Cucumber pickles are easy to make!

Using fresh, quality ingredients and a tested recipe is key to tasty pickles.

It’s harvest time! Gardens and farmers markets will soon be or are at their peak. Many people are looking forward to preserving their garden produce. One item that is a staple product home canners produce every year is cucumber pickles. There are many types of cucumber pickle recipes such as dill pickles, sweet pickles, bread and butter pickle and many more. The key to success, no matter what your favorite type, is to start with high quality cucumbers.

Cucumbers should be fresh, firm and unwaxed. For the highest quality pickles, plan to pickle the cucumbers within 24 hours of picking them. It is also important to wash the cucumbers with cold running water and a scrub brush.

To prepare your pickles, use up-to-date research-based recipes such as from “So Easy to Preserve,” the United States Department of Agriculture Home Canning Guide or other reputable sources such as University Extension websites, including the Michigan State University Extension website. Using untested recipes, poor quality ingredients or poor canning methods may result in spoiled pickles.

Some key ingredients for cucumber pickles include salt, vinegar, sugar and spices. If you are making brined or fermented pickles, soft water should be used because hard water can interfere with the brining process. Vinegar for pickling should be five percent acidity. The acidity of the vinegar will be indicated on the label of the vinegar bottle. Homemade vinegars or vinegars of unknown acidity should not be used. Cider vinegars will result in a darker product than white vinegar.

Pickling or canning salt which can be found in grocery stores is the best for pickling. Other types of salt contain anti-caking materials that could make the brine cloudy. Sugars should be white sugar, unless the recipe calls for brown sugar. Brown sugar can cause darkening of the product but may result in a preferred flavor of the pickles.

Use fresh, whole spices such as clove garlic or dill heads for the best quality and flavor. If powdered spices are used, they can cause the pickles to become darkened or cloudy.

Making pickles is fairly easy to do and it’s a rewarding experience to enjoy your home canned pickles throughout the year! For more information visit the MSU Extension food preservation page.

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