Introduction: Pickle Anything! Basic Pickle Instructions

Picture of Pickle Anything! Basic Pickle Instructions

Making Pickles is fun and easy. Of all the canning projects, making pickles is the simplest. It's a high-acid process, so it is difficult to screw it up. Pickling is a fun project to do with kids over the age of five, as long as you keep them away from the hot water (let them fill the jars with veggies and spices, you do the canning part!).

This Instructable is to provide basic pickling instructions to people who like to play with flavor, as opposed to a pat recipe that must be adhered to.

Basic Pickling Recipe (These are the proportions, make it larger or smaller as needed!)
4 lbs any vegetables (harder ones work better)
2 3/4 C vinegar (preferably apple cider, but rice, white or red wine are fine too!)
3 C water
1/4 C sea salt (make sure it's not iodized, because that makes the pickle juice cloudy!)

Step 1: Safety First: Sterile and Clean

Picture of Safety First: Sterile and Clean

The essence of canning is to make sure that everything gets sterilized at the start of the process, and then keeps sterile throughout the process.  So, use clean kitchen towels, rinse your utensils with boiling water, and boil your jars and lids for a few minutes before starting. Use thin foil to or lid to preserve  heat.

Optional: You may blanch your vegetables to get the germs off, but his may make your pickle squishy, so pick your battles!

Step 2: Prep Time!

Picture of Prep Time!

As you're waiting for the water to boil, wash, clean and chop your vegetables and sort them into clean bowls. Get out your spices and make them easily accessible. 

Spices commonly used in pickling spice (see picture):
black pepper corns
dried red peppers

Prepare your work surface. Put a clean towel on your counter. Get your tongs or silicon gloves ready!  When everything is set up and prepared, mix your pickle juice ingredients - salt, vinegar, water - and heat them up in a pot on the stove. Stir until salt dissolves.

Step 3: Some Like It Hot (and Sterile)!

Picture of Some Like It Hot (and Sterile)!

Rather than using commercial pickling spice, play and blend the spices! Make it an art project! Put a fair amount of the spices at the bottom of the jars, but save some to top them off.

For sweet pickles, add sugar.  For smoky pickles, add black cardamom, chipotles, etc.  After you add the spice, pack the vegetables into the jars.  Pour the hot pickle juice over the pickles, leaving 1/4-1/2" space at the top.  Use the corner of your clean towel to wipe off the band mouth of the jar before you put the lid or the band on, so that there is no solids blocking the seal.  Put the lid and the band on and tighten finger tight.

Caution! Make sure to load the hot jars on the clean towel, and to use hot pickle juice, because the heat differential between jars, the juice and the counter can cause the jars to explode!

Step 4: To Be Safe or to Be Crisp, That Is the Question!

Picture of To Be Safe or to Be Crisp, That Is the Question!

Put the jars into a hot water bath.  Make sure there is at least 1" of water covering the lids, and bring to a boil.  Boil for 7-10 minutes (add 5 min for every 1000 feet above sea level you are). If boiled for less time, there is a greater risk that it won't seal or kill the bacteria, but your pickles will be crisper! Longer times will result in greater safety, but softer pickles. Again, pick your battles!

Step 5: Let 'em Cool, Baby! Let 'em Pop!

Picture of Let 'em Cool, Baby! Let 'em Pop!

Pull the jars out and let them cool on your clean towel.  Place jars at least 1" apart from each other to ensure they cool evenly.  Listen for the sound of the tops "popping" as the jars cool down and air compresses. That is the sound for my ears!

Step 6: Optional: What Is Growing in Your Neighborhood?

Picture of Optional: What Is Growing in Your Neighborhood?

For your next ambitious canning or baking adventure, check out what is growing in your neighborhood.  You may use Neighborhood Fruit to locate backyard fruit or fruit on public land.


Jennifer Hinchcliff (author)2016-09-13

I have a question: my father was saying I could heat my filled jars in the oven as opposed to a boiling water bath covering the this true? I am improvising as I do not currently have a deep pot. Thanks!

Jennifer, I just saw your question. Hope you got your answer earlier, but I will tell you my experiences. I've used them from the oven and never had a problem. I've also used the sanitize cycle from the dishwasher and it's been fine. I usually do brine pickles. If they go bad, you know it.

sandystarr28 (author)2014-09-10

I am with you, Okeekat. In three generations of Arkansas hillbillies, we have seldom had anything go bad. When it does, you will definitely know. The lid won't seal, the lid will buckle, it will smell bad. Usually, it is from a bad lid or a chip in the top of the jar. My grandmother used to say, if it has enough salt in it and enough vinegar in it, it will preserve. After seeing the success rate in over 100s of thousands of jars, I'll stick to the tried and true. Personally, I think that this new generation is way too hung up about germs and food poisoning. A couple of kids get sick, and soon they think everyone is going to get sick. Maybe their immune systems aren't built up like ours are. I remember leaving food out on the table all day long in 90 degree weather, and none of us ever got sick.

