Cucumber plants are notorious for producing a bumper crop, and sometimes you can’t enjoy them all in one season. One of the best ways to keep your cucumbers from going to waste is to pickle them. A pickled cucumber has a long shelf life and different, phenomenal dimensions of texture and taste!
Read on to learn all you need to know about how to pickle cucumbers, including the steps to take, the tools you’ll need, and more.
What Items Do I Need to Pickle Cucumbers?
The first step to learning how to pickle cucumbers properly is to make sure you have all your necessary tools on hand!
The most important piece of the puzzle for pickling cucumbers is to have the right cucumbers to pickle! While many fantastic cucumber varieties are great for pickling, the key is to ensure optimal ripeness.
A good pickling cucumber should be just ripe, not overripe. Typically, you do not want to skin a pickling cucumber; but you should remove about a quarter inch of the cucumber ends, as there are microbes in the blossoms that will soften the cucumbers and make them less ideal for pickling.
You will need glass canning jars for pickling cucumbers. Though you can use some shorter, stouter glass jars for pickling, the best jars to use are quart sized. It’s best to lean toward wide-mouthed instead of “shouldered” jars—i.e., jars that slope upward to the mouth.
The wide-mouthed shape will allow pressure to distribute evenly within the jar, aiding the fermentation process and preventing any dangerous high pressure buildup around the lid area.
The next necessity for pickling cucumbers is to have a brine handy. The most popular brines are for dill pickles, which are more savory, and the sweet bread and butter variety. You may find a premade brine, or you can create your own.
Most dill brine is a combination of water, vinegar, and dill. You may also choose to supplement with such ingredients as minced onions, grated carrots, and even apples to add an extra tinge of flavor!
Bread and butter brine is usually a combination of vinegar and sugar with no water. Often the brine is augmented with mustard seed, onion, and red pepper.
You also have the option of Lacto-fermented pickles, which are brined simply in water and salt, letting the natural bacteria pickle the cucumbers.
If you prefer to use premade brining mixes. The Mrs. Wages store on Amazon has a vast array of different brining and pickling mixes tailored toward whatever sort of pickles you would like to make. There’s sure to be a recipe you’ll love!
Knife and Cutting Board or Mandolin
Most cucumbers will require some processing for pickling, whether you are making round pickles or spears. The exception is if you are using small pickling cucumber varieties; these can be left whole.
A good, sharp knife and stable cutting board, or a mandolin, are key tools for how pickling cucumbers that require cutting, because without them, you’re less likely to get the sort of even slices necessary to optimize packing your pickles into your jars.
If you are interested in a more classic, store-bought look for your cucumbers, you may opt for a decorative wavy knife such as the one available from The Crisp Store on Amazon. Otherwise, your standard kitchen knife — kept sharp — and a good-quality cutting board or mandolin will do the trick.
Pressure Canner (Optional) or Large Pot
Another handy tool to have on hand when learning how to pickle cucumbers is a pressure canner. While this is an optional item, and you can certainly pickle cucumbers effectively without it, a pressure canner will certainly streamline the process.
Especially for folks who are new to canning and pickling, a pressure canner can remove a lot of the hassle and uncertainty as to whether your pickling jars are thoroughly sealed. You can find a quality pressure canner from the Pesto Store on Amazon.
If you prefer not to use a pressure canner, you can achieve the same pressure canning method with a large stockpot of boiling water.
A Sauce Pan
This is used for sanitizing the jar lids (not the rings!) and preparing your vinegar for the brine before canning. It can also be used to sanitize the jars if necessary.
In summary, the items that are crucial when learning how to pickle cucumbers are as follows:
- Wide-mouthed glass jars (pickling-specific or regular preserve jars)
- Pickling brine
- Knife and cutting board, or mandolin
- A pressure canner (optional) or large stock pot
- A saucepan
Different Methods for Pickling Cucumbers
How to Pickle Cucumbers with Pressure
The first step for how to pickle cucumbers with pressure is to boil water in your canner or stockpot and your small saucepan. Place the jars in the water as it comes to temperature to allow them to acclimate to the heat; this reduces the risk of breakage.
