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Cooking Tips


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Successful pickling result when good quality ingredients are used and proper procedures are followed. Correct proportions of fruit or vegetable, sugar, salt, vinegar, and spices are essential.

Be sure to use tested recipes and read the complete recipe before starting. Make certain you have all the necessary ingredients and measure or weigh all ingredients carefully.

[ Ingredients | Equipment | General Procedures | Water Bath | Test for Seal | Pickle Time Table ]


  • Fruit & Vegetable
    Select tender vegetables and firm fruit. Sort produce for uniform size and select the size best suited for the recipe. Use fruit and vegetables as soon after picking or purchasing as possible. If not used immediately, refrigerate or store where they will be well ventilated and kept cool. Never use fruit or vegetables that show even slight evidence of mold.

    To prepare, wash fruit and vegetables in cold water. Use a brush and wash only a few at a time under running water. Clinging soil may contain bacteria that are hard to destroy. Handle gently to avoid bruising. Be sure to remove all stem ends from cucumbers. They may be a source of the enzymes responsible for the softening of cucumbers during fermentation.

  • Salt
    Use course salt. Iodized salt will make pickles dark and salt with anti-caking additives will cloud pickling brines.

  • Vinegar
    Use a good quality vinegar. Cider vinegar, with its mellow, acid taste, gives a nice blending of flavors, but may darken white or light-colored fruit and vegetables. White distilled vinegar has a sharp, pungent, acetic acid taste and is preferred when a light color is important. Do not dilute vinegar unless the recipe calls for this to be done. If a less sour pickle is preferred, add sugar instead of decreasing the vinegar.

  • Sugar
    White granulated sugar or brown sugar may be used. White is preferable, unless brown is called for in the recipe. Brown sugar may darken food slightly.

  • Spices
    Spices include both sweet herbs and pungent spices. Fresh spices always provide the best flavor. Fresh spices lose their pungency in heat and humidity, so if not used immediately store in airtight containers in a cool place.

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Use unchipped enamelware, stainless steel, aluminum or glass for heating pickling liquids. Do not use copper, brass, galvanized or iron utensils. These metals may react with acids or salts and cause color changes or form undesirable compounds.

Use a crock or stone jar, an unchipped enamel-lined pan, or a large glass jar, bowl, or casserole for fermenting or brining. A heavy plate or large glass lid is necessary to fit inside container to cover vegetables in the brine. Use a weight, such as a glass jar filed with water to hold cover down and keep vegetables below surface of the brine.

Small utensils include: measuring spoons, large wooden or stainless steel spoons for stirring, measuring cups, sharp knives, large trays, tongs, vegetable peelers, ladle with lip for pouring, slotted spoon, footed colander or wire basket, large-mouthed funnel, food chopper or grinder, and wooden cutting board. Household scales will be needed if the recipes specify ingredients by weight.

Glass Jars & Lids: Select jars and lids that are free of cracks, chips, rust, dents or any defect that may prevent airtight seals and cause needless spoilage. Sterilize jars and lids if not using water-bath processing.

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General Procedures:

  1. Read through recipe and make sure you have all the ingredients and equipment needed. Note the time involved from start to finish.

  2. Fill water-bath 2/3 full, cover and begin heating.

  3. Check all jars for nicks, cracks, and chips. Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water. Rinse well!

  4. Wash vegetables thoroughly in cold water according to directions.

  5. Prepare recipe.

  6. If recipe does NOT call for processing, sterilize jars 20 minutes in boiling water. Sterilize lids five minutes. When making unprocessed pickles, keep food boiling on top of stove and fill hot sterilized jars one at a time.

    If recipe calls for processing, wash jars in hot soapy water, rinse well and leave in hot water until needed for filling. Sterilize lids five minutes and leave in water until needed for sealing.

  7. Fill jar to 1/8 inch from sealing edge. Run a clean knife inside the jar between food and jar to release air bubbles.

  8. Use a clean paper towel or damp cloth to wipe sealing edge and threads of jar. Seal each jar immediately.

  9. If recipe does NOT call for processing, place jars upright, well apart, on a wooden board or rubber mat and leave to cool. Don't set jars in a draft or on cold wet surfaces.

    If recipe call for processing, follow instructions for processing in water bath or follow recipe instructions when given.

  10. A popping noise may be heard with vacuum type lids. This indicates the seal has taken effect.

  11. When cool, test for seal.

  12. If seal does not take effect, food may be reboiled within 24 hours, with a little extra vinegar to compensate for evaporation, and repacked into clean, hot, sterilized jars. Seal immediately with new lids. Be careful not to overcook pickles that are supposed to be crisp.

  13. Wipe jars with a wet cloth. Label, indicating contents and date.

  14. Store in a cool, dark, dry place.

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Processing in Water Bath:

Place jars on rack or in metal basket in water-bath processor. Water should be hot, but not boiling. Add enough hot water to cover jars by one to two inches. Do not pour hot water directly onto jars, which could the jars to crack.

Cover processor and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to allow water to boil gently. Begin processing time as water boils and process for length of time given in recipe directions. Maintain water level by adding additional boiling water when necessary.

Remove jars from processor and place on a dry wooden board, several thicknesses of paper toweling, or on dry cloths. Place jars a few inches apart, out of drafts, to cool. Adjust lids according to manufacturer's instructions. When cold, test for seal.

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Test for Seal:

Vacuum-type seals:

When filled jar is cold, test for seal by pressing center of lid. If lid is down and will not move, jar is sealed.

Other Types:

When filled jar is cold, test for seal by carefully inverting each jar one or two minutes to test for leakage.


Never open a sealed jar after processing. Opening the sealer to add more liquid will expose contents to food spoilage organisms. Some space in the jar from shrinkage of food or loss of liquid during processing will not affect safe storage.

If the seal is not airtight, refrigerate food and use within a few days.

Pickles that are packed cold will not give a vacuum seal. The high acidity of the food usually prevents food spoilage.

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Pickle Time Table:

    Bread & Butterquart10 minutes
    Bread & Butterpint5 minutes
    Chutneypint5 minutes
    Cross Cut Slicespint5 minutes
    Dill Green Beanspint5 minutes
    Gherkins, Sweetpint5 minutes
    Piccalillipint5 minutes
    Pepper-Onion Relishpint5 minutes
    Relish, Cornpint15 minutes
    Watermelonpint5 minutes
    Peachesquart or pint20 minutes
    Pearquart or pint20 minutes
    Fermented (whole)quart15 minutes
    Unfermented (whole)
    - Fresh pack dills
quart20 minutes

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