Pickling Your Extra Garden Vegetables

It is about the time of year when produce from the garden is starting to make its way into your homes, onto your countertops, tables, and even into your dinner. Wouldn’t it be nice if your produce could just be harvested throughout the entire year so we wouldn’t have to worry about what to do with the extra?

Trying to decide what to do with all those extra veggies that your garden is producing from all your green thumbs and hard labor can be a challenge. If you feel like you’re caught in a pickle you are not alone. Let’s take a look at one solution … pickling!

pickling foodWhere Did Pickling Come From?
Pickling, one of the oldest forms of food preservation, has been around for thousands of years. Nobody knows the exact details of how the pickle came to be, but archaeological evidence shows that it has been around since 2400 BC as a way to preserve food. Pickles also played a big role in helping Christopher Columbus and his crew last the long voyage to America. At the time of Columbus, many expeditions were thwarted due to scurvy - a disease caused by a lack of Vitamin C. Columbus’ ship stocker, Amerigo Vespucci, made sure to stock the ships with plenty of pickles and, as a result, helped prevent a scurvy outbreak. The name “America” came from Amerigo Vespucci, the pickle merchant.

Napoleon Bonaparte also fancied the pickle and even helped advance the preservation method of pickling. Believing that pickles had many health benefits, Bonaparte offered a cash prize to anyone that could extend the life of the pickle so his troops could take pickles into the field. As a result of the incentive, Nicholas Appert, now known as the “father of canning,” discovered the water bath method to kill bacteria and preserve food for extended periods of time.The water bath method is still used today when making pickles.

Tips to Pickling
Pickling your extra harvest is a great way to preserve your food to be enjoyed at a later time. Pickling can also increase the nutritional value of foods as bacteria produce B vitamins through fermentation. So, get creative with with your pickling, have fun, and if you find yourself in a pickle, it’s no big “dill,” just check out the recipes below.

Keep these tips in mind as you begin your pickle journey:

-The level of acidity (or pH level) in a pickle is very important to safety. Do not alter the type or amount of vinegar, water, sugar, or salt used when pickling. These ingredients are meant to create and maintain the correct pH level to preserve your food.

-Use fresh vegetables free of any spoilage.

-Use a canning or pickling salt. Table salt contains additional non-caking additives that can make your pickle juice cloudy.

-Using a canner is the safest way to pickle and can your own foods. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, “processing the pickles in a boiling-water canner will prevent” spoilage from “microorganisms, particularly yeasts and molds.”

Bread & Butter Pickles  


• 6 lbs of 4- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
• 8 cups thinly sliced onions (about 3 pounds)
• 1/2 cup canning or pickling salt
• 4 cups vinegar (5 percent)
• 4-1/2 cups sugar
• 2 tbsp mustard seed
• 1-1/2 tbsp celery seed
• 1 tbsp ground turmeric
• 1 cup pickling lime (optional- for use in variation below for making firmer pickles)

1. Wash cucumbers. Trim 1/16-inch off blossom end and discard. Cut into 3/16-inch slices.
2. Combine cucumbers and onions together in a large bowl. Add salt. Cover with 2 inches ice. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours, adding more ice as needed.
3. Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot. Boil 10 minutes. Drain, then add cucumbers and onions and slowly reheat to boiling.
4. Fill jars with slices and cooking syrup, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and fit lids.

Note: After processing and cooling, pickles should be stored 4-5 weeks to create best flavor.

Pickled Asparagus  


• 7 pounds asparagus
• 7 large garlic cloves
• 3 cups water
• 3 cups white distilled vinegar (5%)
• 7 small hot peppers (optional)
• 1/3 cup canning salt
• 2 teaspoons dill seed

1. Thoroughly wash and rinse canning jars; keep hot until ready to use.
2. Clean asparagus well, but gently, under running water. Trim stems from the bottom to leave spears with tips that fit into the canning jar with a little less than ½-inch headspace. Peel and wash garlic cloves. Place a garlic clove at the bottom of each empty jar, then tightly pack asparagus into jars with the blunt ends down.
3. In an 8-quart Dutch oven or saucepot, combine water, vinegar, hot peppers (optional), salt and dill seed. Bring to a boil. Place one hot pepper (if used) in each jar over asparagus spears. Pour boiling hot pickling brine over spears, leaving ½-inch headspace.
4. Release air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a damp, clean paper towel; add lids.
5.Process in a boiling water canner according to the recommendations in Table 2. Let cool, undisturbed, for 12-24 hours and check for seals.

