Let’s make some pickles with all those cucumbers

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 8, 2016

What do a family and consumer science agent, horticulture agent, spices, interns Jessica Resor and Karen Perez-Perez and cucumbers make?

No, this is not some cheesy joke — it is the makings of some delicious pickles.

Unfortunately, making pickles seems to be of a time forgotten. When I approached our summer interns about the task, they had never made pickles before. What is also depressing is that many of the youth I have worked with in the school system didn’t even know that you need cucumbers to make pickles.

So, to start this article I think we need to know the down and dirty basics of growing your own cucumbers to make those delicious pickles.

Cucumbers are similar to other vegetables and they need to have a pH of a 6 to 6.5.It is important to have the soil amended first before you plant. Luckily for North Carolina, soil samples are free from April to November. The soil test kits are available at our office and we can help you take them and understand your soil report once you get it back.

Vegetables also need full sun, which means that they need between six to eight hours of sunlight. Sunlight is imperative for optimal fruit production, and that is correct for the cucumber, which is a fruit — but that’s for another conversation.

Cucumbers also grow on vines, so you need a support system or trellis to grow cucumbers properly. It also helps reduce disease and increases air flow and light filtration to improve your yields.

This year I have harvested more cucumbers than I have in a long time, so I had an overabundance. They are also readily available at the local farmers’ market. Many of the other items used in pickle making can also be found at the market like dill, garlic, peppers and onions, for example.

This week we chose to make refrigerated pickles to maintain their crispness. These will not last as long as canned pickles, but they will taste just as good. The two recipes we used were a Bread and Butter recipe from Ball:

4 lbs. fresh cucumbers cut into 1/4 inch slices

2 lbs. onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup canning or kosher salt

2 cups sugar

2 Tbsp. mustard seed

2 tsp. turmeric powder

2 tsp. celery seed

1 tsp. ginger powder

1 tsp. whole peppercorns

3 cups vinegar

Combine cucumber and onion slices in a large bowl, layering with salt; cover with ice cubes. Let stand 1 1/2 hours. Drain, rinse, drain again.

Combine remaining ingredients except cucumbers and onion in a large saucepot; bring to a boil. Add drained cucumbers and onions and return to a boil.

Pack hot pickles and liquid into hot jars, with 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps.

Since we wanted to keep our pickles crisp we decided to just cook the onions and let them cool and pour over the packed cucumbers.

For the refrigerated dill pickles we used this recipe from All Recipes:

4 cups cucumber spears

3 1/2 cups water

1 1/4 cups vinegar

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 heads of fresh dill

Stir water, vinegar, sugar and salt together in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil; remove from heat and cool completely.

Combine cucumber spears, garlic cloves, and fresh dill in a large glass or plastic container. Pour cooled vinegar mixture over cucumber mixture. Seal container with lid and refrigerate for at least 3 days.

We are working on the videos we made of the pickle making so you will have to stay tuned in the next few weeks to check them out.

If you would like more information on the growing and creating your own cucumbers and pickles call your local Cooperative Extension Agent, Danélle Cutting at 704-216-8970.