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Ask The Readers {My Mom and Canning Pickles}

Last week for my Ask The Readers question I asked about canning tips for beginners. You all had some great tips, so for those wanting to learn how to can I encourage you to read through the comments.

After I posted my question last week, I was talking on the phone to my mom about canning and all the work she used to put into it. During the conversation she mentioned that most summers she canned 800-1,000 quarts of fruits and vegetables, plus a few other things in pint jars like meats.

I said something like, “Mom wait, did you really can that much!”

She said, “Yes I did.”

Now, I knew my mom canned a lot. I knew we grew and raised a lot of what we ate during most of the year. I knew it was a lot of work and that we all had to help. I knew that there was a whole wall in our basement that used to be full of food by the end of September, but I had no idea it was 800-1,000 quarts. That is a lot of work.

As a child all the work and time spent on canning is hard to put into perspective. As an adult with a family of my own, I realize how much time and work my mom really put into canning and making sure we had enough food to last the year.

And not only that, she canned that much in a pretty small kitchen, with no air conditioning, and very limited water during the dry summer months because we had a well that at times often ran out of water.

So, thanks to my Ask The Readers Question last week I have a whole new appreciation for all the work my mom used to do. Thanks Mom!

Now on to today’s question. I recently got an email from my sister about canning pickles. You see my mom canned many things and they were all great, except her pickles.

She tried and tried and once in a while got a good batch, but more often than not we ate soggy pickles. Which to be honest are not that great. I much prefer my pickles crisp. Have you ever had a soggy pickle? I don’t recommend them.

My sister is having the same problem that my mom always had. Her pickles don’t stay crisp. So, I am hoping some of you might have some tips for canning pickles.

Here is my sister Evie’s email to me.

I can’t find a good way/recipe to can pickles without them getting soggy in a couple months. Refrigerator pickles are great and I have a couple recipes we love, but they take up too much space in the fridge to do very many. I thought maybe your readers might have some tips for crunchy canned pickles.

So, does anyone have any tips for my sister?

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures


  1. My pickle recipe has you put bring the water to a boil in the water canner (not pressure) and then remove the jars immediately. It seems to work with getting crisper pickles. Also, it is best if you used freshly picked pickles. If you need to wait to can, put them in cold water in the fridge. Try and pickle within a day.

  2. The best tip to get crisp pickles is to scrub the cukes and then plunge in ice water and KEEP them in the ice water until they go into the canning jar to be processed. Don’t keep them in longer than about 8 hours. Refresh the ice as needed.

  3. I always use alum when making pickles this helps with crispness.
    Now what I’m going to suggest maybe controversial but I use the same pickle recipe great great grandma did, and the canning instructions are different than what the USDA suggest today. No one has ever gotten sick from these old recipes in my family so we risk it. I think the USDA has went over broad in their safety practices for canning. I find things are over cooked using some of their suggestions so I dig out grandmas old canning books and use those. People didn’t get sick back in the day using those canning books so their not going to get sick now days either, as long as you follow the instructions closely.

  4. Pat Strothman says

    I have the same problem with pickles. I came to the conclusion part of the problem is city water, use distilled water and canning salt. Alum is suppose to help.

  5. fresh cukes, good vinegar, well water and canning salt will make a good pickle, been canning for 40+ years, average of 600-800 jars in big family years.

  6. These are such great tips. I actually have NEVER canned. I know it is kinda embarrassing but it is more goal for next summer. I am going to read through all the tips on your FB page. Do you recommend any beginner canning books?

  7. Colleen G. says

    Very hard water makes soggy pickles too although I do not know the remedy.

  8. Unfortunately my grandmother, mom and I ALL make soggy pickles! So I know very well what you mean about how bad they are. Occasionally we get a good batch or two and even some cans from the same batch are better than others. The only thing I’ve ever been successful with is refrigerator pickles. I just cut cucumbers in spears and pack them in quart jars with vinegar, some fresh dill or other herbs and maybe some hot peppers. These don’t last as long as canned but they do stay crispy:)

  9. There’s a new product out by Ball “Pickle Crisp Granules” it replaces Alum in recipes. I have used it this year on my pickled okra and they have turned out crisp! Since squash bugs have really taken a toll on my cucumber and squash plants, I haven’t tried pickles. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance with my fall garden. I, too have been told to use distilled water and make sure to get the blossom end off the cukes. BTW, the addition of the grape leaf to pickle recipes is to stop the enzamatic action caused by an accidental blossom getting left on the cuke.

