Pickled cucumbers in vinegar (easy recipe) is a perfect way to preserve cucumbers before winter. Consume them during the cold season with your favorite foods.
This article will explain you in detail how to pickle cucumbers, the easy way.
How to pickle cucumbers
Pickling cucumbers for long term storage used to be a more complicated affair. However, you are about to discover an easy method for canning cucumbers that doesn't require any special skills or tools. This recipe is part of my collection of canning recipes that I hope you will enjoy.
- How to pickle cucumbers
- The Ideal Time For Pickling:
- What kind of cucumbers are good for pickling?
- Method Of Pickling: Vinegar Vs. Brine?
- Key Ingredients for the best pickle recipe:
- The best formula for pickling with vinegar, salt, and sugar
- How do you can cucumbers:
- Expert tip:
- Serving Suggestions:
- Recipe Faqs
- More pickle recipes to love
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
The Ideal Time For Pickling:
If you live in a temperate climate with four seasons, late August to late October is the perfect time to prepare for the long winter months. Time to pickle beautiful vegetables from Farmers Market and personal gardens!
Now, you might ask me why do I preserve food when I can just go to the store and buy pickles already in jars and ready to eat.
I could, but you see, there is something therapeutic about being in the kitchen and making food for my family.
Some would say that the amount of work is not worth it. I will say that for me it is very important, as I get the opportunity to preserve vegetables using old recipes inherited from my family, recipe udes when canning and preserving foods for the winter was a way of surviving.
It is true that my collection of cans went smaller and smaller over the years, but I still like to make a little bit of each one of my favorite recipes, just to enjoy them for holidays or when I get homesick.
Pickles are well-known staples of the traditional cuisine on the Old Continent, Europe. Even today, many cultures consider the pickled cucumbers to be an important part of their diet during the winter.
In Eastern Europe, during the cold season, salads made with fresh vegetables are replaced with pickled vegetables, like cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots etc.
We also make a lot of lacto-fermented foods, like sauerkraut or cucumbers in brine.
What kind of cucumbers are good for pickling?
Different cucumber varieties offer different pickling results.
- Kirby cucumbers- are small cucumbers and are very popular in Farmer's Markets. They have bumpy skins and firm flesh.
- Gherkins or cornichons- also small and perfect for pickling. In my opinion, these are the best cucumbers to pickle.
- Garden cucumbers are the most popular ones found in North America. They have thick skin and lots of seeds. Suitable for quick pickling if you peel and seed them. I am personally not a fan of them, but I know many people who love them. These cucumbers are sold waxed in the store and need to be peeled.
- Lemon cucumbers- look exactly like lemons. They are sweeter and delicious in salads and pickled.
Please refrain from using English cucumbers, as they are not a good option for winter pickles as they become softer the longer they stay in the jar.
You can use English cucumbers for pickles in the summer if you are looking for a quick method of pickling them, especially refrigerator-pickled cucumbers.
Also, buy organic when possible. Cucumbers are part of the "Dirty dozens" vegetables containing over ten different types of pesticides. If you plan to pickle cucumbers, go to the Farmers Market first.
Method Of Pickling: Vinegar Vs. Brine?
There are two methods for canning cucumbers. One method is to pickle cucumbers in vinegar, while the other method is to use brine. (salted water flavored with spices and herbs)
People in the United States usually use vinegar, but in Eastern Europe, for example, people like to pickle cucumbers in brine.
Many cultures knew for hundreds of years that fermentd foods have nutritional value and are good for your gut.
An abundance of cucumbers in the summer allows you to use canned cucumber recipes that can be consumed right away. These cucumbers are fermented in the sun.
Note: If you want a fun recipe to make in the summer, I recommend my awesome summer lacto-fermented cucumbers.
On the other hand, in the old days, most pickling was done to store food for the winter. Without canned food, people wouldn't have anything to eat. Even today, when bad weather hits, and people rush to the grocery store, they usually buy canned foods.
Today, I'm going to share my recipe for how to pickle cucumbers with vinegar. This is a dill pickle recipe that is easy to prepare, and you don't need any fancy equipment or science knowledge.
This recipe is great for keeping pickles for a long time. It's not a quick pickle recipe or one for refrigerator pickles.
Key Ingredients for the best pickle recipe:
- Cucumbers (4-6 inches, 4 pounds): The key component of this recipe. Aim for firm and fresh cucumbers, preferably pickling cucumbers. Kirby cucumbers, Gherkins, or Cornichons are perfect for pickling.
- Garlic (1 head): Adds depth of flavor. If garlic isn't your thing or you're allergic, you can leave it out.
- Plain vinegar (5% acidity, 1 gallon): Preserves the cucumbers and provides the characteristic tang. I would vote for distilled white vinegar as my first choice. My second choice would be white wine vinegar. Both kinds of vinegar are widely available, inexpensive, and do not darken the vegetables like red vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
- Canning/pickling salt (4 tablespoons): Flavors and preserves the cucumbers. Pickling or canning salt is best as it dissolves easily and doesn't contain iodine or anti-caking agents. Kosher salt can be used as an alternative, but avoid table salt due to its iodine and anti-caking agents.
