Pickles are a great value-added farm product and a staple on many homesteads. Cucumbers are easy to grow in most climates. You can grow pickling cucumbers, which are smaller and bumpier than slicing cukes, but you can also take larger slicing cukes and cut them into spears.
One important note is that cucumbers don't store very well, so you'll want to pick your cucumbers the day you want to make pickles with them.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
- 12 small pickling cucumbers, or 3-4 medium to large cucumbers cut into spears.
- 2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt per jar
- 2 teaspoons mustard seed
- 2 teaspoons dried dill or 1 fresh dill head per jar
- 2 tbsp peppercorns
- 1-2 cloves garlic per jar (optional)
- Filtered water
Wash cucumbers well. Cut large cucumbers into spears. Cut the blossom end off each cucumber as these make them bitter if left on.
Pack clean cucumbers into wide mouth half gallon or quart sized mason jars. The cucumbers can be fairly tightly packed here. Add fresh peeled garlic cloves, one or two per jar, if using. Divide the mustard seed, peppercorns and dill, adding a small amount to each jar.
Fill with fresh, filtered water to within half an inch of the top of each jar, then add 2 teaspoons of sea salt. Screw on an airtight lid (the lids and bands that come with canning jars will work).
Set pickles in a cool spot to ferment for three to four days. Use one jar as your "tester" jar to taste pickles. They're done once they're as sour as you like them. After this point, they must be refrigerated.
Pickles keep for months in the fridge unopened, but should be used within a couple of weeks of opening the jar.
As always, if you see mold or if the pickles develop any kind of "off" flavor, discard (well, compost) them.
There are many ways to make pickles. If you find the idea of just letting them sit in brine in jars too squicky for your taste, boil the brine, then pour into the jars. Put on bands and lids and let them sit at room temperature for three to four hours, then refrigerate. This makes a more "Claussen-style" refrigerator pickle that your customers may prefer.
If making pickles in large batches, you may find it easier to brine them in a large fermenting container of some kind. This should be glass or stoneware, although a food-grade plastic bucket can also work and be economical for the small farmer. After putting the cleaned cucumbers into the container, add the dill, peppercorns, and garlic (if desired) and cover with the salted water (brine). Place a large, clean plate on top of the pickles and hold it down with something heavy, like a boiled rock. This will keep the pickles submerged. Each day, skim any mold or funkiness off the top of the brine solution. Taste every 3-4 days to determine when they're pickled to your liking. When it's time to pack the pickles, pack them in clean, sterilized mason jars and pour the brine over them. They should be refrigerated to discourage further fermentation at this point.