Learn how to pickle! See our best pickling tips—plus, great pickling recipes from dill pickles to pickled peppers! Preserve the bounty of the season’s harvest.
What is Pickling?
In pickling, the process is about adding an acid (vinegar or lemon juice) to a low-acid food to lower its pH to 4.6 or lower, preserving the food and altering its flavor.
Foods that are already acidic include most fruits (except figs), some tomatoes, fermented and pickled vegetables, relishes, and jams, jellies, and marmalades.
General Pickling Tips
- Produce must be fresh when pickled. Avoid using waxed supermarket produce.
- Select the most uniform, unspoiled produce.
- Scrub food well to remove dirt. Be sure to remove and discard ¼-inch slice from the blossom end of fresh cucumbers. Remnants of blossoms may contain an enzyme that causes excessive softening of pickles.
- Use canning or pickling salt (not iodized table salt!). Pickling salt has no additives. Iodized salt makes the brine cloudy and may change the color and texture of the vegetables as well as possibly leave sediment at the bottom of the jars.
- For the best results, use white distilled or cider vinegar with 5 percent acidity. Use white vinegar when light color is desirable, as with fruits and cauliflower. Think twice before using red wine vinegar as it will turn all your vegetables pink.
- Use an herb or spice in your brine. The classic spices are: mustard seed, peppercorns, and bay leaves. For herbs, dill, mint, basil, or anything that’s overtaking your garden will be great.
- For crisper pickles, put the vegetables (whole or sliced) into a wide bowl and spread a layer of pickling salt on top. Cover and let sit overnight in a cool place. Discard the liquid that will have emerged from the vegetables, then rinse and dry the vegetables before pickling or canning as usual. The salt helps to pull the moisture out of the vegetables and makes them crisper.
- Measure or weigh carefully, because the proportion of fresh food to other ingredients will affect flavor and, many times, safety. And don’t make the mistake of running out of brine! Fill your vessel with water, then measure it in a liquid measuring cup to avoid this issue.
Here’s how much of each ingredient to use per pound (or tablespoon) of fruit or vegetable:
|Pickling salt||1 pound fruit/veggies = 1 ⅓ cup pickling salt|
|Granulated sugar||1 pound fruit/veggies = 2 cups gran. sugar|
|Brown sugar||1 pound fruit/veggies = 2 ¼ to 2 ¾ cups, firmly packed brown sugar|
|Dried herbs||1 tablespoon fruit/veggies = ½ teaspoon crushed dried herbs|
- See our Measuring Vegetables and Measuring Fruits charts to translate pounds to cups.
- Sterilize your empty jars. Do not use recycled commercial jars or old-style home-canning jars. They can break in the canning process.
- Use new jar lids for a tight seal. To avoid rust, screw bands should be removed from processed jars that are stored. They can be easily removed after the jars have cooled and sealed, and then reused.
- Always wipe the rim of the jar clean for a good seal after filling and just before putting the lid on.
- Process jars in a boiling-water canner for the correct amount of time (a canner is a large standard-size lidded kettle with a jar rack, designed for heat-processing 7 quart jars or 8 to 9 pint jars in boiling water).
- Label and date your jars and store them in a clean, cool, dark, and dry place such as a pantry, cabinet, or basement. Don’t store in a warm spot!
- To allow pickles to mellow, wait at least 3 weeks before consuming. Keep in mind that pickles can be done earlier. It’s all up to you and your tastes! Just don’t let them go too long or the veggies will get floppy.
Our Favorite Pickling Recipes
Note that some vegetables, like crunchy carrots and okra, should be boiled a little before pickling. Others, like delicate zucchini and cucumber, don’t need to be cooked ahead of time.
Also, unless you are very experienced, we suggest pickling vegetables separately. They all pickle differently and at different rates. For example, onions and zucchini will pickle much more quickly than heartier vegetables like radishes or carrots.
Kosher-Style Dill Pickles
A simple and classic dill pickle recipe yielding tasty results.
Crunchy Dill Pickles
This super-easy dill pickle recipe results in delicious, crisp pickles that go great with anything. Perfect for a summer picnic or cookout!
These pumpkin pickles are a nice change from the usual sweet pumpkin treats. They make a great pairing with a cheese plate and add color to any autumn meal.
Pumpkin Pickles. Photo Credit: HandmadePictures/Shutterstock.
When you only have a few peppers, this pickled peppers recipe will do nicely. Just grab some white vinegar and go!
Technically more of a marination than a pickle, this recipe lets you keep a continuous supply of marinated veggies.
Jane’s Zucchini Bread-and-Butter Pickles
Even pickle devotees will be fooled into thinking you’ve used cucumbers.
Summer Squash Pickles
When your neighbors refuse to take any more summer squash or zucchini off your hands, it’s time to pickle.
Summer Squash Pickles. Photo Credit: Sherry Yates Young/Shutterstock.
Another great way to use up extra zucchini, this relish goes great on hot dogs and sausages.
Dilled Green Beans
Pickled green beans with a spicy kick!
Verna’s Beet Relish
The author of this recipe, Verna, says this is “good with roast beef or almost anything.” She likes it spicy, so hold back on the horseradish and cayenne if you prefer a tamer relish.
Pickled Green Beans
A simple, no-frills pickled green beans recipe.
Pickled Green Beans. Photo Credit: Bjoern Wylezich/Shutterstock.
Curried Apricot and Peppercorn Chutney
Something different for your taste buds—a sweet chutney with a subtle spice.
Kimchi is a tasty fermented food that’s easy to make at home. It’s considered Korean “soul food” and has been served as a side dish there for many generations.
Do you make pickles at home? What do you usually pickle? Let us know in the comments!