Preserving cucumbers: pickling, fermenting & more
The cucumber harvest in summer often yields so many cucumbers that you cannot manage to eat them all fresh. To continue to reap the benefits from these juicy fruits even in winter, read on to learn how to effectively pickle and preserve cucumbers.
If you grow cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) in your garden, you are likely to be rewarded with bountiful summer harvests. The first fruits can be harvested as early as a few weeks after planting the cucumbers. So you do not need to eat them all fresh, there are numerous ways to preserve cucumbers throughout the year. Here are our tips and tricks on how to pickle, preserve and ferment cucumbers yourself.
How to pickle cucumbers
Pickling is a simple and practical method of preserving fresh cucumbers. Basically, all varieties of cucumbers can be pickled. While small gherkins are particularly popular, sliced larger cucumber plants can be pickled just as easily. To do so, cut the cucumber to fit the pickling jar and layer it in the jar with spices such as garlic, onions, dill, bay leaf and mustard seeds. If the fruits were harvested early, they might even be small enough to pickle as whole cucumbers.
One pickling method is to bring water, vinegar, salt, and sugar (about a half of the water volume) to a boil and pour the hot liquid over the cucumbers. Then seal and label the jars. Cucumbers can also be pickled without boiling the water, which helps retain the raw fruit’s original consistency. It is also a very quick method of preserving surplus cucumbers. A cool and dark place like a cellar is the ideal spot for storing your finished pickle jars. The sweet and sour gherkins can be kept for about 6 months.
For salty pickled cucumbers, like kosher pickles, slice the raw cucumbers and layer them in jars with mustard seeds. Then cover them with a boiling salt brine of 100 g salt per litre of water and a splash of vinegar essence, and seal the jar. This pickling process is entirely sugar-free.
Tip: there is no limit to the combination of spices you can add to your pickled cucumbers – they can even be enhanced with chilli peppers, peppercorn or dill, providing you with endless flavour possibilities.
How to preserve cucumbers
Boiling and canning both refer to the same preservation method. The main difference with boiling is that the contents of the jar are cooked first or the cucumbers are cooked inside the jar. Peeled cucumbers or oversized slicing cucumbers are ideal for such preservation. Here is what to do:
- Peel the cucumbers and cut them into bite-sized pieces (if necessary). Remove the stalk since this is where bitter substances accumulate. Salt the cucumbers and leave them in the brine overnight to remove water.
- Place some undamaged preserving jars and their rubber seals into boiling hot water for a few minutes. This is the best way to sterilise the jars and kill all germs that could affect the cucumbers and their storage time.
- The next day, remove the cucumbers from the brine, rinse briefly and fill into the sterile jars.
- Boil water, vinegar, salt and sugar for a few minutes along with other ingredients of your choice that go well with cucumber – such as mustard seeds, dill, pepper and bay leaf. Then, add the liquid to the jars and seal the lid tightly.
- Alternatively, you can boil the pieces of cucumber in the broth for about four minutes until they look glazed.
- For the cucumber canning process, place the jars in a water bath in a preheated oven. Use either a pot or a pan and fill it with water until it is a few centimetres full. Then, boil the jars at 90 °C for about half an hour.
With this method, your cucumbers can be stored for over a year. We recommend storing the jars in the cellar, so that they stay cool and protected from sunlight.
How to ferment cucumbers
Fermenting is another means of preserving surplus cucumbers. When fermenting cucumbers, put about 20 g of salt into 500 ml of water. Tightly layer cucumbers, vegetables, and spices such as dill flowers in a sterile jar and pour on the salt mixture until all ingredients are completely covered. Next, place a fermentation weight on the vegetables so that they remain underneath the liquid and to prevent mould. Store the jars in a warm place to trigger the lactic acid bacterial fermentation. Make sure the lid is slightly ajar, so that air bubbles formed during fermentation can escape from the jar. In one or two weeks, your fermented cucumbers are ready to eat, and can be stored in the fridge for several weeks.
How to freeze cucumbers
Those of us who have not been able to keep up with an abundant cucumber harvest, have probably asked ourselves this question: can you freeze cucumbers? The answer depends on the intended use. Since cucumbers consist mostly of water, the cells of the fruit burst when they are frozen. So, when they thaw, the cucumber quickly becomes mushy and loses its crunchiness. Still, frozen cucumbers are great for cucumber soup or braised cucumber dishes. Bear in mind, though, that the original consistency can only be retained by pickling, fermenting or preserving cucumbers.
If you harvest your cucumber fruits at the right time, the cucumber plant will keep producing new flowers and fruits. Learn all about how to harvest and store cucumbers.