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How to Make Pickles

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Authored by Donna Ryan in Food and Cooking
Published on 10-06-2009

The best way to preserve cucumbers is to pickle them. Pickling the vegetable is an age old tradition and works pretty much the same way now as it did over one hundred years ago with the few exceptions of modern technology thrown into the mix. So, where does one begin if they want to make pickles?

Probably the most logical place to start is in your own garden. Make sure you have the right cucumbers to pickle as not all cucumbers are suitable for this type of operation. A cucumber selected for pickling has to meet certain criteria. It should be a lighter hue of green and no bigger than about two or three inches in length.

Once you’ve culled the smaller cucumbers out of your garden, check to see if any of them will float. Cucumbers that bob on the water are too hollow to use for pickling. Therefore, pull out the hollow cucumbers and set them aside.

Next you’re ready to concoct your pickling solution. The combination of ingredients used for pickling is pretty basic. A pickling solution is usually a blend of water, vinegar, herbs and pickling salt and spices. If you want garlic pickles, obviously you’ll want to include garlic. Use dill for dill pickles. If you have more of a sweet tooth, then substitute sugar for the salt in the solution.

Now you’re ready to make your pickles. Part of the outcome of the pickle making process is impacted by the mineralization of the water you’re using. Expect more squishy pickles if your water contains a bit too much sulfur. Water that has been softened is recommended if you want to make good pickles. So what can you do if you don’t have soft water? In this case, use distilled water for good results. Therefore, your brine should consist of water, vinegar, spices and pickling salt unless you’re making sweet pickles in which case you’ll substitute sugar for the salt. Now follow these steps:

  1. Wash the jars for canning and sterilize them along with the rings and lids.
  2. Use a large stainless steel pot to heat the brine. Only use stainless steel as the vinegar in the brine does not work well with other metals.
  3. Bring the liquid mixture to a full boil. Fill your canning jars with the selected cucumbers and include any pickling spices you want to add and cover with the hot brine. Leave about a half –inch space at the top of the jars and seal with sterilized lids.
  4. Place the jars in boiling water to kill any enzymes that can cause the pickles to spoil.
  5. Lift the jars from the boiling water and allow 24 hours for them to cool.
  6. Make sure the seals are set after the jars are cooled and wash them.
  7. Place the cucumbers in storage and wait about fourteen days before eating them. You need this amount of time for the pickles to become full-flavored.
  8. Once the cucumbers have cured, you can consider yourself a master pickle maker!

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