I made pickles, AMA

Let me preface this by saying this wasn’t my first time making “pickles”.

I’ve made quick pickles a lot more than I realized until this past Sunday. I’ve made dill pickles maybe half a dozen times, and I can’t figure out how to get perfect that recipe . And until Sunday, I had never canned my own.

I called my grandfather last Monday - the garden expert with his own TV show, who also happens to be the guy that’s been canning everything forever - and asked if he’d like to help me out. Partially because he’s got all the equipment I would need, but mostly because I know he likes doing things like this while we watch baseball and grill.

I knew I needed jars, and the recipe called for pint sized. Being savvy but primarily lazy, I jumped onto Amazon and was overloaded with questions almost instantly. Questions such as

  • What’s the difference between wide mouth and “regular” mouth?
  • Does it matter for pickles?
  • Do I need to buy extra lids in case something goes wrong?
  • Should I buy an extra pack of jars in case some break?

The first one is pretty obvious, and the second one.. not so much! Since I was making chips, and not pickling whole cucumbers or spears, I went with the regular jars. For bigger stuff, or for ease of access to things such as jams or jellies, I would go with a wide mouth jar. Extra lids are always nice to have, since you can use the jars and rings again.

One of my jars did break in transit though, but Amazon is good about replacements and refunds. In hindsight, I could have used a coupon at Michael’s or gotten 5% back on my Target debit card, and had the jars that day. But, lazy.

Dunnage: Inexpensive or waste material used to load and secure cargo during transportation. Also, not included in this shipment.

My grandfather lives with my parents, whom I visit every Sunday. Grandpa already has the huge black canner and a full kit of spices and utensils - basically a 30+ year old version of this kit. Tongs, rack, funnel, tables were set and a propane range were set up and ready to go. The only thing missing was a clue to what I was supposed to do - I didn’t have one.

So since I’ve already written a billion words, I’ll sum it up.

  1. CLEAN EVERYTHING. Hot, soapy water.
  2. STERILIZE EVERYTHING BUT THE LIDS. Throw it all in the canner and boil it.
  3. Fill to the bottom of the funnel. Make sure you have a good distribution! I separated my brine from my cucumber mix and did everything by weight because I am insane about consistency.
  4. Pickle Crisp is a thing.
  5. TAMP. We used the handle of a wooden spoon (also sterilized!) to poke all of the air bubbles out. That is also a thing.
  6. LID.
  7. RING.
  8. Onto the canner rack. I had 12 jars to do, which was two batches of 6. Our rack could hold 7 jars, but I wanted to make sure everything was even.
  9. After about 15 minutes on a boil, everything was good. The lids don’t seal right away, which scared the shit out of me when they would randomly pop for the next 30 minutes.
  10. I now have to wait 2 weeks to eat pickles, but they looked great!

All told, it wasn’t that bad of a process! Maybe 3.5 hours total, which includes a 2 hour salting of cucumbers and onions. I attribute some of that time to me not having any idea what I was doing (poor organization and efficiency) and next weekend I’ll have a better idea of how to not burn myself on 212 degree jars.


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