Pickling is a great way to preserve vegetables. This summer, try a variety of vegies in your brine. The more, the merrier!
It may seem obvious but pickled cucumbers are traditional pickles. The sliced dills we put on our burgers start out as a humble cucumber and we really love ’em. We all have our favorites-sweet, bread and butter, dill.
I enjoy pickling whole cucumbers best. For one thing, the process goes faster. No slicing involved; just pick ’em, wash ’em, take the blossom end off and pack ’em in the jars. I personally love tiny dills. They are cute and versatile.
The downside is that it takes a LOT of little cukes to fill quart jars! Some years our cucumber plants just don’t produce like other years. We pick every other day and process when we have enough and sometimes those little guys go bad in the fridge before we get enough.
One hint is to be sure to buy pickling cucumbers when buying seed. There is a difference in what each variety is bred for.
Choose a Variety of Vegetables for Pickling
We also love pickling other vegetables. Putting a variety of vegies in each jar lets everyone choose their favorite. It also helps make up for a poor cucumber crop! We love to use pickled vegetables for appetizers or snacks all year long. There is a vegetable tray in every jar.
Our variety looks something like this:
- tiny cukes
- small carrots
- little onions-yellow or white
- green beans-yellow work too
- kohlrabi-discovered by accident, absolutely delicious
- peppers-sweet or hot-first choice is cherry, otherwise we pick them small
- fresh dill heads
- garlic cloves
We avoid red or purple vegetables such as beets or red onions. Beets are delicious pickled but they color all our other vegetables. Broccoli and cabbage are other vegetables we avoid, they fall apart to badly when processed.
Preparation of Each Vegetable for Pickling
- cukes-up to 4 inches long. Scrub the cucumbers well in lukewarm water. Lift off the blossom end, either with a knife or a fingernail. The blossom makes mushy pickles.
- small carrots-We plant round and small carrots especially for pickling. I also pickle carrots that are small because they aren’t matured. I thin the carrots this way, leaving room for them to grow large and straight for fall harvest. Prep carrots for pickling by scrubbing and cutting off the top end. Do not peel.
- cauliflower-Wash the head and cut into small florets. By the way, the chickens LOVE all the vegie trimmings.
- little or green onions-the bulb is the part that is needed. Trim off both ends and peel off the outer skin. It won’t be papery like dried onions but there is a thin outer layer that comes off. Rinse well.
- green beans- about 3-4 inches long. Pick off both ends and wash well.
- kohlrabi-We grew kohlrabi before we had ever tasted it. It is good raw but we weren’t fans of it cooked. I grabbed one out of the fridge when I was pickling vegies and it tasted amazing pickled! Peel it like a potato. The skin is thicker and harder though, so I use a knife instead of a vegetable peeler. Inside the flesh is very white and moist. Cut into 1/2 inch sticks.
- peppers-Just like Peter Piper we love pickled peppers in our vegie mix. Some years I grow cherry peppers, other years I just pick tiny peppers of choice. To prepare, leave the stem on and wash the peppers, leaving them whole.
- Fresh dill-The heads are the blossoms that turn into seeds. Pick the heads by cutting them from the plant right where the head meets the stem. Pick dill that is past the blossom stage with green seeds. Once the seeds turn black, they begin to fall off so the green stage is best. About 2 large heads are needed for each quart jar. Rinse the heads under running water before using.
- Garlic-one clove of garlic goes in each jar no matter what size the jar. The garlic clove needs to be peeled in preparation for pickled vegetables.
This is why picking and prepping do not happen on the same day at our house. There is a lot to the prep.
Packing the Jars
The jars all need to be clean, sanitized and warm. Running them through a rinse and hold cycle on the dishwasher while prepping the vegies saves a lot of time.
In the bottom of a quart jar goes 2 dill heads, 1 garlic clove and the mustard seed. Then start packing in the vegies as tight as possible. Long vegies need to stand up in the jar. Wide mouth jars (either pints or quarts) are easier than narrow mouth jars to pack. A chopstick comes in handy for moving things around in the jar. The vegetables need to stay below the neck (threaded area) of the jar.
The Brine for Pickling Vegetables
Bring the vinegar brine to a boil. You can make more or less brine depending on the number of jars you packed. Knowing how many jars fit in your water bath or steamer canner is helpful too.
Leftover brine keeps very well, covered, until the next pickling day. Its better to have a little brine leftover than to come up short.
Ready! Set! …
The lids need to be hot when put on the jars. The easiest way I know is to put them in a small saucepan with enough water to cover and heat to a seething boil. Put them in the pan in this order: upside down, right side up, upside down, right side up. This keeps the lids from adhering to each other before they are adhering to the jar.
I use my steam canner for pickles. If you are using a water bath canner, the water needed to be on the hot burner before you started putting the vegies in the jars.
FOLLOW MANUFACTURERS DIRECTIONS ON ALL CANNING EQUIPMENT!
What equipment is needed for canning explains what we use. While the brine is coming to a boil, I get the rest of my tools ready.
- the right-sized jar rings
- clean dishtowel to handle hot jars
- a fork or lid lifter to take the lids out of the hot water
- soup ladle
- canning funnel
- empty saucepan to hold the jars while filling
When the brine is boiling, put the funnel in the first jar and the jar in the empty saucepan. Use the ladle to put the hot brine into the jars. Fill the jar up to the neck with liquid, covering the vegies. Check for bubbles.
Lift a lid out of the hot water and put it, seal side down on the jar. Screw a ring onto the jar-firm tight but not over tight. Use the dishcloth to hold onto the hot jar. Place jar in canner. Repeat with the other jars. Process.
After processing, the jars of pickles set on the counter to cool. Don’t open the jars for at least a week after processing or until the shriveled cukes plump back up again.
Dill Pickle Brine for Pickling Vegetables-Montana Bowl of Cherries
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 3 cups water
- 6 tbsp pickling salt
- Bring brine ingredients to a boil before using. In a quart canning jar, place 2 large heads of dill, 1 clove garlic, and 1 Tablespoon mustard seed. Pack other vegetables in jar.
- Fill jar to within 1/2 inch of the top with the boiling brine. Place lid on jar, hold in place with ring screwed firm tight. Process 20 minutes in boiling water bath or steam canner.
- Brine is enough to fill approximately 3 quart jars.