Friday, August 10, 2012

Turn Your Home Grown Cucumbers into Pickles

Have you ever grown your own cucumbers?  If so, then your next step of progression is to turn all of those wonderfully juicy cucumbers into great tasting pickles.  If you have never grown cucumbers, then this blog post should get you excited to do so, as you will see just how easy it is to turn those home grown cucumbers into great tasting bread & butter pickles.

I will say this.  I don't care what recipe you follow to make pickles, if you do not start with good fruits or veggies, your end product won't matter.  Canning will not make it taste better, only preserve the great taste it has to begin with.

So for this exercise, let's start with some home grown cucumbers.  This year I grew Ashley cucumbers.  They yield plenty to work with and taste great.  Not the most ideal variety for pickling purposes, but adequate none the less.  If you want a great tasting, true pickling cucumber, go with the Boston variety.

Once you have your cucumbers, slice off the ends as it makes it easier to have a flat surface of the cucumber to work with when using a mandolin slicer.  If you don't have a slicer, not to worry, simply use a sharp knife. 

I would have really liked to slice them with a "crinkle cut", but I did not have that attachment, so I settled for plain old flat.

The slicer I use has a nice feature where it "grips" the bowl that the slices go into.  This made it much easier to slice the cucumbers much faster.

I talked to a few people and they have electric slicers which work fast and well.  Probably a good idea to get one in the future if you plan on pickling loads of cucumbers as my friend does.

However, a simple mandolin slicer will do the trick.

I did not use a homemade recipe as I went the very easy route and used a pre-made mix.  For my pickles I chose Mrs. Wages Bread & Butter Pickles mix.  The recipe for this mix is as easy as it gets. 

You mix the dry ingredients in the pack with sugar and vinegar and then heat it up over the stove so everything will blend together.  Very simple!

Now go ahead and fill your jars.  Do not fill all the way to the top as you need to leave some room for head space.  

I filled mine up to just about where the jar starts forming into the mouth.

I also used my canning funnel to make sure none of the residue of the pickles touched the tops of the jar.  While not catastrophic if it does, it makes cleaning easier.
Now that your jars are filled with cucumbers, using a ladle, start pouring the hot pickling mixture into your jars.  Definitely use your funnel for this step.  

Fill the jars with the liquid leaving about a 1/4" of head space.  That is a 1/4" of space from the top of the jar where the lid will sit.

Once the jar is filled, make sure you remove as much air from between the cucumbers as possible by sliding a butter knife (or some other non sharp object) down inside the jar, moving the cucumbers off the side.

You can use the hot water bath method for this process.  I explain the hot water bath method, here, for tomatoes.  The process is the same.

The back of the mix packet will tell you exactly how long to heat this up for, which will be 35 to 45 minutes, depending on where you live as your locations altitude makes a difference.

And that's it!  Great tasting bread & butter pickles, made from cucumbers, right out of your garden.  Once you make these, and see how easy it is to do, you will never want to buy pickles from the store again.

About the Author 
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the monthly Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club: