Joilene has been gardening and preserving food of all kinds for many years, and she thrives on the creativity involved in these processes.
- cucumbers, whole, pickling type (any variety will work, but short, thick ones slice prettiest for this recipe)
- boiling water, to cover
For the Pickling Solution:
- 3 3/4 cups plain white vinegar
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons salt, pickling or non-iodized (found in the pickle-making section of your local supermarket)
- 4 1/2 teaspoons celery seed, whole
- 4 1/2 teaspoons turmeric, ground
- 3/4 teaspoon mustard seed, whole
You will need:
- A boiling water bath or steam canner
- Canning jars (quart size) with appropriate lids
- Cake tin or saucepan for scalding canning lids
- Jar lifter
- Tongs, or magnetic lid lifter
- Vinegar (optional) for adding to canner water to avoid hard-water stains
- Large pot for boiling pickling solution
- Large non-reactive crock or bowl for soaking cucumbers
- Large colander for draining cucumbers
- Ladle for solution
- Clean, damp cloth(s) or paper towels for wiping jar rims once they are filled with pickles
- A clean towel and an out-of-the-way, heat-resistant surface on which to set the jars once they are finished (we use a bath towel, as we often process many jars)
- Processing time: 5 minutes (after a full, rolling boil is reached)
- Overall time per full canner load: 6 hours (from preparing fresh cucumbers to emptying the canner)
- Jar size: Quarts, either wide or regular mouth
- Headspace: 1/2-inch headspace
- Storage term: 1+ years normally (depends on storage conditions, such as humidity)
Step 1: Prepare Cucumbers
- Select pickling cucumbers for this recipe, which are shorter and broader than their slicing counterparts. They should be free of blemishes and firm. Large seed cavities are undesirable.
- Wash whole, uncut cucumbers, scrubbing gently if necessary, to free them of sand or soil, insect residue, and other debris.
- Heat boiling water enough to completely cover fruits when sliced into sticks or spears, and soak for 4 to 5 hours in a pickling crock or large, non-reactive bowl.
Step 2: Prepare Jars and Canning Equipment
- Put on the water bath or steam canner to boil, filled about halfway with clean water for a full load of 7 jars. Add a splash of vinegar to help prevent mineral build-up on jars and canners.
- Select only proper, brand-name canning jars. (Quarts with wide mouths work best for this project.) Inspect each jar for chips, cracks, or other weaknesses. (A regular jar, such as a commercial pickle jar, is designed to be used only once under such heated conditions.)
- Wash each jar thoroughly in hot, soapy water, paying special attention to the threads around the top, and the bottoms of the jars on the inside, especially if they have been used before. You may also prepare them in an automatic dishwasher or by sterilizing them in an oven. 200° F. for 20 minutes per batch is a general rule. If your jars have been stored in a basement or outbuilding in which vermin have been allowed to run, you would be wise to soak them in water to which a bit of chlorine has been added.
- Set the jars aside to dry.
- Have ready the number of rings and lids you estimate you will need, and wash them. To wash and scald the lids: Place the lids in a small pan (a layer cake pan works well), and pour boiling water over them to scald them. Leave them in the water until you are ready to put them in the jars.
Step 3: Prepare Pickling Solution and Pack Jars
- In a small stock pot or large saucepan, prepare the pickling solution, and boil it for 5 minutes to set and blend flavors.
- Meanwhile, drain cucumber sticks in a large colander. You may need to drain them in batches, transferring them to a bowl or roasting pan as you go.
- Gently place cucumbers in jars until they are comfortably tight.
- Once the solution has been sufficiently boiled, ladle it over cucumbers to within a 1/2-inch of the rims. This measurement is called the required headspace and allows the product to expand during boiling.
- Set aside each jar, dribbles and all, and proceed to fill the remainder, or as many as your canner will hold (usually seven).
- With a very clean, damp cloth or paper towel, wipe each jar's rim and any dribbles down its sides.
- Using the tongs or magnetic lid lifter, lift one lid at a time from the pan of hot or simmering water, and place it on the jar without touching the lid with your hands if you can help it. Adjust two-piece caps*, screwing the bands on finger-tight. This will allow for proper expansion during processing.
- When all jars or a full 7 have been filled, place them in the canner. You may put them in one at a time, using a jar lifter, or you may place them in altogether, lifting the whole canner rack. Beware of boiling water splashes and steam burns!
*Or your choice of tight-sealing lids, and set them aside.
Step 4: Process and Cool Pickles
- Once all jars have been placed in the canner, wait for it to reach a full, rolling boil, then begin timing 5 minutes. Boil each load a fill 5 minutes. Immediately remove jars to their resting area, using a jar lifter and holding a pot holder or hand towel underneath each jar to catch drips.
- Set them on a towel or board in a draft-free area, and allow them to sit still for several hours or overnight until they are cooled throughout. Check lids for a good seal (there should be no "give", and they should be sucked down). You will probably hear the lids "ping" as the milk cools and pressure changes in the jars. Any that have not been sealed may be refrigerated and used within a couple of days. Alternatively, you may wipe the jar rims very carefully, replace the lids with new ones, and reprocess them ... but if you've been careful in the first place, you'll seldom have a jar fail to seal.
- You will need to scrub your jars and canner in hot, soapy water once they are quite cool. (Jars should sit for several hours, or overnight, in a draft-free area.) Thoroughly wash all other equipment as well.
- You may wish to remove the rings from your jars and wash the threads well. (Some people prefer to store jars without rings, so they know more easily whether a jar has come unsealed and begun to spoil.) You definitely don't wish to attract vermin with sticky jars.
How to Store Home-Canned Products
- Home-canned products like cool—but not cold—environments, with even temperatures. An underground cellar or unheated basement is ideal.
- Any severe temperature change in the atmosphere will cause the pressure in the jars to change and may make them come unsealed. If this happens, you will have spoiled food in your storage.
- It is a good idea to check your jars periodically, even if you have no serious doubts about their environment. You may not be able to avert a problem entirely, but you may be able to head it off before it blooms into a disaster.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2009 Joilene Rasmussen