- Granulated sugar (2 tablespoons): Balances the vinegar's acidity. You can try alternatives like honey or stevia, but it may alter the final taste. Remember that sugar is also a preservative, so there is a need for some form of it in canning.
- Bay leaves (5-6): Provides subtle herbal notes. If unavailable, you can omit them, though they do contribute to the depth of flavor.
- Dried thyme (1 teaspoon): Adds an earthy, slightly minty flavor. If you don't have dried thyme, you could use a pinch of fresh thyme as a substitute.
- Dried dill or whole dill stems with umbels and green seeds (6 teaspoons): This is a perfect ingredient for preserving and flavoring pickles. Dried dill can be replaced by fresh dill, but the flavor might be less potent.
- Mustard seeds (1 tablespoon): Contributes a spicy kick. If you can't find mustard seeds, dry mustard could be used, but it might alter the flavor slightly.
- Black peppercorns (1-2 tablespoons): They add a small amount of heat. If peppercorns aren't available, some ground black pepper can work as a replacement.
- Horseradish root (1, cleaned and sliced into strips): Imparts a potent, spicy flavor. If you can't find horseradish root, a small amount of prepared horseradish could be used as a substitute.
Note about horseradish:
Horseradish root is a hidden gem often used in Eastern European homemade pickle recipes.
Don't shy away from incorporating it into your pickles! After cleaning and peeling, slice it into thin sticks that you can place in between the cucumbers and on top of the jar.
Interestingly, I did some research through some of my old American cookbooks (The Settlement Cook Book) where I was actually able to find a few recipes of pickles that use horseradish.
I am not sure when horseradish went away from the cucumber canning recipes, but it is an amazing preservative and it also maintains the vegetables crisp for long periods of time. Rest assured, the presence of horseradish won't result in spicy pickles.
The best formula for pickling with vinegar, salt, and sugar
As a basic rule, for each gallon of vinegar with 5% acidity, add 4 tablespoons of salt (make sure the salt is for pickles with no iodine added to it) and 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. OR, for each liter of vinegar, add one tablespoon of salt and half a tablespoon of granulated sugar in case you plan to can a smaller amount of cucumbers.
How do you can cucumbers:
Step 1. Start with the jars.
Start by thoroughly washing your jars with warm, soapy water or running them through the dishwasher. After that, sterilize them for safe canning.
I recommend using wide-mouth quart jars for better fitting the cucumbers inside.
When sterilizing the lids, make sure you do not treat them the same way as the jars.
I clean them in warm water with soap and dry them well, then I just boil water and add them for 2 minutes to sit in that hot water.
Try to replace any older lids that do not look good. If they are too old or have rust on them they need to be replaced.
Although recent guidelines suggest that it's not necessary to boil the lids, I believe that immersing them in hot water for a few minutes prior to use provides an added assurance of safety.
Step 2. Prepare the cucumbers.
Select good quality, healthy cucumbers without any defects, blemishes or spots. Use a brush to thoroughly scrub them under running water.
If the cucumbers are too curved to fit comfortably in the jar, cut them lengthwise, as shown in the picture above.
Slice the horseradish into thin, lengthy pieces that can fit in between the cucumbers.
Step 3. Pack the jars with cucumbers and other ingredients.
Start filling the jars with cucumbers, cloves of garlic, black peppercorns, dried dill, and slices of horseradish. Ensure to place 1-2 pieces of horseradish on the top.
Step 4. Prepare the pickling mixture.
Combine vinegar, salt, and sugar in a large pot and bring it to a boil. Incorporate bay leaves, thyme, and mustard seeds into the mix.
Lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for about 2-3 minutes.
Step 5. Fill the jars with the pickling mixture.
Place the jars on a metal tray before adding the liquid. The metal aids in distributing the heat evenly, helping to prevent the thermal shock that might cause the jars to crack.
Using a ladle, slowly pour the hot pickling mixture into the jars, fully immersing the cucumbers.
Close the jars tight and keep them in a cool location where the temperature remains above freezing.
These gherkins in vinegar will not ferment, and they will stay crisp and delicious through the winter.
The pickle jars don't require sterilization through boiling(water bath) to seal, as the vinegar isn't diluted with water as in traditional recipes. (please see the recipe faqs.)
The vinegar maintains a 5% acidity level, which is sufficient to kill any bacteria, preventing any risk of fermentation once the jar is closed tight.
You will not hear the classic pop sound when you close the jars, but this is perfectly safe.
You can also gift these beautifully colorful jars of pickled cucumbers to family or friends during the holiday season. Once a jar is opened, the pickles will last about 2-4 months in the refrigerator.
