Making crisp dill pickles is the goal when canning pickles, but not every batch turns out the perfect pickle. Problems with soft or rubbery pickles start with the type and quality of the cucumbers used for pickling. Additionally, the ratio of ingredients in the pickling solution can also affect a pickle’s texture and crunch. But if you process pickles with the recommended cucumbers at the start, and use a good recipe and proper canning methods, you will have jars of very crisp pickles in your pantry.
Things You'll Need
Select freshly-picked green, firm pickling cucumbers less than 2 inches in diameter from your own garden or from a local farmer’s market or farm.
Wash the cucumbers in the sink, then fill the sink with cold water and add some ice. Soak the cucumbers in the ice water for 4 to 5 hours.
Slice 1/16 inch off the cucumbers’ blossom ends–the end of the cucumber opposite the stem end–and discard. Cut the cucumbers into spears or round chips, or leave them whole.
Place the prepared cucumbers in a clean 16-quart stockpot. Pour 2 gallons of water over the cucumbers, add 3/4 cup salt and then mix well to dissolve the salt.
Cover the stockpot and soak the cucumbers for 12 hours, then drain.
Place the canning jars and rings in a dishwasher and run on a hot water “sterilize” cycle with the heat drying feature selected. Leave the canning jars in the dishwasher until ready to use.
Combine 1-1/2 quarts vinegar, 1/2 cup salt, 1/4 cup sugar and 2 quarts water in a 4-quart saucepan. Place 2 tbsp. pickling spices in a piece of cheesecloth and add to the mixture.
Bring the pickling solution to a boil and remove the cheesecloth with the pickling spices. Cover the saucepan and leave the pickling solution simmering on the stove until ready to add to the filled jars.
Place the canning lids in a small saucepan filled 3/4 full with tap water and bring to a boil. Leave the lids simmering on the stove until you are ready to use them on the jars.
Remove the sterilized jars from the dishwasher using a hot pad or jar lifter and place on the counter near the hot water canner–a tall, covered enamel pot with a wire rack designed to hold canning jars during processing.
Pack cucumbers into hot, sterilized canning jars. Add 1 or 2 fresh dill heads or tops, 1 tsp. mustard seed and 1 or 2 garlic cloves to each jar. Pour hot pickling solution over the cucumbers using a ladle, leaving a 1/2-inch head space.
Wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth to remove any pickling solution or stray spices.
Remove the sterilized canning lids using a magnetic lid lifter and place them onto the jars. Add the rings to the jars, tighten them and then place the jars in the hot water canner using a jar lifter.
Process the jars in the hot water canner for 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts.
Remove the processed pickles using a jar lifter. Place the jars on a counter or table so that no jars are touching, and allow to completely cool.
Some supermarkets carry pickling cucumbers in season, which are not the same as regular, waxed salad or eating cucumbers . Use the freshest pickling cucumbers you can, ideally from a local farm or your own garden.
Cutting off the blossom end of the cucumbers removes enzymes that will soften pickles if left on, but leaving the stem end intact is OK.
Old-fashioned crisping solutions using lime or alum are unnecessary if you use garden-grown, fresh cucumbers that are not overripe.
References and ResourcesPickYourOwn.com: Making Pickles
UtahHouse.org: Crisp Pickled Vegetables (pdf)
University of Wisconsin Extension: Crispy and Delicious Homemade Pickles (pdf)
ResourcesLocal Harvest: U.S. Farmer's Markets and Family Farms
VegetableGardener.com:All About Pickling Cucumbers