3 Ways to Get in a Pickle, and More Pickling Tips

Sarah and a friend canning pickles.

Sarah Voiland and Steve Munn making pickles. Having a pickling party can make time fly by! Be sure to swap recipes, too.

Welcome to the wonderful world of pickling! Whether you’re a vinegary veteran or just learning about pickling, we hope this page has some new and interesting information for you. This page includes a couple basic pickling tips, a breakdown of 3 different types of pickling – from canned pickles to refrigerator quickles to lactofermented foods – plus a few recipes, and resources.

Order in Bulk for Preserving
If you’re planning on pickling in large batches, you can place a Bulk Order with the farm. Please place your order by 3 pm two days before your preferred pickup date. Check our bulk order page for new kinds of produce available as the season progresses!

You can see more or less when things come into season here on our Seasonal Availability Chart. While not all things will be available in bulk, you can find them at our stands.

Basics of Pickling

–Always use the freshest quality produce possible.

–Do not use any produce that is discolored or rotting. Pare down to the good parts only.

–Sanitize your equipment and jars as required by each recipe, and maintain a clean workspace.

–Recipes and ratios are important. Never alter the vinegar/salt/water/produce ratio of a pickling recipe for canning. This is what keeps the pickle preserved, and a weaker brine could result in harmful bacteria growth. Only use canning recipes for canning, as Quickles recipes will likely not be strong enough. Salt to vegetable ratio is key for ferments, so make sure you attend to your salt when lacto-fermenting.

–Pickle new things! Bet you never thought about pickling snap peas, rhubarb, peaches, mustard greens, or garlic scapes, did you? Don’t forget about foraged wild foods too– ramps and fiddleheads in spring make popular pickles as well.

Here’s a rundown on some basic pickling facts and a few recipes from Colorado State University.

A Couple Good Tips:

The blossom end of a cucumber contains enzymes that will make your pickles less crunchy, so cut 1/8 inch off that end. It usually has a teeny brown spot, and the other end has the stem. If you don’t know which end it is, do both ends :) True for all three types of pickles!

You can save the brine from favorite vinegar pickles (yours or store bought), boil it, and pour it hot over more vegetables to make quickles with very similar flavors. Store in the fridge. This can make one feel like a kitchen wizard.

A word on types of cucumbers. While you can pickle any type of cuke, pickling cucumbers (aka kirby) are built for it. They have thinner skin that is more permeable to flavor and smaller fruit size for fitting into jars. They also strike me as a little less juicy, which is good for retaining structure. Slicing or salad cucumbers are okay for pickling, but better for salads and such. Also of note, some grocery store cucumbers may be sealed in a little wax, so it is better to get yours at a farmers market or to ask and make sure you are not getting waxed fruit at the grocers.

What to Pickle

Photo of garlic scapes in canning jars.

Garlic scapes make a lovely, spicy pickle! Though when packing they always want to e-scape the jar.

Cucumbers, carrots, beets, green beans, garlic scapes, radishes, sweet or hot peppers, snap or snow peas, summer squash, zucchini, asparagus, cabbage, parsnips, turnips, green tomatoes, mustard greens, shallots, daikon, melon, onion, okra, apples, peaches, rhubarb, basil, and more!

Pickling flavor combinations:

While you can’t alter the ratios of vinegar/salt/water/produce in canned pickles, you can alter the spicing of pickles to be what you like!

For dill flavor on any produce, cukes, green beans or other: Dill, white vinegar (for vinegar recipes), salt, garlic, peppercorns. Add celery seed and mustard seed for more flavors. Dill seed can be used in the winter season when fresh dill is unavailable.

For spiced sweet pickles: Cider vinegar (for vinegar recipes), sugar, salt, mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric. Add ground cloves, peppercorns, cayenne for more flavors.

Add kick to any pickles with crushed red peppers, cayenne powder, or a whole fresh hot pepper or so in the jar. Whole peppers make your jars good-looking too.

More spice ideas to play with: cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, coriander, fennel seeds, whole cloves, allspice, anise, curry powder, caraway seeds, cumin seeds, ginger, fresh oregano, thyme, savory, tarragon, basil. You get the notion :)

 

Ways to Pickle….

Quickles or Refrigerator Pickles

A close-up of pickling spices.

Quickles made with red radish and kohlrabi. You can see the pickling spices there on top!

Quick pickles don’t need to be canned– you just mix them up and put them in the refrigerator. They are good in the fridge for a week or a few months, depending on the recipe. These are a great way to start making pickles. While some people say to wait x long in their recipes, you can always start tasting them right away and know that the flavors will keep developing.

Upsides to quickles:

  • They are very quick and easy.
  • You don’t need to be as concerned with your brine recipe–while you should always be careful in preparing your recipes and using the correct amounts of salt and vinegar to preserve the product, refrigeration will help keep quickles preserved.
  • Because you can make them in small batches, quickles can be a good way to test out different flavor combinations before undertaking a larger canning project.

Downsides to quickles:

  • They take up valuable fridge space.
  • They won’t last nearly as long as a well-canned pickle.

Try some of these Recipes:

Dill Quickles from Red Fire Farm

Pickled Sugar Snap Peas from Smitten Kitchen

Easy Japanese Pickled Cucumbers from The Kitchn

You can also use any canned pickle recipe you find for quickle making, and just put it in the fridge instead of canning it.

 

Canning Pickles

Two jars of quick dill pickles.

Bread & Butter Pickles, canned. These things take any sandwich to the next level.

At least one summer day spent over a hot, humid stove is a small sacrifice to make for a stocked pantry of homemade preserves and pickles. Be on the lookout for recipes that only make small batches or single jars, of which there are many in The Pickled Pantry book listed below. This way, it will be a lot easier to whip up a patch of pickles when you don’t have much time, want to try a new recipe, or are working with a limited amount of produce.

