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Preserving the Harvest….Cucumbers

Canning pickles is not the only way to preserve cucumbers. You can also ferment, dehydrate and even freeze them.

It seems to be feast or famine with cucumbers at our little homestead. Some years I just cannot get them to produce at all and other years I’m wondering what in the world we’re going to do with them all. We’re in a feasting year this year.

Normally that would be a good thing but only three of us like raw cucumbers and only four of us like pickles. {sigh} So, I’m doing my best to preserve the cucumbers for the winter and to share with friends and family. But the vines are so thick that sometimes the only time I see a cucumber is once it’s over grown and turned orange. The chickens are loving those. 

I’m growing three different varieties of cucumbers right now; pickling, slicing and Armenian. We eat them all raw, although we all agree that the Armenian cucumbers are our least favorite so I probably won’t be growing those in the future. I preserve both the pickling cucumbers and small slicing cucumbers

I have a set of worksheets I print each year to keep track of what I’ve preserved. You can get the worksheets emailed to you by filling out the form below. 

Canning pickles is not the only way to preserve cucumbers. You can also ferment, dehydrate and even freeze them.

Canning Cucumbers

Otherwise known as pickles or relish. People seem to either love or hate pickles. And if they love them, they definitely have strong opinions about which ones they love. Some love sweet pickles and hate savory ones, and some people are just the opposite. I tend to really like them both. 

In order to can cucumbers you have to add vinegar because cucumbers are a low acid food. I looked in the Ball Blue Book and my pressure canning book and neither of mention pressure canning cucumbers without vinegar. I don’t know if that’s because it’s not possible to do safely or because the end result is gross. I do rouge food preservation things occasionally but canning cucumbers without vinegar isn’t one of them. 

Since you need to add vinegar to can cucumbers you can do it in a water bath canner instead of a pressure canner

One of the most common complaints about home canned cucumbers is that they lack the crunch that commercially canned cucumbers have. Here are a couple of tips for making sure your pickles or relish have crunch.

Start with cold cucumbers. After I wash our cucumbers I put them in the refrigerator until we have enough to can.

Also, when you are going to make the pickles, put the sliced (or whole) cucumbers in a bowl and sprinkle canning salt on them. Cover them with a towel and put ice on top. And let sit for at least 3 hours. I usually do this at night and let them sit overnight and can them in the morning. 

Lastly, grape leaves have tannin in them that is said to help pickles retain their crunch. So, if you have grape vines available go ahead and put a grape leaf in each jar. 

I make bread and butter pickles each year. This year I have so many cucumbers that I’m making canned dill pickles to give to some of our family. I’ve never made canned dill pickles before but Quinn from Reformation Acres gave me some great advice on how much dill to put into each jar. Then I found out she had this wonderful  video of her kids making dill pickles

Maybe relish is more of your thing? Laura from Heavenly Homemaker has a healthier version of sweet relish and Erin from Putting Up With Erin has dill relish recipe that has a little bit of kick to it. 

ingredients for fermenting cucumber pickles and The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables book

Fermenting Cucumbers

Another way to make pickles is to ferment them using a brine. I started fermenting this year and so are I’m loving it. I’m using mason jars and the Easy Fermenter system which is super easy to use. One thing I like about fermenting the cucumbers instead of canning them is that the hands on time is minimal with fermenting. 

Still, you want to start with cold cucumbers and add grape leaves (or a pinch of black tea leaves) in order to have crunchy pickles. 

Here are step by step instructions for fermenting dill cucumbers.

From what I’ve learned you really can’t ferment sweet pickles, they turn into wine. Also, since fermented pickles need to be stored in the refrigerator, they are hard to give as gifts or share with out of town family or friends. So, we’re doing fermented dill pickles for us and canned dills for sharing. The canned might not be as healthy as the fermented but they are way better for you that what you buy in the store. 

Here is a step by step guide for how to make lacto fermented dill pickles.

Canning pickles is not the only way to preserve cucumbers. You can also ferment, dehydrate and even freeze them.

