Since my greenhouse is producing an abundance of cucumbers, the practical thing to do is turn those cucumbers into pickles. However, I had never canned cucumbers before. But, as we like to say in Texas, “Go big or go home.”
I decided to make dill pickle spears, dill pickle slices, and relish all in one day. I learned that it’s best to only turn freshly picked cucumbers into pickles. Older cucumbers are better used for relish. Since I am a novice at this whole canning thing, I decided I should try to follow this wisdom. The book I read advised to only use cucumbers no more than 48 hours off the vine to make pickles if you want your pickles to be crunchy.
I had no problem picking 10 pounds of cucumbers from my vines on Monday. I then worked that evening to prep them. For the spears, I merely had to wash them, slice off the very ends, and put them into a pot of salt water. For the pickle chips, I had to, of course, wash and slice the cucumbers before soaking them in salt water. The relish was much more labor intensive. I washed, peeled, and chopped about 12 cucumbers then had to dice up bell peppers and onions. I had so many cucumbers in my fridge already that I wanted to triple the relish recipe I used.
All this took much longer than I had anticipated. Next time, I will make sure to plan for more time involvement for this step. All the cukes had to soak in salt overnight in the fridge. With my milk fridge full of milk, I had to improvise with a cooler of ice to fit all these bowls of cucumbers into a cool place.
Having canned some jalapenos a few months ago, I knew the whole canning process was going to take me most of the day. That part I was prepared for. However, I decided to do two things to speed up the process for next time: Prepare my jars and lids and sanitize them in the dishwasher. I spent too long trying to find which jars and lids to use. I also think it took way too long to sanitize them with the boiling water method.
There are lots of canning recipes online that can be used. I found this one for the sliced pickles. I used Ashley English’s Canning & Preserving book to help me with the rest. I like her “Homemade Living” series. I’ve mentioned her Home Dairy book previously as well.
This first round of pickle-making was partly experimental. We’ll see how I like the finished product and then next time I can adjust if need be. I did not use any pickle crisping products. I may decide to add them on the next batch. Also, I may try to do a batch of fermented pickles. As long as my cucumbers keep coming, I will have the opportunity to try different canning methods. Then I can decide which one I like best.