Too Many Cucumbers? Make Pickles!

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In the summer, cucumbers are usually plentiful, either at the local farmer’s market or growing in your back yard! Pickles are easy to make and can be made without a lot of equipment. Cucumbers are one of the easiest foods to preserve when made into pickles.

Even the novice cook can feel successful in making quick fresh refrigerated pickles. The first trick is to know which end of the cucumber to trim before slicing into wedges or thick slices. Cucumbers have a stem end and a blossom end. The blossom end is the very first growth of the cucumber and contains enzymes which can cause softening. This end is where the blossom attached to the cucumber. It’s important to slice the blossom end off. Trim just 1/16 of an inch. This will keep the pickles from softening.

Next, choose a clean glass gallon jar. If you do not have a glass jar that size, then choose a large glass bowl with a small plate to cover. Glass containers are best to use because pickles are made with large amounts of vinegar. Since vinegar is an acid, it could penetrate plastic or even react with porous metal containers like aluminum or galvanized metal. A one-gallon container holds approximately five pounds of fresh cucumbers. Do not use copper, iron, galvanized metal containers or lead-glazed crocks. Other 1 to 3 gallon food-grade containers may be used if they are lined inside with a clean food-grade plastic bag. Do not use garbage bags or trash can liners.

The first step in making pickles is to make the brine. The brine is the vinegar solution that makes cucumbers into pickles. It’s important to bring the mixture to a boil to dissolve the salt. Once it boils, turn off the heat and let it cool. Note that glass containers may crack if boiling water is poured into them.

Next, prepare the cucumbers. First wash in water that is slightly warmer than the cucumber. This will release the dirt more easily. Drain and begin by slicing off the blossom end. If you are using baby cucumbers, leave them whole. A large cucumber can be sliced on the diagonal.

The last step is to fill the container. Add the other ingredients, followed by the cucumbers and lastly the brine. Cover the jar and leave the cucumbers for 2 to 3 days until they are as sour as you like them. Pickles can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

If you would like to learn more about food preservation, contact our office or The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Article adapted from Penn State Extension

Easy Dill Pickles

5 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
¾ cup white vinegar
1   1/2 pounds cucumbers
3 garlic cloves, peeled
4 large dill sprigs 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

If using a bowl, place the plate on top to keep the cucumbers under the brine. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Chop Chop Magazine, Summer 2013