Making Home-made Sweet Gherkin Pickles - Easy, Fully Illustrated Instructions and Recipe!
This month's notes: March 2014: Spring is just around the corner. Strawberries are here in Florida, Texas and California, next in late March and April for much of the South, then in May for most of the country and June in cooler northern areas. See how easy it is to make strawberry jam or strawberry-rhubarb jam!
Yield: 6 to 7 pint jars
Click here for a PDF print version
Making and canning your own sweet pickled gherkins the old-fashioned way, with all natural ingredients has never been easier!! Here's how to do it, in easy steps and completely illustrated. This method is so easy, ANYONE can do this! It's a great thing to do with your kids! This is an easy recipe, but it is spread out over 3 days, while the cucumbers soak up brine!
- 7 lbs cucumbers (1-1/2 inch or less)
- 1/2 cup canning or pickling salt
- 8 cups sugar
- 6 cups white vinegar (5 percent)
- 3/4 teaspoons turmeric
- 2 teaspoons celery seeds
- 2 teaspoons whole mixed pickling spice
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel (optional)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)
- Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)
- Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water where you sanitize them. ($2 at Target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page)
- Jar funnel ($2 at Target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page)
- 1 large pots; teflon lined, glass or ceramic.
- Large spoons and ladles
- 1 Water Bath Canner (a huge pot to sanitize the jars after filling (about $30 to $35 at mall kitchen stores, sometimes at big box stores and grocery stores.). Note: we sell many sizes and types of canners for all types of stoves and needs - see canning supplies
- Pint canning jars (Ball or Kerr jars can be found at grocery stores, like Safeway, Publix, Kroger, grocery stores, even online - 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!
- Lids - thin, flat, round metal lids with a gum binder that seals them against the top of the jar. They may only be used once.
- Rings - metal bands that secure the lids to the jars. They may be reused many times.
Directions - How to Make Sweet Gherkin Pickles
Be sure to read all the directions first - there are a couple of options and variations at the end, if you want to make firmer pickles (it's a trade-off; it takes more work!)
Step 1 - Selecting the cucumbers
It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality cucumbers!
At left 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! Note that only the two on the left will make good gherkins. The cucumber on the right is too big! (it's about 4 inches long)
Step 2 - How many cucumbers?
It takes about 30-plus 1-inch or 15 2-inch cucumbers to fill a pint jar.
Step 3 - Get the jars and lids sanitizing
The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle. I get that going while I'm preparing everything else, so it's done by the time I'm ready to fill the jars. If you don't have a dishwasher, submerge the jars in a large pot (the canner itself) of water and bring it to a boil.
Be sure to let it go through the rinse cycle to get rid of any soap!
Get the canner heating up
Fill the canner about 1/2 full of water and start it heating (with the lid on).
Start the water for the lids
Put the lids into the small pot of boiling water for at least several minutes. Note: everything gets sanitized in the water bath (step 7) anyway, so this just helps to ensure there is no spoilage later!)
Need lids, rings and replacement jars?
Step 4 -Wash and cut the vegetables!
I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the cucumbers and onions in plain cold water.
You will need to cut a 1/16-inch slice off the blossom end of the cucumbers and discard, but you can leave the stem end and ¼-inch of the stem attached, or slice it off, as you prefer. Then cut the cukes into 3/16-inch slices, cross-wise.
Slice the onions thinly (1/8 inch or less)
Step 5 - Combine cucumbers and onions in a large bowl. (Day 1)
Place cucumbers in large container and cover with boiling water. Six to 8 hours later (Day 2), drain and cover with 6 quarts of fresh boiling water containing 1/4-cup salt. If you do this late in the evening, then you can cover it, set on the counter and return in the morning. If it will be longer than 8 hours, let it cool to room temp, then store in the fridge.
Step 6 - Day 2 morning - Drain and re-fill
The next morning (or 6 to 8 hours later), drain and cover with 6 quarts of fresh boiling water containing 1/4-cup salt. If it will be sitting for longer than 8 hours, let it cool to room temp, then store in the fridge.
Step 7 - Day 3 morning - Drain and fork
On the third day, drain and prick cucumbers with a table fork and continue to step 8.
Step 8 - Combine the other ingredients in a separate pot and boil
- 3 cups vinegar,
- 3 cups sugar,
- turmeric, and
in a large pot and bring to boil
Step 9 - Pour the liquid over the cucumbers
Pour over cucumbers and let it rest for 6 to 8 hours, on the counter
Step 10 - Drain and save the liquid
Six to 8 hours later, drain and save the pickling syrup.
Step 11 - Heat the liquid from step 10
Heat the drained liquid to a boil. Add another 2 cups each of sugar and vinegar and reheat to boil.
Step 12 - Pour over the cucumbers and let the mix stand
Pour the liquid over the pickles.
