Reader-submitted question: How do I make sure my canned pickles stay crisp? — Rebecca DeLong
Answer: A crisp pickle is the holy grail of canning. There are several tricks to making crisp pickles, but they’ll never be as crisp as lacto-fermented pickles that haven’t experienced the heat of the canner.
1. Crispness starts in the garden. Pick early, pick often, pick small, and keep the cucumbers chilled before pickling. This same rule holds true for green beans and other vegetables — harvest small and keep chilled.
2. The blossom end of cucumbers contains enzymes that speed softening. Be sure to cut those ends off. Can’t tell which end is the blossom end? Cut both ends off.
3. Add a crisping agent. Made of calcium chloride, a naturally occurring salt, this addition makes a big difference. Only add a small amount (follow the package directions) right before you seal the jars.
4. The steam canner has been given approval by some state extension services. In a steam canner, the canning jars are exposed to less heat because it takes less time for the water to start boiling — which results in crisper pickles. (It also gets you out of the kitchen faster.)
In my garden, I grow pickling cucumber cultivars as a fail-safe and don’t even bother with the slicing types. In the kitchen, I swear by Ball’s Pickle Crisp and my steam canner.
Andrea Chesman’s book Recipes from the Root Cellar includes more than 250 recipes for simple and delightful eating all year long.