Canned Sour Pickles and Pickling Spice

Cucumbers brined in vinegar solution and shot through with pepper and spice make spirited -- and addictive -- snacks.
Whole Living, July/August 2010
  • Yield Makes 3 quarts
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  • For the Sour Pickles

    • 3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
    • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
    • 4 teaspoons allspice
    • 1 cinnamon stick, crumbled
    • 3 3/4 pounds Kirby cucumbers, scrubbed
    • 1/2 cup Kosher salt or 1/3 cup pickling salt, plus coarse salt for pickling liquid
    • 2 1/2 cups distilled white or apple cider vinegar
    • 2 1/2 cups water
    • 2 tablespoons pickling spice (ingredients above or store-bought)
    • Dill and garlic (optional)


  1. On the first day: Trim blossom ends from cucumbers
    and cut lengthwise into
    quarters or halves. Put in a bowl;
    add salt (A). Cover with cool
    water and mix to dissolve salt (B).

  2. Place a small plate inside bowl on top of cucumbers to keep them submerged. Let stand at cool room temperature or in refrigerator for 12 to 18 hours.

  3. On the second day: Prepare jars as described in
    General Rules. Drain cucumbers,
    rinse, and drain again. Bring
    vinegar, water, and 1 tsp. Kosher
    salt to a boil.

  4. Lift jars out of hot water one at a time, draining water. Fill with cucumbers (C). (It helps to lay jar on side and fill edges first, then center -- this keeps cucumbers from falling over.) If desired add 2 cloves garlic and 2 or 3 sprigs dill to each jar. Sprinkle 2 tsp. pickling spice into quart jars. (If you're going to store pickles for longer than a month, rather than adding spices directly, put them in a cheesecloth bag and simmer in pickling liquid for 5 minutes. Remove before filling jars.) Fill with boiling pickling liquid. Leave 1/2-inch headspace.

  5. Slide a nonmetallic spatula
    or chopstick between cucumbers
    and jar; release air bubbles
    by pressing gingerly on cucumbers.
    Repeat 2 or 3 times.

  6. Wipe rim and threads of jar
    with a clean, damp cloth. Remove
    lid from hot water and place on
    jar. Screw band down, just until
    resistance is met. As each jar is
    filled, set it onto rack in boilingwater
    canner. Keep canner water
    at a simmer.

  7. After all jars are filled and
    placed on rack, bring water to a
    boil. Lower rack into canner.
    Water level must cover caps on
    jars by 1 to 2 inches. If needed,
    add more boiling water.

  8. Put lid on canner. As soon as
    jars are lowered, start counting
    time. Return to a boil. Process
    quarts 15 minutes, at a gentle
    but steady boil.

  9. Remove jars from canner and set them upright on a dry towel or rack to cool. Do not retighten bands. Let jars cool for 12 hours minimum, 24 hours maximum. After jars have cooled, check lids for a good vacuum seal by pressing on center of each. If center is pulled down and does not flex, remove band and gently try to lift lid off with your fingertips. If lid does not flex and you cannot lift it off, seal is set. Wipe lid and jar surface with a damp cloth to remove food particles and residue. Label. Store jars in a cool, dry, dark place. Pickles will continue to absorb brine over time, deepening the intensity of both flavor and color (D).

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