NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Peter Piper Picked A Peck of Pickles

Peter Piper Picked A Peck of Pickles


          Pickling is one of the oldest known methods of food preservation. Pickled foods add a special touch to many snacks and meals.  The many varieties of pickled and fermented foods are classified by ingredients and method of preparation. The four general classes are: brined or fermented, fresh-pack or quick-process, fruit and relishes.

          Start with firm, fresh fruits or vegetables that are free of spoilage. Use a pickling variety of cucumber as the table or slicing varieties may result in a poor-quality product.  Plan to pickle fruits or vegetables within 24 hours after harvesting for highest quality.  If produce cannot be used immediately, refrigerate it and use it as soon as possible.

          A bushel of cucumbers weighs 48pounds and yields 16-24 quarts, an average of 2 pounds per quart. Choose the appropriate size pickle for your recipe.  Use cucumbers about 1 ½ inches long for gherkins and 4 inches for dills. Odd-shaped and more mature cucumbers can be used for relishes and bread-and-butter style pickles. Measure or weigh produce carefully. Weighing gives the most accurate measures.

          Vinegar is what gives pickles their unique taste and preserves them safely. White distilled or cider of 5percent acidity is recommended. White vinegar is usually preferred when light color is desirable, as for fruits and cauliflower. Do not dilute vinegar unless the recipe so specifies. If a less sour pickle is preferred, add more sugar rather than decrease the amount of vinegar.

          For the sweet taste in pickles, white granulated and brown sugars are used the most often. Brown sugar gives a darker color and a distinct flavor.  Corn syrup and honey will alter the flavor.

          Check the age and intensity of your spices before beginning the pickling process. Spices deteriorate and quickly lose their pungency in heat and humidity – such as our current weather pattern. Powdered spices may cause the product to darken or become cloudy. Tying whole spices loosely in a cheesecloth bag, putting the bag in the pickling liquid and then removing the bag before canning is the best method for adding flavor to your pickles.  If desired, add individual spices, such as a cinnamon stick, from the bag to each jar.

          If your recipe calls for brining, a stone crock is the first choice but is often not available to most of us.  A glass or food-grade plastic container is also excellent for fermenting pickles.  A 1-gallon container holds 5 pounds of fresh cucumbers. 

          If especially firm pickles are preferred, mix 1 cup of pickling lime and ½ cup of salt to 1 gallon of water in a 2-3 gallon crock or enamelware container. Do not use aluminum containers. Avoid inhaling the lime-water solution while mixing it. Soak cucumbers in lime water for 12-24 hours. Removed the cucumbers from the lime solution, rinse and soak one hour in fresh, cold water. Repeat the rinsing and soaking steps in fresh water two more times. Handle carefully as slices will be brittle.

          Sweet Gherkin Pickles

          7 pounds cucumbers, (1 ½ inches or less)

          ½ cup canning or pickling salt

          8 cups sugar

          6 cups vinegar (5%)

          ¾ tsp tumeric

          2 teaspoons celery seeds

          2 teaspoons whole mixed pickling spice       

          2 cinnamon sticks

          1/.2 teaspoon fennel (optional)

          2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)


          Wash cucumbers. Cut a 1/16th slice off the bosom end and discard, but leave 1/4inchof steam attached. Place the cumbers in a large container and cover with boiling water.

          Six to eight hours later, and again on the second day, drain and cover with 6quarts of fresh, boiling water containing ¼ cup salt. On the third day, drain and prick the cucumbers with a table fork. Combine and bring to boil 3 cups of vinegar, 3 cups of sugar, turmeric and spices. Pour over the cucumbers. Six to eight hours later, drain and save the pickling syrup. Add another 2 cups each of sugar and vinegar and reheat to boiling. Pour over pickles. On the fourth day, drain and save the syrup. Add another 2 cups of sugars and 1cup of vinegar.  Heat to boiling and pour over the pickles. Drain six to eight hours later and save the pickling syrup. Add 1 cup of sugar and 2teaspoons of vanilla and heat to boiling. Fill sterile pint jars with pickles and over with hot syrup, leaving ½ inch of head space.  Adjust the lids and process pints for 5minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

          For more info on food safe pickling recipes, contact the Ramsey County Extension Office at 662-7027 or email me at brenda.langerud@ndsu.edu.


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