Try Pickling to Preserve Perishables

Megan Hirt
August/September 2007
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Juicy, crunchy, homemade pickles have a long, rich history, and pickled cuisine pops up in cultures across the globe. You can find pickled onion on menus in British pubs, pickled ginger served with sushi in Japan, and pickled peppers (perchance picked by Peter Piper) spicing up Mexican salsas.

Yes, you can pickle just about anything from your garden, and not only does pickled produce make a tasty, unique addition to your veggie tray, but pickling is also a great way to stretch your summer harvest into the colder months.

To 'pickle' something means to raise its acidity enough to kill bacteria that cause spoilage. The process works using heat and the preservative properties of salt and vinegar. Canning is easy and inexpensive, even for beginners. All you'll need is a water bath canner (available where cooking appliances are sold), a Mason jar (available at grocery or hardware stores), a few simple ingredients and a bit of patience as your pickles take a few weeks preparing themselves for prime crunch time. For more information, see Learn to Can for Homegrown Flavor.

Below are some traditional recipes adapted from that are sure to get you into a delicious pickle.

Dill Pickles
Dill pickles will keep up to two years if stored in a cool, dry place.

1 pound of 3 to 4 inch long pickling cucumbers
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp pickling salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 sprig fresh dill weed
1 head fresh dill weed  

Wash cucumbers and place in a sink or large pot with cold water and lots of ice cubes. Soak in ice water for at least 2 hours, but no more than 8 hours. Add more ice as needed.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, water and pickling salt. Bring to a rapid boil.

In a 1 quart Mason jar, place 2 half cloves of garlic, one head of dill and your cucumbers (1 pound should fill the jar). Add 2 more garlic halves and 1 sprig of dill. Fill jar with hot vinegar mixture and seal.

Process sealed jar in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Store pickles for a minimum of 8 weeks before eating. Refrigerate after opening. Serves 8.

Pickled Okra
Pickled okra will keep up to two years if stored in a cool, dry place.

1/2 pound fresh okra
1 dried red chili pepper
1 tsp dried dill
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup vinegar
2 tsp salt  

Place okra is a sterilized 1 pint Mason jar. Add the dried chili pepper and dill.

In a small saucepan, mix together the water, vinegar and salt and bring to a boil. Pour vinegar mixture over the ingredients in the jar, seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Store okra for 4 to 5 weeks before eating. Refrigerate after opening. Serves 8.

Pickled Eggs
Pickled eggs will keep for several months if refrigerated.

12 extra large eggs
1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp pickling spice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf  

Place eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover and let eggs stand in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from hot water, let cool and peel.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix together the water, vinegar and pickling spice. Bring to a boil and mix in the garlic and bay leaf. Remove from heat.

Transfer eggs to Mason jars. Fill the jars with the hot vinegar mixture, seal and refrigerate 8 to 10 days before serving. Serves 12.

Try turning your garden harvest into these other pickled treats, too:

Pickled Asparagus
Pickled Beets
Pickled Carrots
Pickled Garlic
Pickled Green Beans
Pickled Squash 

General Tips
Be sure to always sterilize Mason jars and lids for at least 10 minutes in your canner or pot before use, and clean the rim of a jar before sealing. Use special tongs to remove hot jars from your canner (most water bath canners come with this tool). When you're finished, check that the center of the lid hasn't popped up, which would mean the jar did not seal properly. Write the date on all jars.

Do you have a pickling tip, a different approach to the recipes above or your own palate-pleasing pickling recipe? Share it with us by posting a comment below.

Megan Hirt is an Associate Editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Find her on .

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Post a comment below.


5/24/2011 7:24:33 PM
I've been making bread and butter pickles for yrs and have a tip I'd like to share. You can use your favorite pickle recipe, be it sweet or dill but substitute or just include yellow or zucchini squash as a mix with the cucumbers. I liked the yellow squash pickles so much that I just use them by themselves, with onion and bell pepper slices. One thing though, just use young, small, tender squash, no more then probably 6 in. If your family likes stewed squash like mine do, you can just use the necks of the yellow squash and the rest for frying. If using the necks only you can use somewhat larger squash, as long as they're still tender. Try adding a few squash to your next batch, I think you'll love them as much as I do.

9/3/2007 12:00:00 AM
TChildress -- thank you for catching our error. We regret the mix-up and have fixed the text above.

Tyler Childress_1
8/25/2007 12:00:00 AM
In your article on pickling, you stated:''To "pickle" something means to lower its acidity enough to kill bacteria that cause spoilage'The opposite is true. Pickling increases the acidity to kill microorganisms. The pH is lowered. Low-acid pickles can harbor dangerous pathogens.

Sue H
8/24/2007 12:00:00 AM
I overheard a canning conversation the other day and I wonder if other people have used this method for canning tomatoes. You sterilize your mason jars and lids, cold pack the tomatoes, put on lids and put them in a 200 degree oven for 2 hours and leave in the oven overnight. There you have it.

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