Homemade pickles are a gardener’s staple. If you’re not already growing garlic, dill and cucumbers in the garden, then let this be your exhortation to do so, STAT! Then use this recipe for refrigerator pickles, or can them to be shelf-stable and last all year long.
When it comes to canning homemade pickles, the number one complaint I hear from people is that their pickles end up soggy! And no one likes a soggy pickle!
That’s why so many people revert to refrigerator pickles. The great news is with this recipe, you can make both.
Just skip the canning process and place your pickles in the refrigerator for at least a week before eating (though the flavor will be best after two weeks if you can wait that long!). I use this method to preserve when it’s too hot to can!
Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Why I Love This Recipe
- Refrigerator Pickles vs. Canned Pickles
- Tips for the Best Pickles (That Stay Crunchy)
- Supplies Needed
- Ingredients Needed
- Melissa’s Pickling Spice
- Everything Worth Preserving
- How to Can Pickles
- How Long Will Canned Pickles Last?
- Pickle Making Tips & Tricks
- More Posts You Might Enjoy
Why I Love This Recipe
When you grow, harvest and preserve ingredients that started as seeds in your garden, there’s this incredible sense of satisfaction. Even if you’re purchasing the herbs and spices, or even buying cucumbers in bulk to can your homemade pickles for the year, there’s great joy in knowing every ingredient that goes into your food.
And who doesn’t love looking at a pantry shelf lined with home-canned food?
These pickles are the perfect combination of dill and garlic. They’re crunchy and tangy and make the best snack straight out of the jar, or slice them up to top your favorite sandwich.
Refrigerator Pickles vs. Canned Pickles
Though I love a good quick refrigerator pickle, I don’t have enough refrigerator space to put up enough for the entire year. So we make this canned pickle recipe with the majority of the cucumber harvest.
You may also enjoy:
- Bread and Butter Refrigerator Pickles
- Great-Grandma’s Mustard Pickles
- Fermented Pickles
- Pickled Asparagus
Tips for the Best Pickles (That Stay Crunchy)
There are a few tips to remember when making this homemade pickles recipe, especially if you want to avoid soggy pickles!
In fact, I have an entire post on seven tips for the crunchiest pickles, so be sure to read that for more tips.
When making pickles, it’s important to…
- Pick cucumbers in the morning. Cucumbers will be their firmest in the early morning. Try to avoid harvesting cucumbers in the afternoon when their water content is the lowest.
- Pick cucumbers when they’re ripe. If your cucumbers grow too large, they can get bitter or have off flavors. Pick cucumbers when they still have their prickly spines and are light to dark green in color. A cucumber is over-ripe when it turns pale yellow, loses its spines and gets bloated.
- Use a good pickling variety of cucumbers. There are countless varieties of cucumbers available to grow in the garden, but not all cucumbers make good pickling cucumbers. Choose a variety that’s known for pickling.
- Preserve them as soon as possible after harvesting. If you harvest cucumbers and let them sit at room temperature, they tend to get soft. Once a cucumber has gone soft, it won’t ever firm up again. So preserve them straight away, or put them in salt and ice water in the refrigerator if you don’t have enough to merit canning a batch.
- Remove the blossom end. The blossom end contains enzymes that can cause soggy pickles. If the stem and blossom are both already removed and you’re not sure which end is the blossom end, look for the end that’s lighter green (watch the video for an example).
- Use an ice water/salt-water bath prior to canning. The ice water and salt help keep the pickles firm. The salt will actually help draw out excess moisture in the cucumber, which will result in a crispier pickle. You can soak cucumbers for up to three days in the refrigerator and add more as you harvest. Allow them to soak for a minimum of 12 hours.
- Can cucumbers whole. I love a good pickle spear or sliced pickle, however, I’ve noticed that my pickles will stay much more crisp when canned in their whole form. So if I want pickle spears or slices, I’ll just slice it at the time of eating.
- Add tannins! Tannins will also help keep pickles crunchy during the canning process. See the options for tannins in the recipe below.
- Canning Jars & Lids – My new favorite source for canning jars is Azure Standard. In 2023 they released their new canning line, “Azure Canning Co,” and they sell regular and wide-mouth canning jars. I recommend using wide-mouth canning jars for pickles because they’re easier to get in and out of the jars. However, as you can see in this post, regular mouth canning jars also work. Azure Standard sponsored this post! Right now you can get 10% off your first Azure Standard order of $50 or more by using coupon code “Melissa10” at checkout.
- Water Bath or Steam Canner – I have fallen in love with my steam canner and prefer to use it over my water bath canner for all my water bath canning recipes. But use what you have and what you’re comfortable with.
- Vinegar – Make sure you’re using vinegar that’s 5% acidity. Some vinegar on the grocery store shelves is only 4%, which is not approved for safe canning. Botulism cannot survive in an acidic environment, so we need to be sure our canning recipes are safe and approved. I buy my organic (non-GMO) vinegar from Azure Standard.
- Water – If you find a canning recipe that doesn’t call for at least equal parts water to vinegar, then it’s likely an old canning recipe.
- Salt – Anytime I’m using salt on the homestead, you know it’s going to be Redmond’s Real Salt (get 15% off your order by using coupon code “Pioneering” at checkout). You may notice a pinkish-red sediment at the bottom of your jars of pickles, and this is completely normal and harmless.
- Sugar – Sugar is optional. Most people like to add a bit of sugar to cut down on the pucker factor of the pickles. However, it’s not included for any canning safety reasons, so you can omit it if you prefer.