On the other hand, I like to plan big days of pickling to get things dirty once and come out with a lot of pickles for eating and presents. If you are doing this method, here are some steps to plan your day:

  1. Set a date in the season of the produce you want to preserve, invite friends if you like
  2. Choose your recipes and figure out where you will get your ingredients ahead of time, aiming to get your produce as fresh as possible
  3. Inventory your equipment and jars a week beforehand so you can get more of anything
  4. Set up your kitchen the night before, imagine where you will put things, and plan for an easy lunch the next day
  5. Start early on your designated day, because I can’t count the numbers of times I took longer than I thought :)

If you are new to canning, I recommend finding a friend who has done it before, or a local group, to can with, as the process has many little steps, and it will just be more fun to learn in person than by reading a book. That said this Complete Guide to Home Canning by the USDA is a pretty good resource for learning, as are the books in the section below.

Make sure you use a recipe designed for canning, as getting the right vinegar/salt/produce/water ratio is key for safe preservation. Also make sure to use vinegar that has a measured acidity of 5% labeled on the bottle, as that is the acidity expected for canning recipes.

Recipes to Try:

Classic bread and butter sweet pickles from Red Fire Farm

Fiddlehead Pickles from the University of Maine

Basic Pickled Jalapeno Peppers from Food in Jars

Here’s another great resource for canning recipes and methods: The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Lacto-fermented Pickles

lactofermenting pickles

Lacto-fermenting cucumbers with garlic scapes and a couple wild harvested grape leaves to help keep them crunchy. You can see my methods here for keeping the cukes under the brine :)… Another canning jar full of water on top and a plastic bag rubber-banded over all to limit air flow.

These are easy and really good for you. Fermentation preserves foods without cooking out the beneficial enzymes and probiotics. When you boil your jars in canning, that’s just a simple way of pasteurizing the contents. However, as you boil away potentially harmful bacteria, you also lose some of the really helpful microbes that your body needs to function and digest.

You can create a context for those beneficial bacteria to thrive, one that is also safe to eat. Thats how lactofermentation works. By submerging vegetables in a salty brine, you create anaerobic conditions that make wonderful, flavorful foods!

For more information on the health benefits of fermented foods, check out this page from Greenfield’s own Real Pickles. And there is new news that fermented foods may help reduce anxiety, which is lovely.

How to make them:

Wash and prep your vegetables to whatever size you like for eating. Weigh them out, and then weigh out salt at 2.5% of your vegetable weight. So for 1 lb of vegetables you would weigh out .025 lb of salt. Massage the vegetables with salt and pack into a very clean non-metal food-safe container, like a quart glass ball jar. Mash down with a weight of some kind, cover to prevent flies or dirt getting in (the less airflow the better), and let sit a few hours to bring out juices. If juices do not submerge the vegetables, add a little water until vegetables are fully submerged. This liquid is called brine. Let sit covered and weighted in a cool spot out of the sun for 3 weeks or so checking every couple days to skim mold off the top of the brine. You can taste them as they go and stop the ferment at any time you like it by putting it in the fridge. Read more details in the recipes and books below.

I have also had good success making a brine of about 2 Tbs salt per quart of vegetables and water, mixing the 2 Tbs into some water and pouring that over cut vegetables in a quart jar, then filling with water to cover the vegetables. This method is less exact. Half-gallon ball jars are pretty great containers for doing a batch for my family of three and a little baby.

Basic Tips:

  • Use only sea salts or kosher salts that do not contain iodine or caking agents that could mess with your bacteria.
  • Use non-chlorinated water.
  • Keep vegetables submerged in brine at all times.
  • You can ferment pretty much all produce and combining is fun, as is adding various spices and herbs.
  • Add a few grape leaves, oak leaves, or horseradish leaves to your cucumber ferments to provide some tannins to help keep them crunchy.

Fun with your Brine:

Use your leftover brine, after eating your ferments, in mixed drinks and other food. Probiotic dirty martinis anybody ;) Also great for adding to salad dressings, and anywhere else you can think of.

Fermenting Recipes:

Daikon Ginger Pickle from Red Fire Farm

Homemade Sauerkraut from Nourishing Kitchen

Fermented Sour Pickles from Wild Fermentation

Fermented Nettle Kimchi from The Fermentista’s Kitchen

Books We Like

Consider supporting your local book store if you purchase these titles! Most allow you to pre-order for pickup.

The Pickled Pantry: from Apples to Zucchini, 150 Recipes for Pickles, Relishes, Chutneys & More by Andrea Chesman

Asian Pickles: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Cured, and Fermented Preserves by Karen Solomon

Put ‘Em Up! A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Wild Fermentation: the Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz

Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes, and Pastes by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey

 

people with pickle jars on heads

It can get rather silly in the kitchen.

Happy pickling! We’d love to see photos of your final products and swap recipes: send them to recipes@redfirefarm.com, or share on our farm Facebook or Instagram.

You can get ingredients for preserves by ordering in Bulk from the farm. We update our bulk order page frequently to reflect what’s seasonal and available. Or visit our stands and markets for daily selections of organic produce. Thanks for reading and we hope to see you around the farm!


Comments

3 Ways to Get in a Pickle, and More Pickling Tips — 2 Comments

  1. To a pickle in vinegar ,is an addition of preservative like sodium benzoate necessary and if so, what is the required amount of the preservative sodium benzoate?

    • Hello, we do not recommend using sodium benzoate or other chemical preservatives in your pickles. By following proper home canning procedures, your food should have a long and safe shelf life.

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