Canning Pickles How to Step-by-Step

Canning pickles for beginners is not an easy task. There are certain supplies and ingredients you cannot skimp on. It takes expert advice on how to can to ensure the dill pickles turn out nice and crisp, and that they do not grow bacteria from not being sealed properly. This is a canning pickles how post for how to can the best pickles. I have 4 generations of advice in this post, so you will leave this post feeling like a pickle canning expert. This canning pickles how to post was made possible by my grandparents’ words of wisdom.

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Pickeling Tools

There are a lot of similarities in pickling tools no matter if you are canning dill pickles or canning beets. All of this equipment can be used for a variety of pickeling so it is worth investing in for more than just pickles. Plus this equipment never goes out of style. If you buy it this year, you can use it for plenty of years to come.

Water Bath Canner

If making pickles that are not refrigerater dills, it is important to invest in a good water bath crock. We tried making our canned dill pickles with just a large pot and only put a few jars in at a time, and it was not big enough to seal. Your water bath canner needs to be tall enough to have over a half inch of water over top the jars. If you do not get them sealed properly, you will have to store the jars in the fridge instead of room temperature to ensure they do not spoil. Some people like to reprocess them instead of storing in the fridge, but that can lessen the quality even more. I suggest storing in the fridge if the jar doesn’t seal.

If you need a water bath canner, click on the image below to check the price. This one holds 7 1-quart jars, 9 1-pint jars, or 12 half-pint jars and has a flat bottom base so bottom gets evenly heated throughout. This can help speed up boil time. It does not matter what kind of stove you have when using this canner because it can be used on gas or electric or glass cook tops. The handles also do not get hot with the stay cool technology. No need to worry about grabbing several hot pads trying to move it when you have the stay cool handles to help you out. This crock is also made out of stainless steel, so it will not ding, dent, or chip. This set comes with lid and easy to lift jar rack all for under $40, so it is very affordable.

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Jar Lifter and Funnel

If you do not buy a water bath canner with a jar rack, or are just interested with lifting your jars out of the water one at a time, you can get a jar lifter. This jar lifter has handles that are coated so they are not hot to touch when you are that close to boiling water. This jar lifter can also be used for all cans no matter if they are normal or wide mouth because they are wide grip. A funnel also comes with this jar lifter. The funnel also fits all jars no matter if they are normal or wide mouth. This funnel is useful when pouring the brine in with the jar of cucumbers and other vegetables.

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Jars

To can you need jars! In all my pickle canning recipes, I use quart jars with wide mouths. With making pickles it is just easier to get your fork or finger in the jar to get a pickle out when the jar is wide mouth versus regular mouth jars. The choice is yours though on which type of jar and lids you use though. Just make sure you get jars with lids and rings that fit your jar if you are reusing jars or buying them separately. In this example, the jars come with lids. Click the image to check out the price.

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If you are reusing your own jars, make sure you have enough lids and rings for all your cans. If you happen to run out of rings (as rings are hard to find right now), you can unscrew the rings off of sealed jars and use them on the jars you are trying to seal. As long as the lid stays sealed on the old jar, it will stay sealed without the ring.

My great grandmother used to believe that if you reuse the same lid again, it will seal better. For example, if canning dill pickles, use the same lid you used the year before for canning pickles again for a new batch and not one from an old jelly jar. She believed that the vinegar from the year before would be stuck to the lid and help it seal. I am not sure if that is true or not, but take that for what you will.

If you are interested in buying new rings and lids, click the image below.

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Other miscellenous equipment you have in your house for canning pickles at home

Towels, scrub brushes, measuring cups and knives are also supplies you will probably need when making pickles. The towels will help you dry the cucumbers and other ingredients off when you wash them. A hand towel would also come in handy if your hands get wet or if water gets on the counter while canning.

Scrub brush

If your cucumber or onions happen to be really dirty when washing, you may need a scrub brush to help get the dirt off. This is common to have to use when you are using your home grown vegetables.

Measuring equipment

Some people are expert canners and can eyeball their dill pickle recipe without needing any sort of measuring equipment. If that is not you, and you need measuring equipment, make sure you get your measuring cups and spoons out.

Knives

Knives are also necessary when cutting your vegetables. Some people use a knife to cut some of the stem of the dill off while others fold it. Make sure you read your recipe to see what it directs you to do. It does not really matter what type of knife you use. I typically use a pairing knife though. If you want to buy my favorite pairing knife, click the image or the buy now tag below.
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How to make pickles pin

Common steps in canning pickles

Gather supplies and ingredients

First, you should always gather your supplies before beginning to can. This will ensure that you have enough rings and lids to match the amount of jars. This is also a good point in time to read the recipe over and make sure you have everything the recipe says you need to have whether that be extra equipment or extra ingredients. Lay out your ingredients as well to ensure you have enough cucumbers and dill as well as other ingriedents for the amount of dill pickles you plan on making.

