Our grandparents once pickled produce out of necessity, but today, pickling has returned as a trendy hobby. Since fresh produce is key for successful pickling, harvest season is a great time to learn how to pickle.
After you’ve used the last pickle in a purchased (or home-canned) jar, keep the liquid and put in crisp, washed and well-scrubbed fresh vegetables: cucumber slices, carrot sticks or celery stalks. Even the robust flavors of rutabaga or turnip mute and marry deliciously with dill or sweet pickle juices. Refrigerate vegetables overnight in the pickle juice, then eat the marinated vegetables within a day or two. If your pickle juice contains salt and vinegar, you can reuse it twice.
Fridge or freezer pickles
Making pickles in the freezer is one of the easiest and fastest ways to make “bread-and-butter” pickles or other sweet pickles. Preserve cucumbers and other vegetables by packing them in a solution of strong vinegar (5 percent acetic acid) and sugar, then store in the fridge or freezer. Surprisingly, frozen cucumbers will stay crisp, even when thawed, but they must be kept cold in the refrigerator and eaten within two weeks.
Easy fermented pickles
Cucumbers can be difficult to ferment because they easily turn mushy. Instead, start with cabbage to make sauerkraut or whole baby zucchini, red pepper slices or green beans, all of which stay crisp when fermented. Submerge vegetables in the fermenting liquid by weighting them down with a snack-sized zip-top plastic bag filled with the fermentation liquid.
After you’ve made pickles, store them by canning. Beginners or those who don’t have canning equipment can use a large stock pot to can three to four quart- or pint-size glass jars of vegetables. Avoid filling the large pot with water in the sink, since it will be dangerously heavy; instead, use a pitcher to fill it on the stove. A sturdy pair of dish-washing gloves protects hands when submerging and removing jars from hot water in the pot. With canned pickles, it’s especially important to use a recipe from a trusted source such as the USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning, a state extension service or a canning jar manufacturer.
Sweet, sour, tart or fermented pickle juices can be used in practically any recipe calling for vinegar or even lemon juice. The hint of acid will brighten any dish. Stir pickle juice into salad dressings, sandwich spreads, hummus, creamy dips, pesto, salsa, chimichurri sauce and soup, especially Asian-style soups or Michigan’s famous dill pickle soup. Another tip: Deglaze a pan with pickle juice instead of wine or broth.
Ball Blue Book: Guide to Preserving.Daleville, IN: Jarden Corporation; 2012.
Feifer, A. Ferment Your Vegetables.Beverly, MA: Quarto; 2015.
Keep Food Safe! Food Safety Basics. USDA website. Updated December 20, 2016. Accessed June 19, 2019.
Rombauer I, Becker M, Becker E. Joy Of Cooking. New York: Scribner; 2002.
Wisconsin Safe Food Preservation Series: Homemade Pickles & Relishes. University of Wisconsin-Extension Cooperative Extension website. Published 2002. Accessed June 19, 2019.