You don't build up an immunity to exposure for some of this stuff. A weak immune system can occur with low exposure in general; however, one gram (the weight of a 1cm-wide cube of water) of the waste product from Botulinum bacteria (which causes cans to bloat) can be diluted in water and distributed with 100% kill effectiveness among over 100,000 healthy humans. That's not LD50; that a flat guaranteed-kill.

You can exterminate a small city with what's in a 6 ounce can of improperly-processed tomato paste.

Most people simply haven't seen bad food or bad processing. Bad food comes out of a factory hundreds of miles away, and all you know is the food gets in the can somehow; if you start canning at home, you know you do a thing, and sometimes that thing might fail, and then the food is inedible and will kill you. Chances are unless you've been canning *everything* (not just chicken stock and strawberry jam), you've never seen bad food, but you've heard that your hobby can kill you if you're not obsessive.

Invisible fear is the most visceral fear. It's not unwarranted; it's only unexplored. Of course poor handling and contaminated food *will* kill you; if you've never seen contaminated food, you'll worry yourself to death that you wouldn't know it if you saw it.

longp2000 (author)sandystarr282014-09-10

The main reason why this generation worries about food poisoning is that we have better records than we used to have. CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million
people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne

l8nite (author)2009-11-12

 Ive never heard of pickled brussel sprouts but I bet they're tasty, especially if they're a little spicey ! nice "ible"

DeborahG19 (author)l8nite2015-10-29

One thing about Brussels sprouts to keep in mind is that they are a cabbage and as such will create a lot of their own brine if salted. It's best to soak them in a salt brine for a day or so to take care of that. Then pickle them as above. They are great!

neighborhoodfruit (author)l8nite2009-11-12

Brussel sprouts are ideal for pickling! Spice 'em up, for sure!

drusso3 made it! (author)2015-08-09

My girlfriend and myself made pickles and hot pepper rings useing the basics from this recipe. can't wait to try them out. Thanks for the instruc.

patricia.sullivan.735 (author)2014-09-26

I just read from a Vermonter's pickle recipes. She said that it is iodized salt that will make the pickles cloudy, and she uses salt that has no iodine.

CaptSteve (author)2012-04-30

Whenever canning anything, always check that the top is concave inward into the container once you have boiled and removed the jar after it has cooled down.

Then when you open the canning container, the top should still be under a vacuum. If the top has expanded outward and is no longer concave but convex, then your canning has bacteria or botulism growing inside and created gas which has expanded the top. DO NOT EAT ANYTHING canned that is from an expanded container.

PaulsMom (author)2010-07-24

I'm a little worried. I made my grandmother's recipe for sweet dill pickles last week. The recipe didn't have you process the pickles. My grandmother is gone so I called my mother to make sure a step hadn't been left out. She said the pickles were not processed. After "Googling" I am worried. Most say they process them and a few don't say.These are not refrigerator pickles. I sterilized everything, put fresh cucs in jars, boiled vinegar etc., poured over cucs and sealed. Turned them upside down (mother's instruction) on a paper towel. Any feedback from veteran picklers?

Is it a recipe that doesn't include vinegar? It could be a lactic fermentation process (like kimchee or sauerkraut).

The USDA recommends agains using traditional recipes because they have increased risk of contamination. As I said in the instructable, pick your battles; I'd try it.

roof rack (author)PaulsMom2010-09-30

Please see my response to Okeekat and my general response to neighborhoodfruit's excellent Instructable.

espohranderson (author)2011-11-09

What a great idea! Anyone know of a Canadian version? I'm new in my current city and this would be super handy!

Sorry, we don't know of a Canadian version.

Err, this was supposed to be on the step suggesting the website.

Okeekat (author)2010-09-16

My understanding is that the acid in the vinegar kills anything. No one in the past three generations of my Pennsylvania Dutch family has ever had a problem. I think we're safe. Same with jelly. Sugar is the preservative there.

Johenix (author)Okeekat2011-11-09

A few years ago the Minnesota State Fair recognized that some Kosher Dill Pickels are fermented in the jar and should be cloudy. The in jar ferment takes out the Botulism before it starts.

roof rack (author)Okeekat2010-09-30

It's true that vinegar does kill some bacteria and yeast.  But the heat from the boiling water canning is what kills the majority of the bacteria.  But it doesn't kill bacteria such as Clostrdium Botulinum which doesn't die until about 240F.  The vinegar is used to prevent C. Botulinum from flourishing.  The pH of the brine needs to be 4.6 or lower to inhibit C. Botulinum.  That's why the ratio of water (pH about 7) to 5% vinegar (pH about  2.4) is always in about 1:1 for pickle recipes (Most sweet pickle recipes use straight vinegar).  This is why pickles that have not been processed in a boiling-water-canner using either the regular method or the Low Temperature Pasteurization Method are kept refrigerated. 

