Making Homemade Pickles

By: Julie Day
Jars, cucumbers, and ingredients for making pickles

It's time to make homemade pickles!

Recently I found myself in quite a pickle! My cucumber vines were at their peak, and nearly every day I would come inside with a handful. But I was leaving town for about a week, and since overripe cucumbers will cause the vine to stop producing, I decided to harvest ALL of them, big and small, to buy some time until I got back.

Talk about a cucumber-palooza! After lugging the heavy basket inside and eyeing it on the kitchen counter for a while, it soon became apparent that my afternoon was NOT going to be spent drinking lemonade and leisurely packing. Nope, there was only one thing to be done – after a quick trip to the store and a rummaging through my shed, I was going to be making pickles!

Cucumber vines growing up the side of a shed

My cucumber vines in peak harvest mode.

I’m no canning expert, so I don’t dare try to explain the process in too much detail. But pickles are pretty easy! The process involves:

  1. Mixing and heating the pickling mix (which you can make from scratch or buy in a ready-mix packet).
  2. Sterilizing and heating the jars.
  3. Slicing the cucumbers into spears and packing them in the hot jars.
  4. Pouring the hot liquid over them, and sealing the jars.
  5. Processing the jars in a boiling water canner.

If you don’t want to mess with canning, you can just put the jars in the fridge and enjoy them over the next few weeks.

I say they’re easy, but apparently I didn’t pay enough attention when I used to stand on a chair and help my grandmother. I don’t yet have the process down pat, so in addition to the instructions that came with my pickling spices, I kept my Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving open on the counter as a lifeline. Everything went off without a hitch, although I must say the kitchen was a mess.

Canned pickles in jars

Homemade dill pickles are one of my favorite things.

As with everything else, growing and preserving food is a skill that grows with practice – in time, pickles will be old hat, and I’ll be making up my own recipes and lining up battalions of jars. In the meantime, I’ve got a modest lineup of homemade kosher dills ready to spice up the winter, and an empty garden basket ready for the next batch!

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