Freezing Cucumbers

Yep, I’ve been freezing cucumbers. I know, it sounds gross. My family thinks its gross. But I have a plan. 

But a couple of months ago I was shopping for some bunco prizes in a little boutique (inside our local grocery store, but that’s another story) and they had a table set up with cucumber infused water. I loved it.

According to my (much cooler than me) friends, I’m a little late to the cucumber water party but that’s ok. Since I’ve been slicing and freezing cucumbers I’ll be able to enjoy organic cucumber water all year without paying an arm and leg for cucumbers that aren’t waxed.

To freeze cucumbers, just wash, slice, put on a baking sheet and put in the freezer. I like to line a baking sheet with parchment paper to help them come off easier once they are frozen. After they are frozen you can move them to a zippered freezer bag. 

To make infused water, put cucumber slices in a pitcher of water. You can put other things too like mint or berries. Let it sit in the refrigerator for several hours before drinking. You can also freeze the cucumbers in ice cube trays which is really fun.

You could also use frozen cucumbers in cucumber soup or smoothies. 

I also like to make cucumber lime sorbet. It will last several weeks in the freezer and is a great way to use up overgrown cucumbers.

Canning pickles is not the only way to preserve cucumbers. You can also ferment, dehydrate and even freeze them.

Dehydrating Cucumbers

Dehydrating cucumbers is a new one to me. But you can pretty much dehydrate any fruit or vegetable so I thought I’d give it a try.

Slice the cucumbers in 1/4″ or thinner slices, put in dehydrator and let dry for 6-8 hours. They were okay. We probably won’t eat them plain but I can use them in my infused water – I’ll just have to let it sit longer.

You can also dip the cucumbers in a pickle brine or even just vinegar and dill weed before dehydrating to make flavored cucumber chips.

image of The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables and jars of home preserved vegetables

The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables

If you you’re looking for more preserving inspiration, I know you’ll love The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables. In this book I share how to can, dehydrate, freeze and ferment almost every vegetable. I also share 100 favorite recipes for preserving the vegetables in fun way that will save you time and money later. Get your copy here. Get your copy here.

Canning pickles is not the only way to preserve cucumbers. You can also ferment, dehydrate and even freeze them.

What are your favorite ways of preserving cucumbers? Leave your ideas (or links) in the comments. 

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

Stacey

Wednesday 26th of July 2023

Can you cut up cucumbers and put them in jars with Italian dressing or Olive Garden signature Italian and water bath and seal?

Angi Schneider

Wednesday 26th of July 2023

That would not be recommended. You don't know how much vinegar is in the dressing and it there's enough raise the acidity of the cucumbers enough to make it safe for canning.

Emily

Friday 7th of July 2023

When you go to can the pickles the next day after there has been ice sitting on them all night, isnt the ice now water? So how do you go about that? Do you just drain the water from the cucumbers or do you put the ice in a bag and then set it on the towel over the cucumbers?

Angi Schneider

Saturday 8th of July 2023

Just drain all the water from the pickles. You'll also want to rise them a few times to get the salt off of them.

Michele W.

Monday 2nd of August 2021

Another way to freeze sliced cucumbers is with sliced onions in a vinegar/sugar solution. Do the salt and drain process first, then add the liquid and ladle into bags or jars. We have fresh cucumber salad all winter.

Angi Schneider

Saturday 21st of August 2021

Great idea. Thanks for sharing!!

Cherye

Thursday 4th of July 2019

Excellent article. This is the beginning of the growing season and already have tons of cukes. I am going to try the chips. I am so over pickles!

Angi Schneider

Thursday 4th of July 2019

I hear ya! I love pickles, but there's only so many a person can eat. You might try freezing some too. It really is a great way to have infused water and tzatziki all year long.

Jodi Pursifull

Tuesday 7th of August 2018

You just saved my life with your idea on freezing cucumbers for water! Thank you

Angi Schneider

Friday 10th of August 2018

Awesome! I'm glad to help you with your cucumber harvest!