Step 13 - Day 4 morning - Drain and save the liquid
On the fourth day, drain and save syrup. Add another 2 cups sugar and 1 cup vinegar. Heat to boiling and pour over pickles. Let it stand for 6 to 8 hours (yes, again!)
Step 14 - Day 4 afternoon - Drain, save, heat (Yep, again)
Drain and save pickling syrup 6 to 8 hours later. Add 1 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla and heat to boiling.
Step 15 - Fill the jars (FINALLY!)
Fill sterile pint jars, with pickles and cover with hot syrup, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. (Note: the photo shows large pickles, not gherkins - just to illustrate filling)
Note about Pickle Mixes
To interject a crass commercial here - hey, my wife says I've got to pay for the website somehow :) I have found the best (crispest, best tasting) pickles from a mix are with the "Mrs. Wages Polish Dill Refrigerator Pickle Mix" They REALLY are good AND you don't need a canner - you store them in your fridge right after making them. They're ready to eat in 24 hours! Our affiliate sells the mixes (and at really good prices, too)
Whether you want dills or sweet pickles; canning them or straight into the refrigerator; there is a mix for every taste and need here!Get them all here, delivered direct to your home, at the best prices on the internet! Get everything you need to make pickles: mixes, salt, brine, etc. here!
Step 16 - Process the sealed jars
Adjust lids and process according to one of the two methods below. The first method is easiest, but the second method yields firmer pickles:
a. 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 with your canner). Remember to adjust for altitudes (see below) and larger jars!
Table 1. Recommended process time for Bread-and-Butter Pickles in a boiling-water canner.
Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack
0 - 1,000 ft
1,001 - 6,000 ft
Above 6,000 ft
b. OR use this low-temperature pasteurization treatment:.
The following treatment results in a better product texture but must be carefully managed to avoid possible spoilage.
Place jars in a canner filled half way with warm (120º to 140ºF) water.
Then, add hot water to a level 1 inch above jars.
Heat the water enough to maintain 180 to 185ºF water temperature for 30 minutes.
Check with a candy or jelly thermometer to be certain that the water temperature is at least 180ºF during the entire 30 minutes. Temperatures higher than 185ºF may cause unnecessary softening of pickles.
Step 17 - 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, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.
When can you start eating the pickles? Well, it takes some time for the seasonings to be absorbed into the pickles. After processing and cooling, jars should be stored 4 to 5 weeks to develop ideal flavor. Ah... the wait...
Variation for firmer pickles:
(replace steps 4 to 8 above with these steps instead)
1. Wash cucumbers.
2. Cut 1/16-inch off blossom end and discard. Cut into 3/16-inch slices.
3. Mix 1 cup pickling lime and 1/2 cup salt to 1 gallon water in a 2- to 3-gallon crock or enamelware container. Avoid inhaling lime dust while mixing the lime-water solution.
4. Soak cucumber slices in lime water for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally. I keep them in the fridge during this time.
5. Remove from lime solution, rinse, and resoak 1 hour in fresh cold water.
6. Repeat the rinsing and soaking steps two more times. Handle carefully, as slices will be brittle.
7. Drain well.
Pickle Making Problems?
From left to right:
Home Canning Kits
This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato and spaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer, and the bible of canning, the Ball Blue Book. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'll never need anything else except jars & lids (and the jars are reusable)! There is also s simple kit with just the canner and rack, and a pressure canner, if your want to do vegetables (other than tomatoes). To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!
Summary - Cost of Making Homemade Sweet Gherkin Pickles - makes 6 - 7 pint jars, 16 oz each*
|Item||Quantity||Cost in 2007||Source||Subtotal|
|Cucumbers - tiny!||30-36 per pint jar||free from the garden, or $6.00 at a PYO||Pick your own||$6.00|
|Canning jars (pint size, wide mouth), includes lids and rings||6 jars||$7.50/dozen||Grocery stores (Publix, Kroger, Safeway, etc.)||$3.75|
Publix, Kroger, grocery stores
Publix, Kroger, grocery stores
|Pickling salt||1¼ cups||$2.00||Safeway,
Publix, Kroger, grocery stores
|Dill (fresh or seed)||7 heads||I grow it, otherwise, I'd use the seed from the grocery: $2.00||Safeway,
Publix, Kroger, grocery stores
|Pickle spices||2 Tablespoons||$2.00 per package, sp about $0.50||Grocery stores (Publix, Kroger, Safeway, etc.)||$0.50|
or about $1.50 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. Note that the Classico's manufacturer does not recommend reuse of their jars: see what they have to say on this page:
How to make other pickles - recipes and instructions:
- Refrigerator pickles (no canning required)
- Cucumber pickle relish
- Pickled beets
- Pickled green beans
- Pickled dilled okra
Can't find the equipment? We ship to all 50 states! Use our Feedback form!
This document was adapted from the "Complete Guide to Home Canning,"
Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA, revised 2006.
Reviewed May 2009.
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