To say I am fan of pickles would be an understatement. I always have a jar of pickles in the refrigerated. I eat a handful of pickles every day. I even have a pickle ornament that hangs on my Christmas tree every year. Yes sometimes I think I can safely say I love everything pickle.
I have always wanted to try and make my own pickles, however, the whole jarring process kind of scared me. The preservation process of making a jarred pickle seemed out of my comfort zone. I felt that if I did it incorrectly I could get horribly sick. It just seemed too risky for me and I have always stayed away from preserving my own vegetables and fruits.
On my journey to becoming more health aware I started paying closer attention to the food labels on the foods I would traditionally buy. Some were okay, but most were horrible. One of my goals was to lower the amount of preservatives and color additives that were in the prepared foods I purchased for me and my family. When I looked on the back of my favorite jarred pickles I was aghast at what was in the jar.
Pickles are generally made up of good ingredients like cucumbers, water, spices and vinegar. However, most prepackaged, jarred pickles you will find on the grocery store shelves also contain Calcium Chloride, Sodium Benzoate, Polysorbate 80 and Yellow 5. You may wonder, like I did, what all of these extra ingredients are and why they are used. I have done the research and highlighted the main points.
Calcium Chloride is a type of salt and it is used to enhance favor and as a firming agent. Because Calcium Chloride is highly acidic/corrosive, it has been known to cause digestive issues in some people. Sodium Benzoate is a salt product of benzoic acid. It prevents microorganisms from growing by entering the cell and raising the pH within the microorganism. Sodium Benzoate is used in jarred pickles as a preservative. White Sodium Benzoate has been shown to be a safe food additive it has linked to hyperactivity. Polysorbate 80 is a nonionic surfactant and emulsifier. If you are like me, you are wondering what all that even means. Basically it is a flammable, viscous liquid that binds things together. Polysorbate 80 helps to create a homogeneous mixture by preventing the separation of ingredients as the product sits on the grocery shelves. Polysorbate 80 has been linked to reproductive disorders and can severely harm people with Crohn’s disease. Yellow 5 is exactly what is says it is, a yellowing coloring that is added to the jarred pickles so that they have a more “appealing” color. Yellow 5 has been known to cause headaches, heatwaves, itching and blurred vision.
After conceding to the fact that I no longer could knowingly eat the jarred pickles offered in the grocery store, I needed to find a healthy alternative. I found several healthier pickle options in grocery stores like Whole Foods and Chamberlain’s. While these jarred pickles did not have the additives I have listed above, due to the cost per jar, they put a serious strain on my food budget. Because I go through jarred pickles so quickly I knew I needed to now find a healthy option that was also within my monetary means.
Knowingly that I needed to reconsider the idea of making my own pickles, I started to research how to make jarred pickles. Among the vast jarred pickle recipes, I found a quick pickle recipe that did not require the preservation methods of a traditional jarred pickle. After finding this recipe I was beyond excited. Could I now enjoy my beloved pickles without all the added ingredients? Could I comfortably make pickles that had no chance of making me sick? Could I also pickle more than just cucumbers? Could I pickle beets, green beans, carrots and more? I was more than eager to start making my own pickled vegetables.
The pickle recipe I have listed is considered a quick, refrigerated pickle. Unlike traditional jarred pickles, these pickles require constant refrigeration. They do not have the preservatives or the vacuum seal that creates an environment that would allow them to stay at room temperature on the pantry shelf. This type of pickle utilizes refrigeration plus vinegar to kill bacteria, which is also known as acidification. These pickles are quick, easy and amazingly delicious. Furthermore, these pickles are nutritious and are a good quick snack option. Pickles are low-calorie, fat free and cholesterol free. They are a healthy source of vitamin K, fiber, iron, potassium and vitamin C.
There are many great reasons to make your own pickles, but one of the best reasons is that you can regulate the flavor profile you want your pickles to have. Jarred pickles offered in the grocery store typically have a large amount of sodium in them. If you make your own pickles you can create pickles that are lower in sodium. You can also adjust the spices to create a wide array flavors, like dill, sweet, spicy and sour.
For this pickle recipe, I selected to use the dill flavor profile. You can purchase a pre-made dill pickling seasoning packet at most grocery stores. If you want to go the pre-made seasoning route, just be careful and check the ingredients first. Some of the pre-made packets available have ingredients like MSG, sugar and sulfiting agents. I prefer to make my own seasoning mixture and have included the ingredients in the recipe below.
Vinegar is one of the main ingredients in a standard pickle recipe. For my dill pickle recipe I have chosen to use apple cider vinegar (though you can still use distilled white vinegar if you prefer). I love the tangy quality the apple cider brings out in the pickles. Apple cider vinegar is considered healthier to use than distilled white vinegar. Apple cider is an amazing product that can curing hiccups, alleviating cold symptoms, help fight diabetes, cancer, heart problems, high cholesterol, and weight issues. It can help soothe a sour stomach, prevents indigestion and decrease glucose levels.