  10. My mom made cucumber pickles every year and they stayed crisp and crunchy forever. Now it could just be that everything she made worked every time! But anyway, this is her recipe (I’ve only made them once, but they worked for me that time!):
    7 lbs. cucumbers, washed and thinly sliced.
    Soak 24 hours in: 2 gals. water + 2 c. lime
    Then 24 hours in: 2 gals. water + 1/4 lb. alum
    Then 6 hours in: 2 gals. water + box ginger
    Make syrup : 5 lbs. sugar
    5 pts. vinegar
    1 tsp. each: mace, cinnamon, whole cloves, whole allspice and celery seed
    Add cukes – let stand 3-4 hrs. Boil 1 hr. and seal. 12 pints
    Her directions are pretty brief – they assume you know the basics of canning! All I can say is that they make delicious pickles!

  11. This recipe has been a huge hit w/my family this summer! The are super crisp and very good! The downside is they must be kept refrigerated. I’m going to try hot water bathing them and see if they stay crisp.

    Claussen Copycat Recipe
    o 1 gallon cucumbers
    o 1/3 cup instant minced onion
    o 6 garlic cloves, minced
    o 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds
    o 6 heads fresh dill
    o 1 1/2 quarts water
    o 2 cups cider vinegar
    o 1/2 cup canning salt
    1. Slice cucumbers lengthwise into quarters add to jars along with the dill.
    2. Boil liquids and seasonings to dissolve the salt then cool. Pour over pickles and let sit on counter for three days turning them occasionally. then refrigerate. He said they keep for a year.
    3. Please do not try to use the regular grocery store cucumbers, they have wax on them and they will not turn out. You can use grocery store pickling cucumbers as they are not waxed.

  12. Karin Goodman says

    We, my husband and I, have canned pickles for years. Our recipe calls for grape leaves. We rarely have a soggy pickle. They turn out crisp even several years after being canned.

    • @Karin Goodman, I will tell Evie that she needs to talk to you then. I have never heard of that, but I am sure she will love the tip.

    • @Karin Goodman,
      Mine calls for a grape leaf per jar, plus the use of a pinch of alum and distilled water, never any soggy pickles here either! 🙂

      • @Joy,
        would also love to see your recipe as well Karin! I love new pickle recipes that I know stay crisp I just have the one recipe I got from an elderly lady that said it was in her family for years, I don’t like the salt content though it calls for quiet a bit.

  13. This is my mom’s recipe for crisp pickles. She always had soggy dills but got this recipe from the lady at the farm stand. They turned out super delish!

    Bring to a boil:
    5 cups water
    2 cups white vinegar
    1/2 cup salt (no iodized salt) Mortons regular salt

    Let Brine cool to room temperature

    Layer in quart jars
    Pickles cubed,quarters,whole whatever you chose
    heads of dill
    1TBSP of garlic
    Jalapeno peppers( depending how spicy you want your pickles)

    Refrigerate immediately

    Let set for at least 10 days in refrig.
    You must keep the jars of pickles in refrigerator.

    She has hard water but it didn’t affect the crispness at all. I also don’t like spicy so I was suspicious of the jalapeno but there was just a sliver and it tasted great!

  14. Research show that the blossom end of the cucumber produces an enzyme that softens pickles, trim the end. Do not leave in boiling water more than 5 minutes from the time they go in. Refrigerate cucumbers overnight. Put pickles in cold water bath for 2 hours prior to pickeling. Use super fresh cucumbers. I have heard also to use a grape leaf (couldn’t hurt) Lastly stay away from Blurpless and English varieties. That should do it.

  15. *** typo … Put “cucumbers” in an ice bath for two hours prior to pickling, no longer than 8 hours

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