- Pickling Spices – Much of the flavor is going to come from your pickling spices. There’s no “right” or “wrong” pickling spice, but the one I love the most is homemade and has celery seed, whole allspice and whole peppercorn (recipe below). Pro Tip: Use a tea infuser for your pickling spices so you don’t have to strain the brine!
- Garlic – I like to do two smashed cloves of garlic per quart jar (or one clove for pint jars). Feel free to adjust this ratio to your liking.
- Whole Mustard Seed – I use two teaspoons per quart (or one teaspoon per pint). Again, adjust to your liking.
- Grape Leaves (or Black Tea) – The tannins found in grape leaves, black tea, oak leaves or horseradish leaves will help keep the pickles crunchy. Add one leaf per jar, or add 4 teaspoons of loose leaf black tea to your brine (strain before filling jars).
- Dill – You can use fresh dill heads, dried dill seeds or chopped fresh dill weed for this recipe. If using fresh dill heads, I like to use two or three heads per quart jar. If using dried dill seed or chopped fresh dill weed, use 2 Tablespoons per quart jar (1 Tablespoon per pint jar).
- Cucumbers – Be sure to use a good pickling variety of cucumbers. Also, make sure your cucumber is firm. No amount of ice water baths or canning will make a soggy pickle firm. So starting with good firm cucumbers is key.
Melissa’s Pickling Spice
No pickling spice, no problem! Simply combine the following ingredients, and you’ll have your own homemade pickling spice anytime you need it:
- 1 Tablespoon Celery Seed
- ½ Tablespoon Whole Black Peppercorns
- ½ Tablespoon Allspice
Everything Worth Preserving
This recipe can be found on page 206 of my cookbook Everything Worth Preserving.
How to Can Pickles
- Wash cucumbers well in cold water; gently scrub off any dirt. Remove ¼ inch from the blossom end of the cucumber. Place all of your cucumbers in a large glass or stainless-steel bowl. If more than a few layers deep of cucumbers, layer ice between the layers of cucumbers. If it’s a smaller amount, place ice on top of cucumbers.
- Mix ½ cup of pickling/canning salt with 4 cups of cold water (double this as needed if doing a larger batch of pickles). Pour over top of cucumbers, adding more cold water if necessary to cover the tops of the cucumbers. Use a clean plate and place on top of the cucumbers to keep them under the surface of the ice salt water. Fill a pint-sized Mason jar with water (use a lid) and set it on top of the plate to act as a weight. Put the bowl in the fridge overnight or for 12 hours.
- After soaking cucumbers, pour off salt water and rinse thoroughly with cold water and allow cucumbers to drain.
- While cucumbers are draining, begin heating up the water in your water-bath canner (or steam canner). Place brine ingredients in a large stainless-steel pot and bring to a low boil; stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Allow to simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the spices have been seeped into and flavored the brine.
- Wash and rinse jars in hot soapy water. Place garlic, mustard seed and a grape leaf in each jar. I prefer to use a wide-mouth when making pickles. Using the larger cucumbers first, pack your jars, tucking the smaller cucumbers up around the top to a generous 1-inch headspace. Add your dill heads, slipping them down around the cucumbers.
- Remove your spices from the brine and pour the hot brine over the cucumbers to ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and recheck your headspace. Add more brine if needed. Wipe the rims clean and put the lids and bands on, then screw down to fingertip tight. (Learn what fingertip tight looks like here.)
- Place prepared jars into a water-bath or steam canner. Process quart jars for 15 minutes and pints for 10 minutes.
- After the processing time, turn off the heat and remove the lid of your water bath canner. Let your jars sit for five minutes before removing them from the canner. (If using a steam canner, turn off the heat and leave the lid on for five minutes before removing the lid and proceeding to the next step.)
- Place jars on a towel-lined counter and let sit for 12-24 hours, undisturbed.
- Check the seals of the jars, remove the bands, and wipe any residue from the jar with a damp towel.
- Finally, label each jar with the contents and the date and store in a single layer on the pantry shelf.
Did you make this recipe? If so, please leave a star rating in the recipe card below, then snap a photo of your crunchy pickles and tag me on social media @melissaknorris so I can see!
How Long Will Canned Pickles Last?
It’s true that for the best nutritional value, home-canned food should be consumed within a year. That’s why we try as hard as we can to plan and keep records to grow and preserve enough food for our family for a year.
However, one year our cucumber harvest was off the charts, and we canned up enough pickles to last us two years. They were still super crunchy after sitting on the pantry shelf for two years. (Watch the video to hear the crunch!)
Pickle Making Tips & Tricks
- If you find yourself with leftover brine, you can let it cool down and store it in a jar until you’re ready to make your next batch of pickles. I like to make up large batches at a time and keep it in the refrigerator so I can whip up a batch of pickles anytime the harvest demands!
- Always make enough brine for each batch of pickles. If you run out of brine, DO NOT just top your jars off with water. This will change the acidity level and, therefore, the safety of your pickles.
More Posts You Might Enjoy
- The Science of Home Food Preservation
- 129+ Best Canning Recipes to Put Up This Year
- Pickled Asparagus Recipe (Canned, Quick, or Refrigerator)
- Off Grid Living: What You Need to Know
- How Do You Know If A Canning Recipe Is Safe
- How to Pick the Best Preserving Methods
- Home Food Preservation- Preserving Plan for a Year’s Worth of Food
- Fermentation for Health Benefits & Food Preservation