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What makes a really good sandwich? A cool, crisp, slightly sour dill pickle on the side, of course! There are many types of pickles on the market, including bread and butter, kosher dill and gherkins. Whatever your preferred pickle, you can learn to make these salty green snacks in your own home.

There are four types of pickled products: Brined/fermented, fresh pack pickles, fruit pickles and relish. Brined/fermented pickles are soaked in a salt-water solution called a brine for one or more weeks and are preserved with vinegar. Fresh pack pickles are not fermented but simply boiled in vinegar and spices. They are ideal for those who want to enjoy a pickle in just a few days, however, they have better flavor if they are left to stand for several weeks after processing. The fruit pickle is one that involves simmering fruit in a sweet-sour syrup using vinegar or lemon juice. Lastly, relishes are made with chopped fruits or vegetables that are cooked in a vinegar solution.

Using the correct amount of vinegar to vegetables is essential for ensuring a safe canned pickled product. If not using a standardized and tested recipe there is a risk for Clostridium Botulinum, a deadly bacteria, to sprout and grow. To learn how to safely preserve pickles, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation for step-by-step guidelines and recipes. If you have any questions, contact your local Extension office or just call me: (309) 663-8306 or email at

If canning is not your thing, refrigerator pickles are an option. However, they must be kept in the refrigerator and eaten within two weeks.

Refrigerator Pickles (Printable PDF)

30-36 pickling cucumbers, washed and ends removed

3 cups white vinegar, 5% acidity

3 cups water

3 Tablespoons canning/pickling salt

2 Tablespoons sugar

Up to 2 Tablespoons of desired spices per pint jar: fresh dill, fresh garlic, celery seed, mustard seed, etc.

Note: for sweet pickles, decrease salt to 2 Tablespoons and increase sugar to 1 ½ cups. Keep vinegar and water the same.

Pack cucumbers snugly into clean pint jars with lids. Prepare the brine. Bring brine to a boil; boil for two minutes. Remove from heat. Fill jars with the brine to within a half-inch from the top. Cover with a tight fitting lid and place in the refrigerator, date and label container. Allow flavor to develop one to two days before sampling. Use within two weeks.

Yield: about 6 or 7 pints

Source: University of Main Cooperative Extension