Making pickles

Hi -

I want to try my hand at making some pickles, which looks easy enough. However, a bunch of the recipes I find have sugar in them. And I hate bread and butter sweet pickles. I’d like to make some regular dill & garlic pickles and maybe throw in some chiles or something to make them spicy. Should I avoid any recipe with sugar, or is there some legit reason to include it in a non-bread-and-butter pickling?

No. Sugar is an optional ingredient in pickles.

Awesome. Anybody have suggestions for spiciness? The Grillo’s store bought pickles I buy appear to have Habenaros in them sometimes, which seems a bit risky. Does pickling de-spice normally brutally spicy things? If I went with less lethal chilis would I be disappointed?

Use the kind of chili which tastes as spicy as you’d like the pickles to be. Capsacin slowly degrades in vinegar, so your pickles will get less hot over time.

Are we talking refrigerator pickles or fermented pickles?

Um. Not sure! All new to me! What’s the difference?

I’m currently looking at fermentation jar lids on Amazon. Are fermented pickles better than quick fridge or just more traditional, or? One plus I can see with fermentation gear is that I can also make saurkraut.

I’d start with refrigerator pickles. Much easier and less likely to make you sick. Once you’ve made a bunch and have an idea of what spices and salt levels you like the. You can move on to fermented ones.
Fridge pickles can be super tasty, you aren’t depriving yourself.

You can make refrigerator dills or dills that require a water bath and are shelf-stable. We always opt for the former, as it’s much simpler. There is a small amount of sugar in the brine for dills, but it’s to help keep the brine stable. I would use fresh dill sprouts, if I were you, as the flavor is much better. Pickles get better the longer they sit in the brine, and should not be opened for at least 30 days after canning them.

A note: I always hated bread & butter pickles until I made them at home. Now they’re my favorite. They require a water bath and are shelf stable, and yes, they take a lot of sugar, but the flavor is really bright and flavorful.

Another note: don’t mess around with the basic recipe for hot bath canned fruit/veg. Those recipes are approved by the gubmint so you don’t poison yourself and others.

I’d also get this book if you’re getting into canning.

Huh, now I’m confused. I thought I could just buy a kit like this and ferment the pickles that way, but Chefguy is talking canning now and I really didn’t want to spring for a pressure cooker. My ex did canning and it was quite elaborate from my casual observation. I guess I start with fridge pickles, possibly just do that.

I strongly prefer the taste and texture of refrigerator pickles. I’ve made both kinds, and the canned ones that have been heated just aren’t as pleasant to me, plus they’re more work. I vote you start with fridge pickles and never move on.

You can do that, it’s just that fermenting takes time - like a few weeks - so if you’re going to go through the effort and wait that long people typically make a LOT, more than you could eat before they go bad.
That’s where the canning comes in.

Fermenting pickles doesn’t really take that long, at least not the way I’ve done them. You can get pretty sour by about day four or five. I prefer fermented pickles (no vinegar), as that’s what I grew up with in our Polish household. Growing up, I always wondered why the jarred pickles tasted so different than the stuff my mom would make at home (or get from her friends or from the Polish deli.) It’s because those were all pickled with vinegar and not fermented (which produces lactic acid and other things, which has a different kind of tang from acetic.)

You don’t need to pressure can pickles; the vinegar makes them acidic enough that a brief hot water bath will do. You don’t need sugar to ‘stabilize’ the brine, at least not in any recipe I’ve used. And you can pickle nearly anything, not just cucumbers, with or without hot peppers as one of the ingredients.

If you’re going to can them, though, instead of refrigerate, make sure you’re using an approved recipe, because you need to be sure there’s enough salt and vinegar in there. Most vegetables that get pickled aren’t acidic enough on their own, and would need a pressure canner if the brine’s not strong enough. Use any recent canning guide, or check with Cooperative Extension (who IMO tend to lean way over backward in their safety recommends, but for the novice canner that’s where you want to be.)

Fermenting is another technique entirely. I should learn that sometime but never have.

Pukyamell, that’s about what I figured for fermented pickles, as I think sauerkraut takes a week to 10 days to ferment. “Weeks” is not something I’m interested in doing.

So I guess I’ll start with fridge pickles. Anyone have tips on peak crispiness? A good “snap” is what I most value in a pickle.

Yeah, I was puzzled by what Chefguy could have meant by that. Does unstable brine 'esplode or something? :confused:

Get this book, any edition, from the library. I haven’t made anything from it in years, but it’s a fun read and I just might use it again someday.

This is the edition I have and is mostly fruits and vegetables, with a chapter on meats and eggs; the second one includes more meats, and I didn’t know there was a third one until just now.

I meant to delete that part of my post, as it’s incorrect. As noted, the vinegar and salt are enough to ensure that something will keep for a long time. We’re still eating refrigerated dills that we made three years ago, and they just keep getting better.

Warning: canning can become addictive. We do pickles, but we also do tomatoes, peaches, jams, habanero jelly, chutney, and pear sauce. All of those things require water bath canning so that we can shelve them, but you can also make freezer jam.

You can make virtually instant pickles. They are a common accompaniment to many Asian meals. Rather than make large batches for storing you just make a small portion for the meal and only pickle them for an hour or so. Here is a typical recipe. You can substitute soy sauce for some or all of the salt. Add other vegetables - radish, cabbage, whatever. Add sesame seeds, scallions or chili flakes for serving. Use wasabi if you want them hot.

I make them a lot as sides for meals. They are great if you are serving stuff on bread - sandwiches, rolls, burgers. You just throw them together and chuck them in the fridge beforehand.

The bread and butter pickles in the mentioned blue bookI think of as mustard pickles. They have a strong mustard flavor and just a bit of sweet to counter the sour. They are excellent on sandwiches in place of mustard. Nothing like the syrupy store bought bread and butter pickles which I hate. I’ve also had good luck making dill pickled green beans.

My favorite is homemade jalapeno escabeche. I cut jalapenos, or the small sweet peppers if I want something with no heat; carrots, garlic, and onions. Saute it a bit in oil until the peppers are bright, then put it in jars with vinegar and run it through a hot water bath. I’m really upset that I did this, because it has completely ruined me for store bought pickled jalapenos.

Lately I’ve been doing a continuous jar of fridge pickles. I have a quart jar of vinegar, with some mustard seeds and garlic in it. Then I slice cucumbers into it until it gets to the top, when some get eaten, I put more into it.

For the kid’s lunch, I put five or so cucumber slices in a plastic bag with a teaspoon of the juice from the fridge pickle jar. That makes some pretty mild pickles, and is often the only empty bag that comes home in the lunch box.

I’ve had good success with making fermented sauerkraut using those fermentation lids, but the one time I tried fermented pickles it was really bad. Everything seemed to go fine, but they ended up pretty flavorless and extremely soft. It was sour enough to know fermentation had happened, but for some reason it just didn’t work out. After eating about half a pickle I threw away the whole batch.

Anyway, fridge pickles are very easy. Get them started, and then try one every day so you get an idea of when they’re at the point you like.