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Pickled cucumbers in a mason jar

Growing and Pickling Your Own Cucumbers

Homemade pickles in Jar

From Garden to Jar: Growing and Pickling Cucumbers

Imagine biting into a crisp, homemade pickle—tangy, fresh, and preservative-free. Growing and pickling your own cucumbers is a rewarding experience that brings garden-fresh flavor to your table. Here’s how to get started.
Cucumbers growing on a trellis

Growing Cucumbers

Choosing the Right Variety: Pick a cucumber variety that suits your climate and space. Some of our favorite varieties include Pickling Bush, Spartan Valor and Persian cucumbers.
Planting: Cucumbers need full sun and well-draining soil. Space plants or seeds six inches apart. Adding compost will help enrich the soil and provide nutrients to the growing fruit.
Watering & Feeding: Water deeply once a week. Fertilize every few weeks with a balanced organic fertilizer.
Trellising Cucumbers: Trellising helps save space, keeps cucumbers clean, and improves air circulation, reducing the risk of disease.
Harvesting: Pick cucumbers when they are small and firm for the best pickles.
Pickles undergoing water bath canning

The Pickling Process

What Is Pickling? Pickling involves preserving vegetables in a brine solution. This not only extends their shelf life but also adds a tangy flavor.
Essential Ingredients and Equipment: You’ll need fresh cucumbers, vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and spices (like dill, garlic, and mustard seeds). Equipment includes jars, lids, and a large pot for boiling water.

Basic Pickling Methods
  • Refrigerator Pickles: These are quick and easy. Simply pack your cucumbers and spices into a jar, pour over a hot vinegar solution, let cool, and refrigerate.
  • Water Bath Canning: This method involves processing jars of pickles in a boiling water bath, which allows them to be stored at room temperature. Place packed jars into boiling water for 10 minutes. Make sure to check seals after 24 hours.
Safety Tips: Always use fresh, high-quality cucumbers. Sterilize your jars and lids before use. Follow pickling recipes carefully to ensure the correct balance of vinegar and salt, which are crucial for preventing bacterial growth.

A Simple Pickling Recipe to Get You Started

Pickling Instructions

Prepare the Cucumbers: Wash the cucumbers thoroughly. You can slice them into rounds, spears, or leave them whole if they’re small.
Make the Brine: In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.
Pack the Jars: Place garlic cloves, dill seeds, and mustard seeds at the bottom of sterilized jars. Pack the cucumbers tightly into the jars. Some suggest adding grape leaves to increase pickle crunch.
Add the Brine: Pour the hot brine over the cucumbers, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace at the top. Tap the jars gently to remove any air bubbles.
Seal and Process: Wipe the rims of the jars, place the lids on, and screw on the bands. If you’re making refrigerator pickles, let the jars cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. For water bath canning, process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Wait and Enjoy: For best flavor, let the pickles sit for at least a week before eating.

Ingredients You'll Need

Ingredients for Canned Cucumbers:
  • 6 bay leaves (1 per jar)
  • 1/2 Tbsp peppercorn (5 per jar)
  • 6 dill stems with flowers, cut into 3" pieces (1 full stem per jar)
  • 12 garlic cloves, halved (2 cloves per jar)
  • 2 inch horseradish root, chopped and divided (optional but nice)
  • 6 lbs small cucumbers, well rinsed with ends trimmed
Ingredients for Pickling Brine:
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 Tbsp pickling salt (or 1/3 cup)
  • 6 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
Full recipe found here: Natasha's Kitchen Dill Pickles

Want To Learn More About Food Preservation?

Check out the UC Master Food Preserver Program which extends UC research-based information about home food safety and preservation to the public.
Learn More
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