By Shirley Camp, Retired University of Illinois Extension Educator
Preserving your own pickles means you have your favorite pickle flavors available all year round. Mrs. Wages® pickle mixes make it easy for you to make many of your favorites including sweet pickles, bread and butter pickles, kosher dills, spicy dills, and many more. If you just want one jar for the refrigerator, buy the single refrigerator pickle mixes. If you want to preserve more for later, the mixes for canning yield 4 or 5 pints per package.
Here are steps to making perfect pickles
To can pickles, you will need a large boiling water bath canner or pot with a rack that will allow 1 inch of boiling water over the tops of the jars. Ideally it should be 4-5 inches taller than the jars you plan to can in. You will also need a jar lifter, bubble freer, saucepan, pint canning jars with rings and new lids plus the pickle mix and other ingredients specified on the package.
Step 1: Choose pickling cucumbers, not slicing cucumbers. These are short and blocky for their size – about 4-inches long. They should be firm and green in color with no blemishes. Remember for pickles you must cut off 1/16-inch from the blossom end to help prevent soft mushy pickles (the blossom end contains an enzyme that will cause softening). Keep the cukes cool in the refrigerator until you have enough to make a batch but do not hold them too long or you will end up with shriveled pickles.
Step 2: Fill the water bath canner half-full with hot water and place on the burner, set the heat to medium. Heat another kettle of water for filling the canner after the jars are added.
Step 3: Scrub the cucumbers with a vegetable brush to remove all surface soil. Make sure all utensils and your kitchen is clean.
Step 4: Prepare the pickle mix according to the package directions. Heat it in a large non-reactive pot, stirring until the ingredients are well mixed and the mixture comes to a boil.
Step 5: Choose the style of pickles you want – whole, spears, or slices and prepare the cucumbers for the jars. Pack the raw cucumbers into sterilized hot jars (jars that have been boiled in water for 10 minutes), making sure to leave ½-inch of headspace at the top of the jar.
Step 6: Divide the hot pickling mix evenly among the jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. If more liquid is needed heat 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water and fill to the desired level. Wipe the rims of the jars, add prepared lids and screw bands. Use a jar lifter and lower the prepared jars into the canner (make sure the rack is in place and the jars are not touching). When all filled jars are in the canner, check to see that the water is at least 1-inch over the tops of the jars, if not, add more boiling water to the canner. Put the lid on the canner and set the heat to high. Start timing the canning process when the water has returned to a full rolling boil. Process for the specified amount of time. At the end of the processing time, turn the heat off and remove the lid. Let the jars sit in the canner for 5 minutes to complete the canning process.
Step 7: Cool the jars. Remove the jars to a cooling rack or towel leaving them upright. Allow jars to cool for 12 to 24 hours then check to make sure all jars are sealed. Wash jars, label and store in a cool, dry place. The rings can be removed for storage. Jars that have not sealed should be placed in the refrigerator and used soon.
You can find Mrs. Wages® pickle mixes at many grocery, farm, and discount stores. If you don’t see them, ask the store manager if they are willing to carry them in that store. You may also order online at http://store.mrswagesstore.com/