To create your very own homemade pickles, simply let raw cucumbers sit in an easy-to-make brine for as long as you want. As long they're kept in the fridge after brining, you'll have deliciously salty pickles to nosh on whenever you want.
Cucumbers, like most veggies, come in many varieties. Straight 8 and Fanfare are great for slicing, which means you eat them raw in salads. Other types such as Bush Pickle and Carolina are grown specifically for pickling. They usually grow no more than 2-inches in diameter and stay crunchy even after soaked in a pickling mixture for long periods of time. Pickling cucumbers need to be picked every day in the early morning so they don't grow too large and to encourage the vine to continue producing.
Selecting Your Cucumbers
Use fresh, just-picked cucumbers from a farmers' market or from your own garden. Many grocery store cucumbers have wax on the outside, which make pickling difficult. Cucumbers that are dark green, full of warts and crispy are perfect, while yellowing and bloated cucumbers are a sign that the vegetable has developed seeds already. Don't use soft cucumbers or ones that have been left out in the sun too long. Approximately three to four cucumbers will fit in a one pint jar.
Clean your pickle jars and lids before adding the brine and cucumbers - sanitize them in your dishwasher or boil them in a large pot. Mix white vinegar with your own mix of pickling spices and bring to a gentle boil in a nonmetal pot. Fill your jars with sliced or whole cucumbers until they're packed in. Pour the hot pickling brine into the jars. Leave a 1/4 inch from the top free of liquid to prevent leakage. Screw on the canning, or jar, lids tightly.
Properly can your pickles by placing the filled jars into a large pot or canner with water that covers the jars at least 1 inch. Boil the water for 10 minutes. By boiling the jars, you prevent spoilage and botulism. After using this canning method, you can then store them in a cool, dark place. Remove the jars and place them on the counter to cool overnight. Be sure the lids don't pop up when you press the tops. The pickles are ready after 24 hours but taste better in about two weeks. Keep a notebook and write down how the pickles taste after a certain time period so you know in the future the best time to open a jar.
Charong Chow has been writing professionally since 1995. Her work has appeared in magazines such as "Zing" and "Ocean Drive." Chow graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. She also received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts.