Gardening Articles: Health :: Cooking

Pickling Cucumbers (page 2 of 3)

by National Gardening Association Editors

Boiling Water Bath Canning

Once your cukes and pickling ingredients are ready, use the fresh-pack method or a salt-brine fermentation. Then follow these steps for boiling-water-bath canning. If your canner instructions vary from these, follow the instructions that came with your canner.

Assemble all utensils: Canner with rack, Mason jars, lids, tongs or jar lifter, cooling racks and nonmetallic spatula.

Use only Mason jars for home canning. They're made by a number of manufacturers and are safe because the glass is heat-tempered and can seal perfectly. Always use brand new dome lids for canning. The rubber compound loses its ability to seal perfectly after one use. Metal screw bands and Mason jars may be reused.

Examine and clean all equipment: Check all bands for rust, dents or nicks and the jars for chips or cracks. Don't use them for canning if they aren't perfect. Wash all equipment in hot, soapy water. Rinse in clear, hot water. Keep jars and screw tops hot. Keep dome lids in hot water until ready to use.

Follow recipe instructions for filling jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace for pickles. Once jars are filled, release air bubbles by running a rubber spatula around the insides of the jars. Wipe jar tops and threads clean with damp cloth. Put lids on jars, rubber side down, and screw bands on firmly, so they're "fingertight."

Place the rack on the bottom of a canner half full of water, and bring it to the boil. Only fill as many jars as the canner will hold in one batch. As each jar is filled, place it carefully in the rack. The jars should not touch each other or the side of the canner.

Add hot water, if necessary, so the jars are covered with at least one to two inches of water. Cover and turn up heat under canner. Start timing when the water reaches a boil. Follow timing instructions for each recipe.

To complete the processing, remove the jars and place them upright on a rack or thick towel in a draft-free area, allowing enough room between jars for air to circulate.

Testing Your Pickles

Do not tighten the metal rims -- you may break the seals. After 12 hours of cooling, test the seals. These three tests are recommended for checking the seals on dome lids:

  1. As the jar contents cool and a vacuum forms, the lid pulls down into the jar and makes a "kerplunking" sound.
  2. The lid will be concave or dished and should stay that way; as long as the vacuum is present you can feel the slight dish.
  3. Push down on the lid with your thumb. If there's no give, the jar is sealed. If it makes a clicking sound, the seal isn't complete.

If some jars have incomplete seals, reprocess the contents, using a new lid and a clean jar. Or, simply put the jars in the refrigerator and use these pickles first.

Wipe the jars with a clean, damp cloth; label clearly; carefully remove the outer screw-rims; and store jars in a cool, dry, dark place.

Don't open the jars for several weeks -- this will allow the flavors of the herbs and spices to develop fully.

Before serving, check pickles or relishes for signs of spoilage, sliminess, softness, frothing or a foul odor. Don't eat any pickles you think are bad; don't even taste them. Throw them out if there's the slightest doubt as to whether they're good.

For additional recipes and pickling ideas, consult All About Pickling, Ortho Book Series, National Edition and the Ball Blue Book, a guide to home canning and freezing.

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