canner

Put them in the canner and keep them covered with at least 1 inch of water. Keep the water boiling. Boil them for 10 minutes (or as directed by the instructions in the pickle mix, or with your canner).  Remember to adjust for altitudes and larger jars! Note: some mixes, such as the Ball Kosher Dill mix call for only boiling for 5 minutes - I'll let you know how that works out! generally, the longer you process the jars, the more mushy (less crisp) the pickles will be.

Step 9 - Done

Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight)  You can then remove the rings if you like.

 

 

Other Equipment:

From left to right:

  1. Jar lifting tongs 
            to pick up hot jars
  2. Lid lifter 
            - to remove lids from the pot 
            of boiling water (sterilizing )
  3. Lid 
           - disposable - you may only 
           use them once
  4. Ring 
          - holds the lids on the jar until after
          the jars cool - then you don't need them
  5. Canning jar funnel
          - to fill the jars

 

Summary - Cost of Making Homemade Pickles - makes 12 pint jars, 16 oz each*

ItemQuantityCost in 2004SourceSubtotal
Cucumbers30-36 (about 3 per pint jar)free from the garden, or $3.00 cents at a PYOPick your own$3.00
Canning jars (pint size, wide mouth), includes lids and rings12 jars$8.00/dozenWalMart, BigLots, 
Publix, Kroger
$8.00
Vinegar4 cups$0.99 WalMart, 
Publix, Kroger
$0.99
Pickle mix1 packet$3.00 per packageWalMart, BigLots, 
Publix, Kroger
$3.00
Total$15.00 total
 or about  $1.25 per jar INCLUDING the jars - which you can reuse!

* - This assumes you already have the pots, pans, ladles, and reusable equipment. Note that you can reuse the jars!  Many products are sold in jars that will take the lids and rings for canning.  For example, Classico Spaghetti sauce is in quart sized jars that work with Ball and Kerr lids and rings

Other pickle recipes and instructions:

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Fruit Pickles - These are prepared from whole or sliced fruits and simmered in a spicy, sweet-sour syrup made with vinegar or lemon juice.

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Making Fermented Pickles and Sauerkraut

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Making Fresh-Pack Pickles and Relishes

Canning processing times

Type of pickling method

Jar size0 to 1,000 ft above sea level1,001 to 6,000 ft above sea level
Quick process, (raw cucumbers put in the jar, hot liquid poured over them)- pint10 min15 min
Quick process, (raw cucumbers put in the jar, hot liquid poured over them)- quart10 min15 min

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Answers to Common Questions

What did I do wrong if my pickles aren't crisp or crunchy?
you probably used overripe cucumbers or didn't measure the vinegar and water accurately

 

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Remember to ALWAYS call the farm or orchard BEFORE you go - weather, heavy picking and business conditions can always affect their hours and crops!

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