Cut cucumber and other ingredients

Next, you should wash and cut the ingredients that need to be cut. Most often the cucumbers will need to be cut into lengthwise into spears when making dill pickles. If you are making sweet pickles, they are typcially cut horizontally. Make sure to wash the cucumbers before cutting them into whatever shape your recipe says you need to cut them. If your cucumbers have those white pokey spines on them, you can scrub them off with a scrub brush when washing them. Sometimes a towel can also help get them off as well. Do not cut your cucumbers until ready to put them in jars or else they may dry out.

Fill jars with ingredients

Sometimes it helps to layer the ingredients in the jars to ensure even flavor and that the dill head does not pop out. My grandma and grandpa usually put a few pickles, jalapenos, and onion in the jar first. Then, they place the dill head in. Finally, they put the rest of the ingredients on top of the dill head to ensure it stays down.

Make the brine

When making pickles for the first time, the question comes up as to what a brine is. According to the Home and Garden Information Center, a brine is a salt and water solution that cures the vegetables. Usually you have to leave the vegetables in the solution for more than a week, most pickle recipes say to not remove the canned pickles from the brine for about 2 months though. Sometimes brine is fermented and sometimes it is not. In the case of dill pickles, because we use vinegar, we are curing the cucumbers without fermentation.

Follow your recipe on how to make the brine. Typically your ingredients will be some sort of salt and water variation as well as other spices.

Add brine to jars with ingredients

You can fill the jar containing the cucumbers and other vegetables almost up to the top with brine. Just make sure there is about 1/2 inch of space in case the brine needs extra space to bubble. This will ensure in the jar getting sealed properly.

Water bath

Place your jars in the jar rack in your hot water bath. Begin by pouring warm/hot water over top of the jars in the water bath until there is about 1/2 an inch of water above the jars. Do not pour cold water over top the jars or else they could break with the hot brine inside.

Once the water bath has enough water in it, place on top a large burner on high heat. Bring water bath to a boil. Once the bath water is for sure boiling, turn burner off. Do not remove the water bath crock from heat. Just let it cool in that spot. Once it has cooled down for about 2-3 hours, take jars out and set them on the counter. At this point, look and see if the lids are indented to see if they are sealed. See below as to what to do if they are not sealed at this point.

Room temperature

After your jars have been cooling at room temperature for a few days, check to make sure they are sealed by trying to take off the ring. If you have a hard time attempted to take it off, then they are probably sealed. Do not actually take off the ring. This is also a good time to write the date and name of recipe on the lids of the jars.

Store

If you believe all your jars are sealed and are officially room temperature after cooling for a few days, then you can store them in a cool dry place (such as a basement or a cellar) for about 2-3 months (or however long you recipe says to wait) before opening.

pickles in a jar

Canning pickles how to Q&A:

How to execute a crunchy dill pickle recipe:

An ice water bath! After picking your cucumbers and washing them, put them in an ice water bath in the fridge for about 5 hours. After the 5 hours is up, dry them off, and begin to can following your favorite canned dill pickle recipe.

How full of cucumbers and brine should my jars be?

According to my grandma, grandpa likes to pack and fill his jars pretty darn full. You can pack the cucumbers in the jar a little bit, but you do not want to go extremely tight incase the jar would need to expand for some reason. As for how much brine to put in the jar, you can put enough brine in until it is 1/2 inch from the top. It may need a half inch of space to bubble while it is in the water bath. Just make sure there is enough brine to cover all the vegetables in the jar.

What do I do with leftover brine from canning pickles dill recipe?

You can actually save the brine for the next batch of pickles! If you made too much brine for the first batch, you can always keep it in a jar in the fridge until you are ready to make the second batch. When making the next batch, just pour the brine into the pot to be heated, and begin making the second batch of brine. You may want to decrease the recipe a little bit for the second batch of brine since you are using leftover brine with it as well.

Why is my jar of pickles cloudy?

This has happened to my family a few times. Cloudy jars of canned pickles indicate lactic acid bacteria growth during the fermentation process. These are still safe to eat though. In fact, some people prefer these types of pickeling because it indicates a good fermentation process. If you are doing refrigerator dills and the water gets cloudy, do not eat them! This is a sign of bacteria overgrowth. As a kid, we would make polish dills on the counter in ice cream buckets, and we always knew it was time to throw them out when the water got cloudy.

How do I know if my jars got sealed after making my canned dill pickle recipe?

Ensuring that your lids are properly sealed is necessary no matter your canning skill level. It is especially necessary though when you are canning pickles for beginners because beginners often to not know what nonsealed jars may look like. Your lids should be indented if they are properly sealed after the hot water bath. They should also be extremely hard to open. If pretending to open one (as you should not open them right away because it takes 2 months to set), and the ring and lid both pop right off, then your hot water bath did not seal your pickles properly. When this is the case, you caught them unsealed right away and can just put them in the fridge for 2 months to let them let before eating.

