Canning cucumbers to preserve them is both easy and immensely satisfying. Better still, you can flavor them however you like!
Growing vegetables takes a huge amount of time and effort. As a result, we don’t want to let a single morsel go to waste. Whether you have a bountiful cucumber harvest or just a couple of fruits, consider preserving them!
There’s a reason canning cucumbers is so popular. They’re delicious and fairly straightforward to can. It’s even easy for the beginner. Here’s how:
What You’ll Need:
Canning cucumbers by pickling them is the easiest (and one of the tastiest) way to preserve your harvest. Definitely try out different flavor combinations to determine which you like best. In fact, you might also want to try growing different cultivars to see which make the best preserves.
For example, pickled cucamelons have a very different flavor and texture from the Muncher variety that many of us grow. Furthermore, ‘Crystal Apple’ cucumbers have a delicate texture that does well with dill and mustard but isn’t great with garlic.
Experiment, see what you like best, and then revel in glorious pickle joy with every jar.
- A large stovetop pot (a canning pot with a removable rack is ideal)
- Additional pots for sterilizing
- Glass Mason jars with rings (various sizes)
- New Mason jar lids
- Canning utensils (wide-mouthed funnel, tongs, lid lifter, bubble remover/headspace measure, jar lifter): I’d recommend getting a canning kit if you don’t already have one
- Sharp knife
- Slotted spoon
- Clean cloths/paper towels
- Large towel
- Measuring spoons
- Wooden spoons
- White vinegar (5% acidity)
- Seasonings (pepper, fresh dill, garlic, pickling spice blend, hot peppers, etc.)
- Pickle crisp (optional)
Step 1: Sterilize All of Your Equipment
Regardless of what you’re canning, remember that cleanliness is the top priority. You’ll need to boil all of your equipment thoroughly to kill any potential pathogens. This means everything from the jars and lids to your spoons and other utensils.
First and foremost, scrub everything with hot, soapy water. Fill up your canning pot with water and place the clean jars inside it. Make sure they’re covered and fully submerged, and bring that water up to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and leave the jars in there for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, spread a towel or blanket on a large, clean surface like a table or countertop. After your jars have been boiled, use your jar lifter to remove them from the canning pot. Tip out all the water and place them mouth-side upwards on the towel.
Next, take one of your smaller pots and place your jar lids and bands into it. Fill with water, bring to a boil, and then turn down the heat to its lowest setting. Leave all the items in there until you’re ready to use them.
Step 2: Prepare Your Cucumbers
This is the point where you decide what kind of preserves you’re going to make. How do you like to enjoy preserved cucumbers the best? Garlicky dill pickles? Sweet and savory bread-and-butter pickles? Or relish spreading on burgers or hot dogs?
If you’re going for savory or semi-sweet pickles for sandwiches, you’ll need to slice them. I like to crinkle-cut my bread-and-butter pickles so I can differentiate them from savory ones at a glance, but their size and shape are up to you.
Alternatively, you can also cut small cucumbers into spears. This is ideal if you prefer them as accompaniments rather than sandwich items. You can also pickle small cucumbers whole, as gherkins.
Finally, if you prefer sweet or savory relish, you’ll need to chop your cucumbers finely. The easiest way to do this is to put them through a food processor, but you can also mince them by hand.
Step 3: Fill the Jars
When canning cucumbers, the easiest (and most common) method is fresh-packed pickles. Take your whole, quartered, or sliced pickles and pack them into your jars up to the shoulders. If you’re making dill, garlic, or dill-garlic pickles, then add those to your jars at the same time as you add the cucumbers. I use about 1 tbsp of fresh dill and 2 halved garlic cloves to each quart jar, but season to your preferences.
Once they’re packed in, you’re going to add in your brine. There are many different recipes for pickle brine, so it’s a good idea to experiment with flavorings to see which you like best. The ones I use are from the Ball Blue Book, and are as follows:
Dill Pickle Brine
- 4 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp pickling spices (whichever you desire)
- Fresh dill, garlic, etc. (optional, as mentioned earlier)
Combine all of the ingredients except the fresh dill/garlic in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for 10 min. Then place your wide-mouthed funnel onto a jar and ladle this brine into it, leaving a 1/2-inch of headspace. Repeat this process until all the jars are filled. You may need to make a few batches of brine if you’re canning a large number of cucumbers. Go this route rather than doubling or tripling the initial brine amount.
- 3 cups vinegar (5% acidity)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/3 cup salt
- 2 tbsp mustard seed
- 2 tsp celery seed
- 1 tsp peppercorns
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes, and then ladle into your jars via the method mentioned above. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace.
Pickle Crisp is an optional additive, so you don’t absolutely have to use it. That said, it does make crispy, crunchy pickles rather than limp, soggy ones. It’s your call. If you do decide to use it, add 1/4 tsp to each quart-sized jar before adding in the brine, or 1/8 tsp for pint-sized jars.
There are of course several different types of relish that you can make, so definitely try out different recipes to find one that you like. The most common and popular one is a bit sweet, a bit savory, and glorious on burgers.
The canning process for relish is a bit different, as you’ll need to mince and cook it before preserving it in the jars. Once you’ve found a recipe that you like, make a big batch so you have plenty of it on hand.
Step 4: Remove the Air Bubbles
This step is imperative regardless of what it is you’re canning. Take your bubble remover and slide it all around the jars’ insides. Nudge the contents around, and watch any trapped bubbles rise up to the surface. You’ll want to eliminate as many of these as possible so they don’t mess with your seal or cause potential contamination issues.
Once you’re done, check to ensure that you still have a 1/2 inch of headspace in each jar. If it’s too low, add a bit of extra brine to fill it up. It’s better to have a bit too much liquid than too little.
Step 5: Put the Lids On
When canning cucumbers (or literally anything else), it’s inevitable that you’ll get some of the contents on the jars’ lips. Take some paper towels or clean dish towels, and dip them into one of the pots. Use this hot, wet towel to wipe the jars’ lips and threads clean. This will allow the lids to create a proper seal.
Next, use your jar lid lifter (the stick with the magnet) to pull out a new lid from the simmering pot. Place it rubber-side down onto the newly cleaned jar, and press it into place. Then use that lifter to remove a tightening band from the water, and place it over the jar lid. Turn this in place until it’s fingertip-tight, and move on to the next jar.
Never use any tools to tighten these bands, nor should you tighten them too much. This is because they need a bit of freedom to expand and contract during the boiling water bath.
Step 6: Get Boiling!
After the lids are all on, use your jar lifter to move the jars into the large canning pot. Make sure the jars aren’t touching, as they’ll rattle around as the water boils. If they’re too close together, they might break. To be on the safe side, you can place washcloths or sponges between them as spacers.
Once the jars are in place, ensure that they’re covered by at least one full inch of water. I generally add a bit more just to make sure. Then bring the water up to a full, rolling boil.
Process pint-sized jars for 15 minutes, and quart-sized jars for 30 minutes. Then use your jar lifter to remove them from the water and place them on the towel-covered surface. Allow them to cool completely—anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.
You’ll know they’ve sealed properly when you hear them **POP** closed. Just make sure you check the lid tops to ensure that they’re concave, thus indicating a tight seal.