Pickle Anything! Basic Pickle Instructions




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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!)

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Step 1: 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!

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)!

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!

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!

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?

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.

1 Person Made This Project!


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34 Discussions

Jennifer Hinchcliff

3 years ago

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 jars...is this true? I am improvising as I do not currently have a deep pot. Thanks!

1 reply
RichB34Jennifer Hinchcliff

Reply 2 years ago

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.


5 years ago

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.

2 replies

Reply 3 years ago

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.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

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


10 years ago on Introduction

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

2 replies

Reply 4 years ago

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!

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.


7 years ago on Step 5

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.


9 years ago on Introduction

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?

2 replies

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 rackPaulsMom

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

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


8 years ago on Step 6

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

2 replies

9 years ago on Introduction

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.

2 replies

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

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 rackOkeekat

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

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.