What Are the Best Tips for Pickling Cucumbers?

T. Carrier

Cucumbers can be enjoyed as they are, or they may undergo a pickling process that preserves, sours, and sometimes softens them. Additive ingredients, cucumber types, preparation, cooking methods, and storage are all important aspects of pickling cucumbers. More specifically, pickling cucumbers, white vinegar, and white sugar may all enhance the taste and preparation of the pickles. Others enhancements include using hot water baths and certain storage containers.

Dill is commonly used to flavor pickled cucumbers.
Dill is commonly used to flavor pickled cucumbers.

The cucumber itself should be of a variety known as a pickling cucumber. Cucumbers are plant gourds that come from a vine and a number of different varieties exist, such as salad cucumbers. Pickling varieties, however, have a length and shape more suited for jars or placement on sandwiches, and they are also usually crunchier. These cucumbers should not be waxed, because the waxy exterior will diminish the pickling liquid’s impact. In addition, they should be thoroughly washed in cold water.

Cucumbers on the vine.
Cucumbers on the vine.

Spoilage can be avoided by undertaking a few important steps. For one, all cooking utensils should be cleaned and scrubbed in hot water with soap. Refrigerated fresh produce will serve as the best base. Further, ingredients should be carefully measured and not overdone, as components such as vinegar in excess can easily spoil the cucumber. Pickling salt can also counteract the appearance of dark spots on the cucumber.

Pickling salt.
Pickling salt.

Certain substances are crucial to the cucumber pickling process. A pickling liquid generally contains many or all of the following substances: vinegar, salt, pepper, mustard, sugar, and spices. You will also need a chopping knife, as the ends of the cucumber must be removed, and it must be sliced. For varieties like dill pickles, the cucumber is generally halved and then quartered. Butter pickles, on the other hand, tend to cook better when cut into equal slices.

Taste is another important component for pickling cucumbers. More intense flavor and acidity can be achieved with the inclusion of white vinegar or pickling vinegar, otherwise cider vinegar is a popular choice. Using water with less minerals or chlorine can also maintain acidity, while using white sugar can help keep pickles firm. Spicy mixes can also give the cucumber more flavor when they contain fresh ingredients such as chili peppers, garlic, and cinnamon sticks.

Hot water baths are perhaps the most convenient form of pickling cucumbers. This process involves immersing the pickles in the prepared pickling liquid and placing them in a jar. The jars are then placed in a container of boiling water for a specified length of time.

Once the cucumbers have been properly pickled, they must be put in storage to retain taste and freshness. Certain materials should be avoided because they may adversely interact with the ingredients. These include brass, iron, and copper. In contrast, glass or stainless steel containers are solid options.

Pickling cucumbers.
Pickling cucumbers.

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Discussion Comments


I have a simple recipe for pickling cucumbers that you aren't going to process by canning. Simply cut the cucumbers any way you like, and place them in a bowl. Add cold water, vinegar, and sugar. Adjust the amounts of each depending on how strong and sweet you prefer the flavor of the mixture.

Next you will add the seasonings depending on your taste. Salt, pepper, and any other herbs and spices you prefer go great with this mixture. You can also add sliced onions for additional flavor.

You can make as little or as much of this simple cucumber recipe as you like. Just be sure to cover any remaining leftovers and place them in the refrigerator for your next meal.


Though it is common practice to prepare bread and butter pickles in round slices, I prefer to cut them in long spears like dill pickles. I think it makes it easier to put them in the pickling jars when you cut them this way. In addition, when it comes time to eat them, it is easy to pull the long spears out of the jars.

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