How to Grow and Pickle Cucumbers
Cucumbers are an easy crop to grow in your garden, and they make for one of the most versatile vegetables to use in your kitchen. Cucumbers can be used in salads, on tacos, in sandwiches, among many other crunchily delightful uses. However, despite so many uses for cucumbers, when you grow a cucumber plant, you will more than likely be hauling in way more cucumbers than even the largest and hungriest families can take advantage of on their own.
That is where pickling comes in. When you pickle your extra cucumbers, you have zero waste, and there will be no time crunch to eat all of those delicious pickles. Pickled cucumbers are not only delectable, but they also make for a fun little summertime endeavor. So in this article, we will quickly cover how to grow cucumbers and then dive into how to pickle cucumbers and include a variety of recipes for new and interesting flavor profiles.
How to Grow Cucumbers
Cucumbers are generally easy to grow as long as you have a couple of preparations in place. The first thing you will need when growing cucumbers is a trellis that provides the cucumber vines something to grow on. You can buy a cucumber trellis relatively inexpensively at any garden shop. The vines will crawl up the trellis, and the cucumbers will hang from the openings, making it easy to spot and pick them when they’re ripe.
A cucumber will be ripe enough to pick once it gets above six inches in length. Do not let the cucumber grow much larger than nine inches, as the taste and crunchiness will start to diminish.
The second preparation to have in place when growing cucumbers is a raised bed. Cucumber roots want to bury far into the ground, as much as three to four feet, and a raised bed will provide them room to grow. A raised bed also allows you to dictate the specific soil the cucumbers grow in, rather than relying on what is in your yard.
You want to pick a spot in your yard that gets full sun. The more sunlight your cucumber plant gets, the more cucumbers you will have to pick. And the whole point of pickling your extra cucumbers is making sure you have a plentiful yield of crops. Eight hours of direct sunlight is ideal for growing cucumbers.
Cucumbers only need about one to two inches of water per week. Depending on how much rain you get each week, you may not have to supplement with too much of your own watering. Feel the soil to understand its dampness level. If you are in a dry period, one or two watering sessions per week will work.
Ideally, cucumbers prefer sandy, loamy soil. But any well-draining soil will do. You can achieve this by adding a two-inch layer of organic matter to your topsoil. If you have a compost bin, the organic matter can come straight from your own yard.
Apply fertilizer to your cucumber plant when you first set it into the ground. Add again one week after you notice the first yellow flowers blooming. Those pretty yellow flowers will eventually turn into tiny cucumbers. Apply fertilizer every three weeks after that first bloom appears.
Best Pickle Recipes
We’ll go through three different pickle recipes below to help you decide what your personal preference is. Once you have made a few different recipes, you can begin to create your own personalized recipe for the perfect tasting pickles.
Simply Tasty Pickles
Let’s start with an easy recipe for a not too salty, not too sweet, and not too spicy jar of pickles. Here is what you will need:
- Cucumbers (one large or two smaller cucumbers)
- Half a cup of water
- Half a cup of rice vinegar
- One and a half tablespoons of either maple syrup or sugar
- One and a half teaspoons of sea salt
- One-quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes (more or less for your desired level of spiciness)
- Freshly ground black pepper (12 to 20 twists)
- Two cloves of garlic freshly peeled and smashed
- One bay leaf
- One wide-mouth jar
- Slice the cucumbers however you would like. Make sure to cut off the blossoms from either end before slicing. For burger-ready chips, slice into one-eighth inch rounds. For spears, slice the cucumber lengthwise, slice it again into quarters, and slice one final time into eighths. You may need to slice the spears in half depending on how tall your jar is. For sandwich slices, cut off a strip of cucumber lengthwise and lay it down flat. Now, slice lengthwise into your preferred width.
- Combine the brine mixture into a large measuring cup or bowl. This will consist of water, vinegar, sweetener, salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and smashed garlic. Stir until the salt has mostly dissolved.
- Place the cucumbers in your wide-mouth jar, which should be about three to four inches wide. A pint-sized mason jar will work perfectly.
- Add the dill sprigs and bay leaf and then pour the brine into the jar. Place in a refrigerator and wait at least one day before eating. The flavor will continue to develop over the next several days, and the pickles should keep for at least three weeks.
Spicy Dill Pickles
These pickles will be on the spicier side, but not too spicy. You will still want to dive in for the next slice until the jar is empty. Leave out the jalapenos if you are worried it will be too spicy.
- Cucumbers (either three small pickling cucumbers, two medium-sized, or one large cucumber)
- A quarter cup of sliced sweet onion
- Three to five sprigs of fresh dill weed
- Half a cup of apple cider vinegar
- Half a cup of water
- Two cloves of garlic freshly peeled and smashed
- One chopped jalapeno
- One-quarter teaspoon of ground black pepper
- One and a half teaspoons of kosher salt
- One-quarter teaspoon of sugar
- One-quarter teaspoon of yellow mustard seeds
- Half a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
- Slice the cucumbers into your desired shapes using the instructions in the last recipe and pack them in a pint-sized jar with at least a half an inch of space at the top. Make sure to cut off the blossoms from either end before slicing. Add the onions and dill sprigs.
- In a pot, add the brining mixture, which includes the vinegar, water, jalapeno, black pepper, salt, sugar, mustard seeds, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Heat to a simmer until the sugar and salt dissolve.
- Wait until the brine cools down and fill the jar so that everything is covered.
- Place in a refrigerator and wait at least 24 hours before tasting.
The apple cider vinegar provides a different spin for this recipe. If you find yourself not in love with the vinegar taste, add more sugar, or try a different type of vinegar. Make sure that whatever vinegar you use has five percent acidity.
Savory Dill Kosher Pickles
This pickle recipe is meant to mirror some of the classic pickles you remember eating in your youth, such as Claussen or Vlasic brand. Salty and crunchy, you cannot go wrong with this savory pickle recipe. This recipe is for a larger amount of pickles, so you can adjust accordingly. One large cucumber is equal to about ten small pickling cucumbers.
- 20 small pickling cucumbers
- Eight cups of water
- Half a cup of white vinegar
- One-third cup of pickling salt or Kosher salt
- One teaspoon of coriander seed
- Half a teaspoon of mustard seed
- One-quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes
- One tablespoon of black peppercorns
- One tablespoon of dill seed
- A quarter teaspoon of dried garlic
- Two quart-size jars
- Mesh colander
- Start by combining the water and vinegar in a large pitcher to create the brine. Add the salt, black peppercorns, coriander seed, mustard seed, and red pepper flakes. Stir it until the salt dissolves.
- Cut off the blossoms from either end of the cucumbers and then slice one time lengthwise.
- Take the two quart-size jars and fill them evenly with the dill seed and dried garlic. Now fill each with as many cucumber halves as you can.
- You will not be using all of the water for the brine, so take the mesh colander and pour the brine mixture over it into a measuring cup. Hold onto all of the solids because you will use them in the next step.
- Take the solids from the colander and add them evenly to the two jars. Next, pour the brine water from the measuring cup and fill the jars until the cucumbers are all submerged.
- This next step will be much different from previous recipes. Take the lids of the jars and place them on top but do not seal them. Leave the jars on the counter out of direct sunlight for two days.
- Taste test a cucumber and see if it is pickled. If you would like a little more flavor, leave them on the counter for two more days. Then secure the lids and place them in the refrigerator. They should stay tasty for the next six months.
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