Meanwhile, place the jar lids into the saucepan to sanitize. If you use a glass jar of refrigerated vinegar for your brine, such as apple cider vinegar, you can also place this into the saucepan as you bring it to a boil.
This process will help the vinegar to warm gradually and reduce the risk of glass breakage when you begin your brining process.
Leave the vinegar bottle in the saucepan until the water begins to boil, then remove it and add the lids. Let them rest in the boiling water for several minutes to sanitize.
The next step in pickling cucumbers it to process your pickles! Slice or cut into spears, depending on your preference. You will want to leave a quarter inch of space at the top of each pickle jar and have some gaps between the pickles.
Judge your jar size and process your pickles accordingly, then add them to the warm jars.
Now it’s time for the pickling spices! Add them to the jars, following the directions on the pickling mix packaging or recipe (in some cases, this may require boiling the liquid and spices together before adding them to the jar). Lastly, pour your brining liquid into your jars, leaving that quarter-inch gap at the top.
At this point, you can seal the jars with their sanitized lids, screw on the ring, and use a hook, sturdy-grip kitchen tongs, or your hand protected by a kitchen glove to place the jars into the stock pot or pressure canner.
You want to ensure your jars are covered by an inch of water at least. Let them rest in the boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes, bearing in mind that too much time in the boiling water will soften the cucumbers.
Once the time is up, remove the jars from the canner or stock pot and place them somewhere at room temperature to finish sealing. Do not disturb the jars for several hours, or even overnight, to allow them to fully seal. You may hear the lids snap a bit as they compress into place.
You can test the seal on the lids be pressing the center. If any of your lids pop on contact, this indicates they aren’t sealed. You may try the process again, though repeated attempts at sealing will lead to softer pickles. You can still enjoy the pickles in an unsealed jar; simply refrigerate and consume them within a week.
How to Pickle Cucumbers in the Fridge
The method for pickling cucumbers in the fridge follows many of the same steps as pressure canning.
You will need to process your cucumbers, sanitize your jars, prepare your brine, and then fill the jars. However, this time, you can fill to the rim of each jar. Next, shake the jars to thoroughly distribute the brine, then leave the jars on the countertop for 12 hours.
Give the jars another shake, turn them upside-down with the lid on tightly, and leave them on the counter for another 12 hours. This countertop time will ensure the glass does not break when exposed to refrigeration.
After the full 24 hours, your pickles are ready to eat! Be sure to store them in the fridge for optimal freshness.
For Lacto-fermented pickles, follow these steps but leave the pickling cucumbers on the counter for one to two weeks before storing them in the fridge.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Pickle Cucumbers
What are the best types of cucumbers to pickle?
There many varieties of cucumbers which are bred specifically for pickling. These include the Persian Cucumber, the County Fair Cucumber, and the Excelsior Cucumber. Typically, these types of cucumbers are thinner-skinned and smaller, making them ideal for eating in pickled form.
However, just about any kind of ripe cucumber can be pickled. The main differences will be the crispness and shelf-life of the pickles.
How long are pickles good for?
Typically, an unopened, well-prepared jar of canned pickles can last up to 2 years unopened. Make sure to store the jar in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, to optimize shelf life.
Refrigerator pickles, or pickles that have been opened, usually last only two to four weeks and should be consumed within that timeframe.
Lacto-fermented pickles often last up to four to six months in the fridge.
Wrapping Up How to Pickle Cucumbers
Knowing how to pickle cucumbers is a great skill to help you make the most of your harvest! You can create signature pickles customized to your tastes by making your own.
To learn more about cucumber varieties for pickling, how to care for your cucumber plants to increase your harvest, and more, check out the Cucumbers page on our website. You’ll find links to our cucumber blog posts and helpful growing guides.