There’s nothing quite like a homemade pickle. While store-bought pickles have a uniform, tangy dill taste, homemade pickles have a wide variety of tastes. Some taste like nothing more than a salty cucumber. Some have quite a kick, picking up spicy heat from added peppers and spices.
No matter what your favorite type of pickle is, the best pickles start with perfect cucumbers.
The first step to the perfect cucumber is to plant the right seeds. Really any type of pickling cucumber seeds will work, and depending on your geographic location, certain types might work better than others. The Kirby and Boston pickling cucumbers are known to grow well in nearly all climates. Be sure to research the best pickling cucumber brands to ensure your cukes are perfect for pickling.
The next step is to pick your cucumbers at the right time. Picking cucumbers should be approximately three to four inches in length and light green in color. Once cucumbers turn dark green, they are overripe and too weighted down with water to be of any use for pickling. You should throw out any cucumbers that are mushy or soft, as this indicates that they are diseased.
Once your cucumbers are ready, don’t just pull them off the vine. Grab a pair of clippers and clip the vine approximately 1/4 of an inch above the cucumber. This will ensure that your vines remain healthy.
If you can’t grow your own cucumbers, you can still make delicious pickles. Most farmer’s markets are stocked with pickling cucumbers in the spring through fall months. When purchasing cucumbers, avoid the waxy, dark green cucumbers that you find in grocery stores at all costs. The water content of these cucumbers is astronomically high, and the waxy skin of the cucumber won’t allow the pickling juice to penetrate the cucumber. You’ll be left with a soggy, flavorless pickle.
Instead, choose cucumbers that are about three to four inches in length, light green and covered in warts. Warts are simply the small little bumps that pop up on cucumbers. These warts are healthy and are a sign that the cucumber is not overripe. As with homegrown cucumbers, throw out any soft or discolored cucumbers.
It might seem silly to spend so much time and energy on finding the perfect cucumber for pickling. But if you try pickling with a few different types of cucumbers, you will find that the cucumbers really impact the taste of the pickle. Happy pickling!