Making pickles is a fun way to get in on the current canning craze, and who couldn't use an extra jar of pickles in the fridge? However, it can get frustrating when your pest efforts to produce tasty pickles produce mushy or limp pickles instead of firm and crunchy ones. It's a common problem for those that are new to pickling, but luckily there are some easy solutions.
Check out three tips that will help you make crispier pickles at home:
Start With Crispy Cucumbers
The problem may lie with the produce that you're using to make your pickles. There's no way to firm up a vegetable that's already overripe, so make sure that you're choosing cucumbers that are fresh. Growing them yourself or buying them from local farmers – or at least from the local farmer's market – is the best way to ensure that you have the freshest and firmest cucumbers.
Cucumbers that are in the produce section of your local grocery store have probably been shipped in and may have already been sitting around too long to make really good pickles.
Cucumbers tend to get mushy at the ends first, because of an enzyme in the blossom that causes the vegetable to soften. Cutting off the ends of the cucumbers before pickling them can help prevent that enzyme from spreading to the rest of the cucumber.
Try a Lime Soak
Soaking your cucumbers in lime for several hours before you begin the pickling process can help preserve the firmness of the cucumber and ensure a nice, crunchy pickle. This works because limes contain calcium, which contributes to the firmness of the pickle.
However, lime juice also contains hydroxide, which can reduce the acidity of the pickling solution and make your pickles unsafe for consumption. If you choose to soak your cucumbers in lime before pickling them, you'll also need to wash them off and soak them in clean water several times before putting them in the pickling solution.
A simple, no-fuss way of ensuring crisp, firm pickles is to add grape leaves to the pickle jar, along with the other ingredients. This works because some leaves contain tannins, which have an affect on the enzymes that cause cucumbers to become soft as the ripen.
Grape leaves aren't the only tannin-containing leaves that you can use, although they are a popular choice. If you don't have grape leaves available, try cherry leaves, white oak leaves, or horseradish leaves for the same firming effect.
There's nothing quite like a good, crunchy pickle to complement a hamburger or a sandwich. With these tips, your next batch of kosher dill pickles will be the perfect crispy pickles you've been looking for.