Note: Again, this is not a quick pickled cucumber recipe or refrigerator pickles. These cucumbers will not ferment and will be perfect for the wintertime. Never reuse pickle juice to make new pickles. Always use freshly made brine for the fresh cucumbers you want to can.
The process generally takes 3-6 weeks, for optima flavor. If you are using whole cucumbers, it might take the full six weeks, while sliced cucumbers will pickle more rapidly.
Typically, I start pickling in the cooler months of September and October and enjoy the pickles starting in late November or December.
The cucumbers in this recipe should last the whole entire winter season, until May.
Absolutely! Slicing the cucumbers is completely fine. In fact, sliced cucumbers not only pickle faster, but they're also more convenient to pick from the jar.
When stored in a cool location, canned pickles can last between 1-2 years.
Vinegar, containing mild acetic acid, increases the acidity in the cucumbers and eliminates any potentially harmful microorganisms in the jars. This helps in preserving the cucumbers and preventing spoilage.
No, it's not. While I do incorporate some sugar in the brine, it's primarily to balance out the vinegar's acidity and enhance the overall flavor. My preference leans towards a more salty brine than a syrupy one.
I strongly advise against reusing pickle juice for new pickles. This can lead to health risks.
Always use fresh brine for each new batch of cucumbers you want to pickle, particularly if you're following my recipe.
However, you can use leftover pickle juice in other ways, such as flavoring dips, salad dressings, or marinades.
Correct, there's no need for a water bath. Just ensure the jar lids are tightly closed before storing them in a cool place.
Vinegar destroys botulism, and this recipe uses pure vinegar. Just make sure the vinegar you use is at least 5% acetic acid.
Additional ingredients like horseradish root, mustard seeds, dill, sugar, and salt also contribute to flavor and preservation for months.
I did some research on other American recipes on the web to see how they are made. I noticed that the majority of them make a mixture of vinegar and water, spices, salt and sugar and then process the jars from 5-10 minutes.
Dilution reduces vinegar's acidity, making it mandatory for the jars to be processed to prevent bacterial growth.
However, in this recipe, we use undiluted 5% vinegar, boiled with spices, and poured over cucumbers - no water involved. This makes the pickles more sour (which pairs well with winter roasts) and keeps bacteria at bay.
The cucumbers also need 3-6 weeks to pickle, as the process is slower compared with the method where the jars are processed in hot water.
In short, if the acidity of pickle juice drops below 3%, a water bath is needed. If the acidity stays around 5%, it isn't necessary.
If you have multiple jars, store them in a cool spot like a garage, basement, or pantry, as long as it's above-freezing temperatures. These colorful jars of cucumbers make a great gift, too!
Once opened, these pickles will remain fresh for approximately 2-4 months.
More pickle recipes to love
You know that you can pickle or preserve other vegetables, right? Here is a list of my favorite recipes:
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Pickled cucumbers in vinegar (Easy recipe)
- 4 pounds 4-6 inch cucumbers
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 gallon plain vinegar 5% acidity
- 4 tablespoons canning/pickling salt no iodine
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 5-6 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 6 teaspoons dried dill or the whole dill stems with umbels and green seeds
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- 1-2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 1 horseradish root cleaned and sliced in strips
Step 1: Preparing the Jars.
- Wash and sterilize your jars. Wide-mouth quart jars are recommended.
- Clean the lids with soapy water, dry them, and boil them for two minutes before use.
- Replace any aged or rusted lids.
Step 2: Preparing the Cucumbers.
- Choose high-quality cucumbers with no blemishes; wash them under running water.
- If necessary, cut cucumbers lengthwise to fit into jars.
- Slice the horseradish into slim pieces.
Step 3: Packing the Jars.
- Fill the jars with cucumbers, garlic cloves, black peppercorns, ¼ teaspoon of dried dill, and slices of horseradish in between.
Step 4: Preparing the Pickling Mixture.
- In a large pot, bring vinegar to a boil together with salt, and sugar. Boil for only 2-3 minutes, then add bay leaves, thyme, and mustard seeds.
- Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
Step 5: Filling the Jars with Pickling Mixture.
- Set jars on a metal tray to prevent cracking from thermal shock.
- Using a ladle, slowly pour the hot pickling mixture into the jars, fully immersing the cucumbers.
- Place 1-2 horseradish pieces on top of the jar to hold the cucumbers inside.
- Close the lids tight and store the jars in a cool place above freezing temperature.
- They need about a month to pickle before being consumed. These cucumbers will not ferment and will be perfect for the wintertime.
- Sterilizing through boiling isn't necessary due to the 5% acidity level maintained by undiluted vinegar.
- Once opened, jars last for 2-4 months in the fridge.
- Avoid reusing pickle juice; always use a fresh brine.
- Enjoy the pickles throughout the winter season with stews, soups, roasted meats, beans, or potatoes. They also make a nice gift around the holidays.