If you thought they were sealed before the 2 months of letting them set, and you open your pickle jar to try them for the first time and it does not make a popping noise, then they were not sealed. If the jar is leaking or the lid is no longer indented, it is not sealed anymore either. I would not reccomend eating pickles from an unsealed jar that was in a cool, dry place for 2 months.

canning pickles

Reasons for jars not stealing when canning dill pickles:

  • not enough water in water bath
    • You need to make sure your jars are completely submerged underwater and even have about 1/2 an inch of water over top the jars when they are in the water bath to ensure proper sealing.
  • flaws in the jars themselves
    • When pickling year after year using the same jars, it is common to get a jar with a flaw from use. When there is a flaw in the rim, the jar may have a hard time sealing.
  • issues with rings and lids
    • Rusty rings may prevent the jar from being sealed properly. If you are used to canning a bunch and have been using your rings for quite some time, it may be worth investing in some new rings.
    • When screwing the rings and lids on after pouring the brine in, make sure to wipe off the rim of the jar before screwing on the lids and rings. This will help with sealing.
    • Find a strong person to screw the lids on tightly is necessary as well. You should have the rings screwed on as tight as they can go meeting resistance and a 1/4 turn after that. My grandma always make my grandpa screw the rings on the jars to ensure they are on tight enough.

If you want to read more reasons for jars not sealing, click here.

Tips to ensure the best dill pickles

Here are the expert tips from my grandparents that they think you need to know for canning pickles for beginners:

  • pick your cucumbers and other vegetables in the morning
    • If you are not using homegrown vegetables, then this step does not apply. But if canning pickles is your way of using up those cucumbers that you grew all summer long, make sure you pick them in the morning before it is hot outside. After picking, put them in the fridge, not at room temperature or else they can deteriorate. Picking them in the morning ensures that they are cool and firm. If you wait until it is too hot outside, then they may be hot and soft, which is not the texture we want.
  • use pickeling cucumbers
    • My grandparents pickle cucumbers using all sorts of sizes, but they always use those cucumbers of the pickleing variety. Table or slicing cucumbers are a no go. Always plant or buy the ones that are meant for pickles. When you are buying cucumbers, make sure to not use ones that are waxed as that would not mix well with the pickeling agents.
  • give the cucumbers an ice bath for about 4-5 hours before canning
    • This depends on the recipe, but after picking and washing your cucumbers, place the cucumbers in an ice bath for a few hours. This helps give them that vlasic crunch. If your recipe requires jalapenos, you can add them to the ice bath as well.
  • use crushed garlic instead of minced
    • Crushed garlic gives off more of a strong flavor than minced. Sometimes while canning, the garlic flavor can lessen once it is in the brine. Since you have to wait 2-3 months before trying, it can be difficult to know how much garlic you should have added right away. To for sure get more of a garlic flavor, try crushing the garlic. My grandpa likes to do this by crushing a garlic clove with a plate. You can also use a garlic press as well.
  • use pickeling salt, not table salt
    • My grandma said that sometimes you may be able to get by with table salt, but because it is not always the same density, it is not ideal for pickleing. She insists that pickleing salt works best though to ensure a properly preserved product. There is no one brand of pickeling salt she reccomends, but she believes the off brand works just as good as the name brand.
  • don’t use hard water
    • My house only has hard water. If your house is the same way, boil a pot of water the day before you begin canning. Let the water cool in the pot overnight. Then, pour the top sediment of water off. Use the remaining water for your brine.
  • rinse outside of jars with hot water
    • Before pouring the hot brine into the jars, rinse the outside of the jars with hot water. This lessens the shock the jar receives when the hot brine is poured into the jar. It also helps prevent the jar from breaking. A perfect time to rinse the jars is when the brine is cooking.
  • hot tap water bath
    • When filling your water bath with your jars, make sure you use warm or hot water to fill over the jars. The jars will be hot with the brine being inside them. It is common for some people to think it does not matter what temperature of water goes over the jars because the water is heated to a boil anyway. Do not fill the water bath with cold water or else they could break. It is necessary for the water to be somewhat hot.

Conclusion

It may take a few tries to get it right when canning pickles for beginners. I hope you learned a lot in this canning pickles how to post. Canning is an art may people do not do anymore, but 100 years ago, it was necessary for surviving the winters. By canning now, we can keep the art alive for generations to come and appreciate the previous generations skills in preserving their garden goods.

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10 Comments

  1. I appreciate the thoughtful and easily digestible way you laid this information out. I’ve always been so intimidated by canning and pickling, but this post makes the process feel very attainable. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. I remember making pickled chillis its a staple here in every meal, I think I need to do again with cucumbers too.

  3. Thank you for such a thorough and informative post. I have some cucumbers in the garden and I know I’m going to want to come back and read this again before getting started. I look forward to trying these, especially with jalapeno! Yum!

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