© Denzil Green
Pickling is the only practical way to preserve cucumbers. They don’t freeze or dry well.
Pickling cucumbers, though, are the only kind of cucumbers that won’t go mushy when canned, because they start off really firm and crisp. Regular cucumbers for fresh eating are called, in contrast, “slicers.”
You can make “quick process” bread and butter pickles from slicers, but their slices wouldn’t stand up to a fermented pickle process.
Pickling cucumbers also have skin that is less bitter, and undeveloped seeds. They can be pickled whole or sliced lengthwise into spears.
Unlike slicers, they are sold unwaxed. The skin can’t be waxed, because that would prevent the pickling solution from getting into the pickle past the skin.
Generally, they are sold harvested when 3 to 4 inches (7 ½ to 10 cm) long. Once the cucumbers have started growing, they grow in size quickly, so they have to be picked every day to prevent them from growing past the optimum size. As well, if even a single one is left on the plant to fully grow and ripen it to yellow, the plant will figure its job is done, and it will stop producing any more.
Pickling Cucumbers are graded commercially in America as US No. 1, US No. 2, and US No. 3, with 3 being the cheapest by far (about ¼ of what grade No. 1 costs.)
– © Denzil Green
They are graded by diameter to length ratio, good colour, firmness, straightness, etc.
Some people, when they have to wash large quantities of pickling cucumbers, put them in their clothes washing machine, with no soap (obviously), on gentle cycle.
- Addis (developed by R.L. Lower et al at the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station; released 1975);
- Boston Pickling. Has many synonyms including Boston Pickle, Early Green Prolific, Extra Early Green Prolific, Extra Early Prolific, Extra Green Prolific Pickling, Extra Long Green Prolific Green Prolific Pickling, Improved Extra Early Green Prolific, Short Green Pickling, Short Pickling, Short Prolific, Short Prolific Pickle and Short Prolific Pickling. Dark green skin, white spines. Will keep on putting out cucumbers as long as you keep picking them. Harvest when 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 cm) long. Developed 1880 by Wood and Sons;
- Boston Pickling Improved. Bright green skin, continuous producer provided you keep on picking them. Blocky shaped;
- Burpee Pickler (blocky shape, black spines, W. Atlee Burpee Company. 1957);
- Calypso (developed by the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station; released 1975)’
- Chicago Pickling. Aka Improved Chicago Pickling Cucumber, Westerfield Cucumber, Westerfield Chicago Pickling Cucumber and Westerfield Cucumber (hybrid, dark green. D. M. Ferry and Co., 1888.) Black spines, thin, tender skin. Was the most popular cucumber in the Chicago area for dill pickles for nearly 100 years after its release;
- Earlipik (hybrid, white spines, Northrup King Seeds Limited, 1969);
- Homemade Pickles Cucumber (aka Southern Pickles Cucumber, Southern Homemade Pickles Cucumber.) Bush plant, growing in limited space, making it popular with home gardeners. medium-green coloured skin, white spines, very crisp. Can be picked at 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) for dill pickles, or 1 ⅕ inches long for other pickles;
- Liberty (developed by the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station; released 1975);
- National Pickling (aka National, National Pickle, National Association Pickling) was developed by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station in conjunction with the National Pickle Packers Association; developed in 1924, released in 1929. Black spines, dark green skin;
- Pioneer (hybrid, black spines. Developed jointly by the Asgrow Seed Company and the Clemson University Agricultural Experiment Station in Charleston, South Carolina. 1967);
- Sampson (F1 hybrid, white spines, medium dark green. Developed by the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station; released 1975);
The above are all vine-type plants except where bush-type is noted.
Liberty is now (start of the 2000s) a very popular one with commercial growers.
On average, as a very rough guideline, expect to need about 500 g (1 lb) of pickling cucumbers per ½ litre (US pint / 500 ml / 16 oz) jar, if quartered.
If kept whole, expect to need about roughly about 500 g (1 lb) of pickling cucumbers per litre (US quart) jar.
500 g / lb pickling cucumbers = 6 to 7 pickling cucumbers
750 g (1 ½ to 2 lbs) of pickling cucumbers = 1 litre / quart basket
2 ¼ kg (6 lbs of pickling cucumbers = 3 litre / quart basket
6.5 kg (14 lbs) of pickling cucumbers = 7 litres (US quarts) whole dill pickles
3.5 kg (8 lbs ) of pickling cucumbers = 9 x ½ litres (US pints) whole dill pickles