Did you know there were secrets to crispy pickles? Grandma knew how to get crispy pickles every time she canned – and now you can too!
Pickles are a family favorite around this homestead! I love how easy cucumbers are to grow, and my family can eat pickles year-round.
However, many home canners learn that cucumbers can easily get mushy, and they wonder how to get the crunchy pickles they’re used to from grocery store pickles.
If you’re new to home canning, check out my canning posts:
- 50+ Home Canning Tips From the Pros
- 7 Things You Need For Home Canning
- Everything You Need to Know About Home Canning Safety
Over the years I’ve learned a few tried-and-true tricks to get crisp pickles every time!
Tricks to Crispy Pickles
1. Start with the right type of cucumber to ensure crispy pickles
The very first step to ensuring your pickles turn out crispy every time is to start with the right type of garden cucumbers.
There are three general types of cucumbers available: slicing, pickling, and seedless.
The best pickles are made with pickling cucumbers.
Regular cucumbers are typically slicing cucumbers and won’t stand up to the pickling process.
When you’re choosing your seeds, with the intent to grow lots of cucumbers to can lots of pickles, make sure you begin by growing pickling cucumbers.
These varietals of crunchy cucumbers tend to be denser, retain less water and don’t grow to the enormous size of a slicing cucumber.
Some of the popular kind of cucumber for pickling are:
- kirby cucumbers
- persian cucumbers
- english cucumbers
Check out my post on How to Grow Cucumbers for more ideas.
In addition to beginning with the right varietal, make sure you harvest your cucumbers when they’re small and firm.
The bigger the cucumber gets, the more water content it will have which will lend it to get soft and mushy.
If you know you’re canning pints, harvest the cucumbers when they are just slightly longer than a pint jar. (You’ll cut off both ends, so give yourself a little leeway).
For example, a wide-mouth Ball pint jar is 4.9 inches tall – leave an inch of headspace, and you want your cucumbers to be just over 3.9 inches tall. A regular mouth pint jar is 5.2 inches tall.
Both Ball wide-mouth and regular-mouth quart canning jars are 6.9 inches high – so harvest your cucumbers a little over 5.9 inches long.
NOTE: I prefer the regular mouth mason jars for pickles because the little “shoulders” help keep the pickles below the pickling solution.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a green thumb! You can always find fresh cucumbers in season at the farmers market.
2. Can them as soon as possible
As with most fruits and vegetables, the minute you harvest, they start aging. Canning them as soon as possible after harvesting will ensure they stay firm and fresh.
For the perfect pickles, pick them before 9AM, before the sun has had a chance to wake up the plant and the cucs are sweeter and firmer.
If you can’t can them right away, soak them in an ice bath in the fridge while you wait.
3. Cut off both ends of the cucumber
The blossom end of the cucumber has an enzyme on it that encourages softening.
Naturally, once the cucumber falls off the plant, it transitions from growing large enough to protect and provide for the seeds to falling on the ground and rotting – exposing the seeds to the ground or animals for transportation.
Cutting off both ends of the cucs ensures this enzyme doesn’t get released and your cucumbers stay crisp.
4. Don’t can them at all
A lot of store-bought pickles will say on the jar “never heated”. That’s another one of the secrets to store-bought pickles’ crispness.
Heat will “cook” the pickles, making them soft. If you know you’re going to use pickles within the next month or so, just keep them in a mason jar in the pickling solution in the refrigerator.
These are called quick pickles or quick refrigerator pickles because you simply throw cucumbers in with a pickle brine!
If you’d like to jazz up your refrigerator pickles, try fermenting them!