You're correct about sugar being a preservative.  But boiling the fruit and berries to make jam/jelly is what kills the bacteria.  With the exception of Asian pears and figs, fruits have a pH lower than 4.6 which keeps C. Botulinim at bay.  Asian pears and figs must be acidified before canning in a boiling-water-canner.

Here's a link for more info re. pH vs time vs temp.

leskvon (author)2011-06-14

MMMMMMM . . . . . Pickling <3

mishap91 (author)2011-04-10

Use to run my own daycare back in the 70's and the kids had a ball washing the pickles in the small swimming pool I had in the back yard. They would put them in the clean buckets and I would do the rest in the kitchen all while watching them from my kitchen window. They were all "paid" by how they worked, with their own jars of pickles to take home.
Now I can everything I make if it's feasibly possible and since now it's only the two of us. But when people come over there's nothing like homemade food.
(they like to raid the larder and take some home too but they have to give me the jars back or their on the "no 'can' do list".

roof rack (author)2010-09-30

Nice Instructable. The pictures are great!

The Low Temperature Pasteurization method can be used in most pickle recipes to yield a more firm product. Here's a link for how to do it:

USDA recommends that only 5% acidity vinegar be used in pickle recipes. Most rice vinegar is less than 5% so check the label.

Here's a link for The National Center for Home Food Preservation's (NCHFP) homepage. They are USDA's official rep for home food preservation. It's the Cooperative Extension Service at University of Georgia, Athens, GA. There is a lot of useful info at the site and it's all laboratory based research.

In most non-sweet pickle recipes, quarts of pickles are canned 15 minutes and pints 10 minutes (1,000ft and below). Five minutes are added for 1,001 - 6,000 and 10 minutes above 6,000. Sweet pickles recipes which use no water, just vinegar and sugar plus spices in the "pickling" brine, are canned for a shorter time.

Another tidbit I picked up at NCHFP is that the initial water temp for for boiling-water-canning should be no more than 180F. Their recommended canning times use that as a reference.

The USDA's Complete Guide to Home Canning can be found here:
It's in downloadable pdf format. I've downloaded it and put it in a 3-ring binder. I also put all their Fact Sheets found here in the binder:

My neighbor has purchased the It's So Easy to Preserve book that NCHFP publishes. It has all the info from the USDA guides plus most of the info from the Fact Sheets from NCHFP. I'm thinking I'll buy one since it also has info about drying foods and making jerky.

Happy Canning folks. It's great to have home preserved foods to tide you over until the next growing season.

booshthelurker (author)2010-03-27

This is basically what I've learned from scouring recipes pickling recipes and trying them out, and I'm very happy with the results. I've done cucumbers, green beans, onions, carrots and brussel sprouts.

-Half the times for pints (these look like quarts). My risk/reward ratio makes my pints 4 min and quarts 8 min.
-Rice wine is fine if you keep refrigerated, but it's not usually 5% acidity which is recommended for canning. I like the sweetness of apple cider, but usually use white myself. I'm interested in trying the wine ones...

I would recommend this instructable to anyone.
Great job Neighborhoodfruit!!!

I agree that smaller jars need less time.  The problem is that they are so delicious, that it doesn't make sense to make small containers.

wokwithme (author)2010-02-14

Brine(Salted water) were use in the old fashion way. It's not that Vinegar is bad but it's suppose to taste better with the brine method. You'll need to go to a natural food store to get the brine Pickles.

snookmz (author)2010-01-10

How long must the vegetables remain in the jars before they are 'pickled'? how long will they last in the jars, if the jars remain unopened?  And once pickled, when I opened the jar approximately how long would they last once exposed to air?

Thank you for the great instructable!

Snookmz,  in my experience, using this method the veggies are pickled almost immediately, because of the water bath canning.  As far as I know, the USDA doesn't recommend eating home canned food that's more than a year old, although some people people do.

Once you open the jar, it should keep in the fridge for a month or two, providing you use a clean fork to take the pickles out of the brine.  If the fork is dirty, you will introduce bacteria into the mix, and a scum will form on top of the brine.  When you've eaten all the pickles, you can use the brine to make "refrigerator pickles", by adding more clean veggies to the water.

Great, thank you.  My first lot of pickles is in the cupboard now, fingers crossed they will be nice.  I didn't put any spices in the jar, because I just wanted to do a simple pickle and expand from there.

moosetooth (author)2009-11-12

 Well done! Thank you.

You're welcome, thank you!

hishealer (author)2009-11-13

OooooOooooh, next time I have someone's overflow of okra...  That happens a lot in Alabama!  Green tomatoes, or banana peppers...

Woah, Pickled okra?  That's crazy...probably crazy good! 

If you're looking for something to do with bananna peppers, why don't you try to make Ajvar?  We made another instructable about it.  Here''s the link.  Ajvar is totally the best ever. 

SinAmos (author)2009-11-12

Thanks.  I have a full unopened package of ball jars and I wanted to do something with them.

Lucky you! It is a seldom that we have unopened package of jars around here :) Let us know what you end up pickling.

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