Making pickles from your garden fresh cucumbers is easy, but there are some secrets that you must follow to make dill pickles that are nice and crispy.
There is nothing more disappointing than opening a jar of pickles that you canned and biting into a soft and mushy pickle.
All that work that went into growing the cucumbers and then canning them now seems like such a waste of time, energy and resources.
But we are here to help! There are several things that you can do to make homemade dill pickles remain nice and crunchy.
And it may be easier than you think! Below you will find our top 7 tips and tricks for making pickles that turn out perfect every time!
Secrets To Crispy Dill Pickles
1. Use Cucumbers Designed For Pickling
The first secret in making crispy dill pickles is to use pickling cucumbers. Standard garden salad cucumbers are not ideal for making pickles. These cucumbers are too large and contain a thick seed base as compared to pickling cucumbers. You want to make sure to use smaller cucumbers that are made for pickling, such as National Pickling Cucumbers.
2. Pick Young and Often
When and how often you pick your cucumbers is another secret to making crispy dill pickles.
As you are picking cucumbers from the vine look for small, slim and dark green cucumbers. They should still have small prickly bumps on the skin. The smaller in diameter the better!
If a cucumber is overly swollen, is light green, or has begun to yellow do not use it to make pickles. The seed core will likely be much too large and the insides may already be somewhat soft or bitter.
Although many gardeners like to showcase the massive size of their homegrown produce, this is one instance that smaller and thinner is better.
And the younger that you pick the cucumbers off the vine, the more that your plant will produce over time. So pick young and often.
3. Use Only Fresh Picked Cucumbers To Make Crispy Dill Pickles
And when you go to make your pickles, be sure to use fresh cucumbers. Ideally the goal is to use cucumbers that have been harvested less than 24 hours ago. This will help ensure the pickles end up nice and crisp.
Cucumbers that are a several days old begin to break down as the water content begins to evaporate. Therefore if you use those older cucumbers it will increase the risk that the pickles will turn out mushy when canned.
However, this is where things can get a little tricky.
Many backyard gardens will start producing a couple of cucumbers a day at the beginning of the season. Although you may want to save those for pickling, it is best to wait until the cucumbers are in full production mode.
Save those first few cucumbers for eating fresh or to make Overnight Refrigerator Dill Pickles.
Then when the plants start producing several cucumbers a day, you will have enough fresh cucumbers to use to can several jars of pickles.
4. Cut Off The Blossom End Of Each Cucumber
One of the most important secrets to making crispy pickles is to cut off the blossom end of each cucumber.
The blossom end contains an enzyme that can change the overall chemical balance in your pickles. This enzyme will cause them to soften when canned.
When you pick your cucumbers, leave a little of the stem attached so that it is easy to identify which end is which. However, if you are purchasing cucumbers from a Farmer’s market you will still be able to identify which is the blossom end by the size and texture of the tip.
The stem end will have large, indented circle and the blossom end will be smaller, rougher and may even protrude outward slightly.
Although, if you aren’t quite sure which end is which, go ahead and cut both ends off.
5. Avoid Over Processing
Another possible reason that you might end up with mushy, instead of crispy dill pickles, is by over-processing them. This means that they have spent too much time being exposed to extreme heat conditions during the canning process.
The secret to making sure you end up with crispy pickles is to properly can them in a hot water bath canner. We use the Ball Water Bath Canner and Tool Kit to make our pickles.
However, no matter what brand of canner you use, it is best to have your hot water bath close to a boiling point before you pack your jars with the cucumbers. This will help decrease the amount of time that they are exposed to the extreme temperatures of the hot water both inside the jars and while they are in the canner.
6. Skip the Alum
You may have heard or have read pickle recipes that included alum as the secret ingredient for making crispy pickles.
However, alum is no longer a recommended additive for canning pickles per the FDA.
Alum can still be found on the shelves in the spice aisle or canning section of many grocery stores. However, it is important to note that it is no longer approved for canning pickles.
7. Use A Grape Leaf In Each Jar
And finally, our 7th secret to crispy dill pickles is to add half of a grape leaf to each jar before processing them in the hot water bath.
This really isn’t a secret, rather an old method that has been passed down from generation to generation.
The tannin-rich grape leaves keep lacto-fermented foods crispy, without negatively affecting the taste of the pickles.
For us, it is easy to use grape leaves as we just gather a few from our backyard vineyard. However you can also have access to them by asking neighbors, local vineyards, and of course picking them from wild crops.
Although rumor has it if you follow the other recommended tips above, that the grape leaves may not be necessary at all. We just continue to use the heirloom method because we have easy access to them, and well, it can’t hurt!
We have included our tried and true Crispy Dill Pickle Recipe below for your reference. However, be sure to visit our Pickle and Relish Page for all of our favorite pickling recipes including Bread and Butter Pickles, Gherkins Pickles, Hot & Spicy pickles and more!
Mary and Jim
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Crispy Dill Pickle Recipe
- 6 lbs. pickling cucumbers approximately 3-4 cucumbers per jar
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 3 cups water
- 4 Tbsp. pickling salt
- 7 garlic cloves peeled
- 7 tsp. dill seeds
- 3 1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
- 4 large fresh grape leaves
Prepare jars – wash or sterilize them in the dishwasher – keeping them hot.
Start water bath now – you want it close to the boiling point by the time you are ready to add your jars.
Wash cucumbers – making sure to scrub the skin thoroughly.
Cut off each end of the cucumber, and slice, dice or spear as desired.
In a medium sauce pan, over medium high heat, bring vinegar, water and salt to a boil.
In each jar, add 1 garlic clove, 1 teaspoon of dill seed, and 1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns to the bottom.
Pack cucumbers tightly into each jar.
Pour hot brine over cucumbers, leaving 1/4 inch head space at the top of each jar.
Run a plastic utensil on the inside of the jar to release any air bubbles.
Add 1/2 of a grape leaf on top of the cucumbers.
Wipe top of jar with a clean damp cloth, add hot lid and band.
Place in hot water bath and process for 10 minutes at a rolling boil. (Adjust time based on altitude as required)
Remove jars with a jar lifter and place on a thick towel and let cool at room temperature for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, check to make sure the jars are sealed by pressing down on the center of the lid. If it does not ‘pop’ then it is sealed. If you are able to press down on the lid, place in the refrigerator and use within 2 weeks.
It is best to wait at least 2 weeks before opening your first jar of pickles — believe me, it’s worth the wait!
Recipe courtesy of Old World Garden Farms