Pickling is a great way to preserve the summer harvest, and not just cucumbers. If you’re a fan of homemade pickles, relishes, or chutneys, then you know that a good pickling spice blend is the secret ingredient that takes your preserves to the next level.
Of course, you can buy little packets of pickling spice, but they’re expensive and making your own homemade pickling spice is so very easy.
What is Pickling Spice Made Of
I’ve been canning for over 30 years and during that time I’ve noticed a trend that bothers me. Companies like Ball, which is considered to a “trusted” resource for canning recipes (which it is!!!) have changed many of their recipes to include their brand name salt, spices, and mixes. For instance, older Ball recipes would list “canning salt” as an ingredient. Updated recipes list, “Ball canning salt” as the salt ingredient.
I get that they want to steer people to their products, that’s why they make them. But I think this can be confusing for the beginner canner…after all, they’ve been told to NEVER change a recipe. So, do you really have to just use Ball canning salt or Ball Pickling Spice in a Ball recipe? No, you can use any canning salt (and maybe even the salt you cook with) for canning.
The same is true for pickling spice, you can open your spice cabinet and make your own homemade pickling spice recipe.
Pickling spice is just a blend of spices such as yellow mustard seed, whole peppercorns, bay leaf, and maybe some red pepper flakes for spicy pickles. These would be the basic ingredients, you can customize your own blend by adding spices such as, coriander seed, dill seed, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, juniper berries, star anise, fennel seeds, cardamon seeds, and celery seeds.
For pickling spice, you really want to use whole seeds and whole spices. If you want a more intense flavor you can roughly crush the spices just before using. But don’t crush the pickling spice ahead of time and then store it crushed, it just won’t be as flavorful.
Also, if you end up adding ground spices to your mix, such as ginger or turmeric, add them last and mix them thoroughly. Try to coat the seeds with the ground spices. I prefer to just add ground individual spices to the jars of pickles as I’m making them, instead of adding them to the pickling spice mix.
You can add fresh ingredients such as onion slices, garlic cloves, fresh dill weed, and other fresh herbs when you actually make the pickled vegetables.
Where to Buy Spices
While you can find all of the herbs in this pickling blend at your neighborhood grocery store, they are often quite pricey in the little round bottles. If you’re going to be doing quite a bit of pickle making, I suggest buying in bulk from somewhere like Starwest Botanicals, which is my favorite place to buy quality herbs and spices.
How Much Pickling Spice to Use
How much pickling spice you use will depend of a couple of things. For instance, are you going to add the pickling spice to the bottom of the jar before packing the jars with cucumbers and vinegar brine? Or are you going to put the pickling spice mix in a spice bag or piece of cheesecloth and infuse the brine first, then remove the bag before you add the brine to the jars?
As a general rule of thumb, use 1 1/2 teaspoons pickling spice per pint-sized jar and 1 tablespoon pickling spice per quart-sized jar. If you are going to infuse the brine with the spices first and not add them to the jars, you’ll need 8 1/2 tablespoons spice for a full canner of 9 pint jars and 7 tablespoons spice for a full canner of 7 quart jars. That being said, some cucumber pickles need to be water bath processed longer in quart jars, so I prefer to can pickles in pint jars.
Storing Pickling Spice
Store your homemade pickling spice blend in an airtight container in a cool dry place, away from direct sunlight. This will help preserve its flavor and potency. Before using, gently shake jar to make sure the mixture of spices is thoroughly combined.
Be sure to label the container. If you want some cute, customizable labels for your jars just fill out the form below and we’ll email a printable pdf to you.
Ways to Use Pickling Spice
Pickling cucumbers isn’t the only thing you can do with pickling spice. You can also use it to pickle red onions, carrots, green beans, beets, jalapenos and other peppers.
You can also pickling spice for marinading meat, you can crush or grind the spices to bring out more flavor.
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- 7 Tablespoons coriander seeds
- 7 Tablespoons whole peppercorns (black, pink or white)
- 7 Tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
- 7 Bay leaves crumbled
- 2 Cinnamon sticks (broken)
- 4 Tablespoons dill seed
- 4 Tablespoons whole allspice berries
- 1 Tablespoon celery seed
- 1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper*
- 10 Whole Cloves
- 8 Juniper berries
- 4 Star Anise**
- 4 Cardamon pods**
- 1 Tablespoon ground ginger***
- 1 Tablespoon ground turmeric***
- Combine spices in a small bowl. Pick and choose add-ins to create your own spice blends. If adding ground spices, be sure to add them last. Also, break up the bay leaves into small pieces.
- Before using each time, shake the jar to evenly distribute the spices.
- Store in a large mason jar or other airtight jar at room temperature out of direct sunlight.
- Use within 12-24 months.
*This amount of red pepper flakes will give the pickle brine just a bit of heat. If you want spicier pickles, add more red pepper flakes to the mix or tuck fresh chili peppers in the jars.
**Since there are so few star anise and cardamon pods in this recipe, you will probably want to coarsely crush them so that they will be mixed evenly throughout the mix.
***Add ground spices at the very end so they coat the seeds.
Tips and Variations:
- Feel free to adjust the quantities of the spices based on your personal taste preferences. If you like spicy flavors, increase the amount of crushed red pepper flakes or black peppercorns. For a milder flavor, reduce these ingredients accordingly.
- You can experiment with additional spices to customize your pickling spice blend. Some popular additions include fennel seeds or even a touch of nutmeg. Be creative and find the combination of spices that suits your tastes.
- When using your pickling spice blend, add it to your pickling brine or tie it in a cheesecloth pouch and steep it in the vinegar mixture. This will infuse the flavors into your pickles while making it easier to remove the spices afterward.
- If you prefer the spices in the jar, add them to the bottom of the jar before packing with vegetables and brine.
- Use a combination of vinegar in your pickles to create a complex flavor. I rarely use just white vinegar, instead I use a combination of white vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Just make sure that whatever vinegar you use has 5% acidity.
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More Pickle Recipes
Making your own pickling spice blend allows you to control the flavors and create unique pickles that will impress your family and friends. With this simple recipe, you have the foundation for a delicious and aromatic spice blend that will take your homemade pickles to new heights. So, roll up your sleeves, gather your spices, and embark on your pickling adventure. Enjoy the tangy, crunchy delights that await you!