Pickled Beets  

• 7 lbs of 2- to 2-1/2-inch diameter beets
• 4 cups vinegar (5 percent)
• 1-1/2 teaspoons canning or pickling salt
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 cups water
• 2 cinnamon sticks
• 12 whole cloves
• 4 to 6 onions (2- to 2-1/2-inch diameter) if desired

1. Cut off beet tops, leaving 1 inch of stem and roots to prevent bleeding of color. Clean well. Sort for size. Cover similar sizes together with boiling water and cook until tender (about 25 to 30 minutes). Caution: Drain and discard liquid.
2. Cool beets. Trim off roots and stems and slip off skins. Slice into even 1/4-inch slices. Peel and thinly slice onions. Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, and fresh water.
3. Put spices in cheesecloth bag and add to vinegar mixture. Bring to a boil. Add beets and onions. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove spice bag.
4. Fill jars with beets and onions, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Add hot vinegar mixture, allowing 1/2-inch headspace.
5. Adjust lids and process according to the recommendations in this table

Pickled Carrots  

• 2 3/4 pounds peeled carrots (about 3½ pounds as purchased)
• 5 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar (5%)
• 1 cup water
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 teaspoons canning salt
• 8 teaspoons mustard seed
• 4 teaspoons celery seed

1. Wash and rinse pint canning jars; keep hot until ready to use. Prepare lids and bands according to manufacturer's directions.
2. Wash and peel carrots thoroughly. Wash again after peeling, then cut into rounds that are approximately ½-inch thick.
3. Combine vinegar, water, sugar and canning salt in an 8-quart Dutch oven or stockpot. Bring to a boil and boil gently 3 minutes. Add carrots and bring back to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer and heat until half-cooked (about 10 minutes).
4. Meanwhile, place 2 teaspoons mustard seed and 1 teaspoon celery seed into each empty, clean, hot pint jar.
5. Fill jars with the hot carrots, leaving 1-inch headspace. Cover with hot pickling liquid, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel; adjust lids as you go.
6. Process in a boiling water canner, as recommended in Table 4. Let cool 12-24 hours and check for seals.

Note: Allow carrots to sit in processed jars for 3 to 5 days before consuming for best flavor development.

Bread & Butter Zucchini  


• 16 cups fresh zucchini, sliced
• 4 cups onions, thinly sliced
• 1/2 cup canning or pickling salt
• 4 cups white vinegar (5%)
• 2 cups sugar
• 4 tbsp mustard seed
• 2 tbsp celery seed
• 2 tsp ground turmeric

1. Cover zucchini and onion slices with 1 inch of water and salt. Let stand 2 hours and drain thoroughly.
2. Combine vinegar, sugar, and spices. Bring to a boil and add zucchini and onions.
3. Simmer 5 minutes and fill jars with mixture and pickling solution, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
4. Relieve air bubbles. Adjust lids and process according to the recommendations in Table 5 or use low-temperature pasteurization treatment.

All recipes adapted from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

10 thoughts on “Pickling Your Extra Garden Vegetables”

  • Cheryl O.

    Good advice and recipes! I also like to pickle green beans whole with a piece of garlic in the jar. Very tasty! When i was a kid, we pickled whole crab apples. I remember there being cloves and cinnamon in the juice. We had them in a little cheese cloth bag simmering in the liquid we pickled them with. Mom put a drop of red food color in each quart, though I am sure it isn't necessary. SO good with pork chops as I recall. I will be pickling carrots and green beans besides the usual cukes this summer.

  • Cheryl O.

    Oh, and one thing I forgot.. WATERMELON PICKLES!! No idea how that slipped my mind.. we used to pickle the white part if the outer skins on watermelons.. we made kind of a "bread and butter" pickle recipe but cut the rind into spears. I found mom's old cookbook but the recipe is written in the Czech language. I'll have to type it as written into the translator thing on Google one of these days. I'd like to make those again too.

  • Sharon

    About how many pints/quarts do these recipes make? I am new to canning and don't just know by looking at the recipe. I prefer half-pints and pints for the two of us. I would like to try the Asparagus next spring. Zucchini is ready now.

  • Kimberly

    I also love to pickle cauliflower as it results in a really firm pickle. I have used a bread and butter recipe substituting cauliflower for the cucumbers. This is especially great to do when cauliflower is on sale (we did it last year when it was about 25 cents a pound!) or if yours is coming on strong.

  • Sharon Lockhart
    Sharon Lockhart January 18, 2014 at 5:39 am

    I have been looking for a good recipe for Pickled Carrots, this one will do just fine.

  • Karen

    Excuse my ignorance but I am new to canning. I am just wondering once vegetables are canned do you eat them straight out of the jar or can you cook them to eat them with a meal?

  • Keith Connell
    Keith Connell April 1, 2014 at 5:26 am

    Eat them either way. We pickle tons of peppers and like to eat them with chicken or red meats.

  • NameD Workman
    NameD Workman May 11, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    I would like to save the great recipes is there a book on these? I am new to canning and collection recipes thanks great articles

  • Cathy N

    What is the shelf life of pickled foods?

  • Ecurb TheProphet
    Ecurb TheProphet May 12, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Cathy... the shelf-life of pickles is almost indefinite.

    Ever heard of, "thousand year eggs," (or hundred year eggs)? (and kim chi?)

    While probably not that old - they are old!

    What you preserve will break down over time. After all, vinegar is an acid. But, if you have rid your product of microbes and removed all of the AIR bubbles in your canning process - your pickles will be very good quality for several years at least. (years!)

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