Home Pickling
Pickling Methods and Recipes

Canning Supplies

Pickles have an extremely long history, they date back at least forty-five hundred years to ancient Mesopotamia where it is believed cucumbers were first pickled. Pickles are mentioned twice in the Bible -Numbers 11:5 "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic:" which were pickled

History sets an early usage over 3,000 years ago in western Asia, Egypt and Greece. Cleopatra believed pickles made her more beautiful and rumor has it that Marc Anthony was pickled as well. Aristotle, praised the healing effects of pickled cucumbers. One claimant to having discovered America, Amerigo Vespucci, was a Pickle Peddler.

In the United States , over 5,000,0000 pounds of pickles are devoured annually, that's just shy of ten pounds of pickles, per person, every year.

Purpose of Pickling

The reason for pickling is the preservation of otherwise perishable food. All foods in their natural state contain microorganisms, such as bacteria, molds, yeasts and enzymes. Food spoils when microorganism growth is not controlled. This is what Pickling does, in short it kills off or renders dormant harmful microorganisms.

Proper, Safe Home Pickling procedures controls the growth of these microorganisms, allowing us to keep food beyond its natural storage period. Three primary pickling methods are commonly employed

Fermentation A naturally occurring bacteria on cucumbers and other fruits and vegetables has the ability to reduce the sugars present in the fruit through the process of fermentation or curing.

Pasteurization, vegetables may be preserved by means of pasteurization in which fresh vegetables are bottled and subjected to a 160 degree Fahrenheit heat for a specific number of minutes to kill or make dormant bacterial spores that may threaten health.

Refrigeration. refrigeration in combination with acidification. Cold temperature and vinegar are used as the primary vehicles to keep bacterial spores dormant.

Pickling Terminology


Brine is basically the Pickle Juice. The term originates from sea water or salt water; vinegar was eventually added. The brine is generally seasoned with various herbs and spices.


The air space between the upper level of the Brine and the Jar top.

Hot-Packing Method

A method which requires heating the brine to 190 degrees F, then placing the brine along with the food being pickled into Mason jars, which are then immersed in a hot water bath prior to sealing.

Mason Jar

Glass jars produced for home canning, Mason Jars were invented by John L. Mason, but the term Mason Jar has come to refer to various brands in addition to the Mason Brand, another popular brand is Ball. See: Choosing and using Canning jars wisely


Paraffin is wax that is used to seal the top of Mason jars of some pickles,and preserves. This method alone does not provide adequate protection against toxins, and is not recommended by the USDA.

Pickling Salt

Pickling salt, unlike normal salt meets the requirements of pickling and preserving. It doesn't contain iodine or any additives that cause discoloration and cloudiness in home-canned foods. See: Pickling Salt Vs. Table Salt

Pickling Spices

Pickling spices are sold as a mix, they generally contain allspice, bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, coriander, crushed hot pepper, curry, dill seed, ginger, juniper berry, mace, and peppercorn.

Pickling Lime

Used only in older recipes to prevent soggy pickles. Botulism cases have been linked to improper use of Pickling Lime and it is not recommended.

Basic Pickling Procedures

DO NOT use copper, brass, iron or galvanized utensils when pickling. These metals may react with acids or salts and cause undesirable flavors, or even form toxic compounds in the mixture.

Certain foods, foods with a high starch content in particular swell more than others and require more head-space. Too much head-space and the jar won't seal properly ,and the pickles at the top of the jar may be discolored or spoiled. If too little head-space is allowed, the food may be forced under the lid, leaving a residue on the sealing surface and possibly prevent the lid from sealing.

Head-space and Brine level are very important in any canning endeavor

As a general rule, leave a 1/4 inch head-space for juices, jams, jellies, pickles and relishes.1 inch head-space for low-acid foods, 1/2 inch head-space for acid foods, fruits and tomato.

Remove the air bubbles by running a rubber scraper or nonmetal spatula between the food and the pickle jar. Wipe sealing edge of pickle jars with a clean, damp paper towel. Add lids and tighten screw bands.


The acidity of food influences processing. Foods are grouped as "acid"and "low-acid"for purposes of selecting the correct processing method. Acid protects against the growth of unwanted organisms, such as botulinum a/k/a botulism. Thus, heat treatments need not be as intense for foods in the "acid"group as opposed to foods in the "low-acid"group.

When preserving low acidic foods, such as tomatoes, the USDA recommends that acid should be added to lower the pH level. This can be done by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid per pint of product.

For quarts, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid. This may be done by adding it directly to jars before filling.

Chart - Acidity of various foods that can be pickled

Foods with a pH below 4.6 are classified as "acid," while foods with a pH between 4.6 and 7.0 are classified as "low-acid."

Foods in the "acid" group can be processed by the boiling water bath method.

Process pickle jars in a boiling water canner or use the low temperature pasteurization treatment.

If you decide to do extensive home pickling, it would be advisable to purchase a steam pressure canner or water bath canner. A steam pressure canner is used to process food/pickles under high temperature and pressure. It will destroy bacteria that can cause sickness and spoilage. [See: Safe Pressure Canning ] A Water bath canner is a deep kettle with a wire insert that holds your canning jars. It's used to preserve pickle and other foods high in acids , such as fruits and berries.

Boiling water bath canner and Jar Rack used in preserving foods

To process pickles in a boiling water canner, fill canner halfway with water and preheat to 180 F for hot packs or 140 F for raw packs. Load sealed jars into the canner rack [Jar rack] and lower with handles or load one jar at a time with a jar lifter onto rack in canner. Cover canner and turn heat to high.

Add water if needed to a level of 1 inch above jars. When water boils vigorously, lower heat to maintain a gentle boil and process pickle jars for the time given in manufacturers instructions.

To process using low-temperature pasteurization treatment, place pickle jars in a canner filled halfway with warm (120 F to 140 F) water. Add hot water to a level 1 inch above jars. Heat the water and maintain 180 F water temperature for 30 minutes. Use a candy or jelly thermometer to be certain that the water temperature is at least 180 F during the entire 30 minutes. Temperatures higher than 185 F may cause unnecessary softening of pickles. [See Crispy Pickle Secrets] This treatment results in a better product texture but must be carefully managed to avoid possible spoilage of your pickles. Use only when recipe indicates.

After processing is completed, remove jars from canner with a jar lifter and place on a towel or rack. Do not re-tighten screw bands. Cool jars 12 to 24 hours and remove screw bands. Check lid seals. If the center of the lid is indented, the jar is sealed. Wash, dry, label and store sealed jars in a clean, cool, dark place. If the lid is unsealed, examine and replace jar if defective, use new lids, and reprocess as before. Wash screw bands and store separately. Pickles are best if used within a year but are safe as long as lids remain vacuum sealed.