Cucumbers are not the only vegetable that can be pickled. Since I love everything pickle I have listed on the bottom of this recipe page some other vegetables that are great to pickle. The best vegetables to pickle are cucumber, carrots, beets, green beans, peppers and cauliflower. The pickling process remains the same for all vegetables. The only difference is that some vegetables have slight variations in the spice combination.
The recipe below makes 1 pint sized Mason jar worth of pickles. It takes about 3 or 4 pickling cucumbers to fill a pint jar. This would be assuming that each cucumber is about 4 to 5 inches in length and 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter. You can cut the cucumber into round circles, wedges, slices, or just cut the ends off and leave whole (make sure you cut enough off to fit into the jar standing up, with a quarter inch to spare).
Apple Cider Vinegar Dill Pickles
3 to 4 pickling cucumbers
1 teaspoon dried dill (or fresh if available)
1 teaspoon freeze dried diced onion
1 teaspoon pickling salt (or Kosher salt)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups apple cider vinegar 5% (or distilled white vinegar)
To create refrigerated pickles you will first need to start with a sanitized Mason jar. Mason jars can be purchased at your local grocery store or department store. They come in a variety of sizes. For this recipe we will be using the standard pint sized Mason jar. To sanitize the Mason jar you have two options. You can use your dishwasher (on the sanitation mode) to sanitize the jar. If you do not have a dishwasher or do not have the time allotted for it to go through a full sanitize cycle, then you can use the stove top boil method. To use the stove top boil method, simply bring a large pot of water to a boil. Submerge the jar, ring and jar seat in the boiling water. Boil the items for about 10 minutes. Carefully remove the items with thongs and set aside while preparing the pickles.
Wash and cut the cucumbers to your size preference. You can cut the cucumber into round circles, wedges, slices, or just cut the ends off and leave whole (make sure you cut enough off to fit into the jar standing up). Pack the cucumbers or cucumber slices into the prepared (sanitized) Mason jar.
In a medium sized saucepan (non-metal pan*), bring the spices and apple cider vinegar to simmer over medium heat (a near boil). Pour the simmering pickle mix liquid over the pickles. Fill the Mason jar to within a quarter inch of the top. Seat the lid and hand tighten the ring around the lid. Allow the jarred pickles to cool on your counter-top. After about 2 hours place the pickles in the refrigerator. In about 24 hours you will have a pretty good pickle, the longer you leave the pickles in the brine the better the flavor. Please note that because these pickles are non-preserved they need to say in the refrigerator.
*non-metal pan – use a coated metal pot because metal will react with the vinegar and make the pickle solution cloudy.
Cucumbers are not the only vegetable that can be pickled. Since I love everything pickle I have listed below just some of the other vegetables that are great to pickle using this pickling method.
Carrots – Peel and slice carrots. Cut carrots down to an appropriate size that would fit a pint sized Mason jar. Follow the recipe above for a dill pickled carrot. Or use this spice mixture for a flavorful pickled carrot: 1 teaspoon dried garlic, 1 teaspoon fennel, 1 teaspoon pickling salt and 1 teaspoon crushed bay leaves.
Green beans – Wash green beans and pack inside a pint sized Mason jar. Follow the recipe above for a dill pickled green bean. Or for a spicy dill pickled green bean variation, add 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper to the spice mix.
Beets – Beets can be pickled salty or sweet. For a salty pickled beet, follow the recipe above, but instead of the listed spices, use 1 teaspoon pickling salt, 1 teaspoon dried tarragon and 1 teaspoon freeze dried onion. For a sweet pickled beet, follow the recipe above, but instead of the listed spices, use 1 teaspoon pickling salt, 1 teaspoon dry mustard and 1/8 teaspoon pure Stevia extract (or 1 teaspoon cane sugar).
Pepper – Just like beets, peppers can be pickled salty or sweet. For a salty pickled pepper, follow the recipe above, but instead of the listed spices, use 1 teaspoon pickling salt, 1 teaspoon dried garlic. 1 teaspoon mustard seed and 1 teaspoon celery seed. For a sweet pickled peper, follow the recipe above, but instead of the listed spices, use 1 teaspoon pickling salt, 1 teaspoon dried garlic and 1/8 teaspoon pure Stevia extract (or 1 teaspoon cane sugar).
Cauliflower – Cauliflower is not known for being pickled but once you try it you will wonder why it is not offered in more stores. To pickle cauliflower, follow the recipe above, but instead of the listed spices, use 1 teaspoon pickling salt, 1 teaspoon dried coriander, 1 teaspoon celery seed, 1 teaspoon mustard seed, 1 teaspoon dried garlic and 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns.