Making pickles at home is easy and satisfying with a delicious result! Pickles can be eaten on their own or enjoyed on sandwiches, burgers, or alongside fatty dishes to add an element of acid.
Pickles are typically made with cucumbers, but other vegetables and fruits can also be pickled.
Beets, cauliflower, carrots, rhubarb, strawberries, fennel, and onions are just a few examples of commonly pickled produce.
There are two types of homemade pickles: fermented and quick-process. To make either type of pickle, choose high-quality and fresh ingredients.
When making pickles with cucumbers, make sure to use the correct variety. If you buy from a grocery store, choose Kirby cucumbers. They are medium to small in size and make a perfect pickle.
The skin of a Kirby cucumber is thicker than a slicing cucumber. Kirby pickles do not have wax on them, something that you need to look out for when buying cucumbers in the store.
Slicing cucumbers, the variety used in salads, will produce a softer pickle. These will work in a quick pickle but are not ideal for fermentation.
Quick Pickles vs. Fermented Pickles
As I mentioned earlier, there are two different ways how to make pickles. Both processes preserve the pickled item in a brine.
Fermented pickles go through lacto-fermentation, producing lactic acids that preserve the cucumber. All that is necessary to start lacto-fermentation is water and salt. The process takes around three to four weeks at room temperature.
The benefits of lacto-fermentation are in the bacteria formed through the process. Sugars and carbohydrates present in the cucumber convert to lactic acid to preserve the vegetable. This process adds to the flavor and gives you the benefit of the good bacteria colony that has formed.
Other examples of lacto-fermented foods are kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut. Fermentation gives you a healthy dose of probiotics and is excellent for your gut health.
Quick process pickles combine vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices to make a brine. The vinegar acts to pickle the cucumber and preserve it. No fermentation occurs during a quick pickle, and it only takes a few hours until they’re ready to enjoy.
Variations of pickle
When making pickles at home, the world is your oyster. You can use different fresh herbs and dried spices to customize your pickle.
The way you slice your cucumbers will make as much difference in texture as it does visually. Cutting your cucumbers into spears or chips will change the way your pickle crunches. The different cut also changes how you can use pickles in other recipes.
Fresh herbs such as dill and garlic are great additions to your pickles. Combine with salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, and mustard seeds, and you’ve got a garlicky half-sour pickle.
Like something spicy? Add red pepper flakes or dried chilies to your brine and enjoy the extra bite. For a sweeter pickle, add more sugar than salt.
- Use whole spices instead of ground spices. Powdered spices cloudy the brine and could darken the pickles.
- Use vinegar with an acidity of 5% or more. Using diluted vinegar could lead to an unsafe end product.
- Soft water is preferable over hard water when pickling. Hard water could result in a darkened pickle, amongst other issues.
- Do not vary from a tested recipe, this is especially important when making a fermented pickle as the bacteria can become dangerous.
- Use canning or pickling salt to avoid a cloudy brine.
- Use the freshest produce as soon as possible. Pickling will not improve a rotten cucumber that could breed harmful bacteria.
How to Make Pickles at Home
To make a quick-pickle cucumber, start by cleaning your produce. Cucumbers and any fresh herbs should be washed well in preparation for pickling.
Measure all your ingredients such as dried whole spices, vinegar, salt, sugar, and water. It is easiest to prepare all ingredients before beginning any recipe to ensure proper measurements.
Make your brine by combining vinegar, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Heat on medium heat until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Whisk in cold water and remove from heat.
Put your prepared cucumbers into two 1-quart jars. Add any dried whole spices you are using, fresh herbs, and garlic evenly into both jars. Cover the cucumbers with brine.
Refrigerate for 24 hours before enjoying. Pickles should keep for about a month, sealed.
- 1¼ cups distilled white vinegar of at least 5% acidity
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups cold water
- 1¾ to 2 pounds Kirby cucumbers, cut into halves or spears
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 16 dill sprigs
- Combine vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk the brine until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Whisk in cold water and remove from heat.
- Clean your cucumbers and herbs. Put the cucumbers into two 1-quart jars, ensuring that the cover will fit on them. If a cucumber is too large, cut off the end to make sure that it can be submerged completely.
- Add your dried whole spices and herbs into the jar. Divide the brine between the two jars making sure that the cucumbers are completely covered. If necessary, add some cold water to cover the cucumbers.
- Cover the jars and refrigerate for 24 hours before enjoying. The pickles will keep for about a month.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 15Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 474mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 0gSugar: 2gProtein: 0g