Pickle Hints


Basic information:

1. Select fresh, firm fruits or vegetables free of spoilage. Measure or weigh amounts carefully, because the proportion of fresh food to other ingredients will affect flavor and, in many instances, safety.

2. Use canning or pickling salt. Noncaking material added to other salts may make the brine cloudy. Since flake salt varies in density, it is not recommended for making pickled and fermented foods. White granulated and brown sugars are most often used. Corn syrup and honey, unless called for in reliable recipes, may produce undesirable flavors. White distilled and cider vinegars of 5 percent acidity (50 grain) are recommended. White vinegar is usually preferred when light color is desirable, as is the case with fruits and cauliflower.

3. Alum may be safely used to firm fermented pickles. However, it is unnecessary and does not improve the firmness of quick-process pickles. The calcium in lime definitely improves pickle firmness. Food-grade lime may be used as a lime-water solution for soaking fresh cucumbers 12 to 24 hours before pickling them. Excess lime absorbed by the cucumbers must be removed to make safe pickles. To remove excess lime, drain the lime-water solution, rinse, and then resoak the cucumbers in fresh water for 1 hour. Repeat the rinsing and soaking steps two more times. To further improve pickle firmness, you may process cucumber pickles for 30 minutes in water at 180°F.

There may be a simple explanation for why your pickles came out less than perfect. See if you can detect the cause from this chart.

Soft or Slippery Pickles

  • The brine was too weak for curing.
  • You neglected to remove the scum daily from the surface of the brine.
  • The vegetables were not well covered by brine.
  • The vinegar was too weak.
  • Your pickles were stored in a warm place.
  • Your water was too hard.
  • You failed to slice off the blossom end.
  • The canning jars did not seal properly.

Shriveled Pickles

  • The brine was too strong at the beginning of the curing.
  • The syrup was too sweet.
  • The vinegar was too strong.
  • The cucumbers were picked several days before they were pickled.

Dark Pickles

  • The water was too hard.
  • Your cooking utensils or pans contained copper, brass, galvanized metal, or iron.
  • Your metal canning lids were corroded.
  • You used ground spices.
  • The cucumbers were deficient in nitrogen.

Hollow Pickles

  • The cucumbers were overmature.
  • The cucumbers were sunburned.
  • Growing conditions for the cucumbers were unfavorable.

White Sediment In the Jars

  • Table salt was used.
  • Temperatures during fermentation were not controlled.

Lids Didn't Seal

  • Proper headspace was not maintained.
  • Nonstandard jars and/or lids were used.
  • Pickles were not sufficiently processed.
  • The rim of the jar was not wiped to remove food particles.