How to Can Pickles without a Canner
by Mindy Wood
Pickles are a staple for many refrigerators, but the ones most readily available at the grocery store are lacking in quality and taste. So, many people turn to homemade pickles for a better experience. But what if you don’t have a canner for canning your own pickles? Is there a way to make pickles at home without a canner?
Luckily, the answer is yes! Lacto-fermenting your pickles is one way to preserve them without a canner. Additionally, there are many other benefits to forgoing canning and sticking with traditionally fermented pickles.
Benefits of Fermenting Over Canning Pickles
Pickles are a summertime favorite and go with everything from hamburgers to sandwiches. They’re even delicious as a simple snack on their own. But if you’ve never had a fermented pickle, you don’t know what you’ve been missing! There are many reasons that people prefer fermentation over canning. Here are some common ones:
- Fermented pickles are often crunchier than their vinegar-soaked cousins.
- Fermented pickles have a tangier bite that many people love.
- Fermentation doesn’t require refrigeration so you can use it to preserve food without the need for electricity.
- Canning often requires heating (i.e. cooking) of the food, resulting in mushier preserved foods.
- Fermentation preserves the nutritional value of foods and even adds additional beneficial bacteria and digestive enzymes. Canning reduces the nutritional value of the food slightly due to cooking/heating.
- Fermentation takes longer to complete but it is hands-off time. Canning requires a lot of hands-on time (not to mention heating up the kitchen!).
- The supplies needed for fermentation are considerably less than those required for pressure canning and about half of the cost of water bath canning supplies.
How Does Fermentation Work?
You can read more about the science behind fermentation, but if you want a quick explanation, this is for you. Lacto fermentation is a process of preservation that uses beneficial bacteria to preserve the food. Bad bacteria can’t survive in the salty environment of a ferment, so good bacteria have a chance to multiply. The good bacteria convert sugars naturally present in vegetables into lactic acid. This preserves the taste and nutritional value of the food without the need for refrigeration.
How to Make Fermented Pickles in a Jar
Fermenting is a very simple way to preserve vegetables (not just cucumbers!). Here are the steps:
- Prepare your cucumbers using the tips in this article for the crunchiest pickles.
- Prepare your brine using this calculator for salt to water ratio. Following this ratio will help make sure the environment is perfect for beneficial bacteria to grow, but not bad bacteria.
- Choose your spices and flavorings (try one of the recipes below or come up with your own).
- Combine your ingredients in a clear mason jar and cover with brine.
- Keep the cucumbers under the brine using a fermentation weight.
- Cover with an airlock cap and let ferment at room temperature for at least 5 days or until desired taste (or follow a recipe’s instructions).
Those are the basic steps. Each recipe may have slight differences in how the fermentation is prepared, but they will follow these general guidelines.
What Kind of Cucumbers Should I Use for Fermented Pickles?
The best cucumbers for pickling are pickling cucumbers. But there are a few different varieties of pickling cucumbers. If you’re getting your cucumbers from a local farm or farmer’s market you should be able to ask them which cucumbers are best for preserving. If you’re growing them yourself, any pickling cucumber will be fine.
Our Favorite Fermented Pickles
We love fermented pickles around here, and there are endless ways to make them. Check out these recipes to get started fermenting pickles today!
- Old Time Country Store Pickle Barrel Pickles
- Everyday Fermented Pickle Spears
- Kosher Dill Pickles
- Quick and Easy Garlic Ginger Pickles
Fermentation for the Win!
As you can see, there are many benefits to using fermentation instead of canning for your pickles. There are even health benefits of fermented pickles. The process for fermenting pickles is also fairly simple and easy for a beginner to try. Give it a try!
If you’re just beginning your fermentation journey, and are unsure if it’s for you, try the Fermentools Starter Kit. Less expensive than a fermentation crock, the kit will turn your Mason jar into a fermentation vessel for a fraction of the cost.
Mindy Wood is a writer, wife, mother, and homesteader, living in the beautiful mountains of New Hampshire. She writes at PurposefullySimple.com where she shows people how to live more self-reliant and healthy lives by growing their own food and learning other homesteading skills.