Best Cucumbers for Crunchy Pickles

| 3/30/2017 4:46:00 PM

If you’ve ever made pickles at home, then you know that sometimes you find yourself face-to-face with a batch that lacks a satisfactory “crunch.” And a pickle without a hardy crunch is as disappointing as a mealy peach or a bunch of over-cooked asparagus — I’ll pass.

Making crave-worthy pickles takes a certain amount of trial and error; however, you can greatly increase your chances of making a stellar batch by learning how to select the very best cucumbers for pickling. Pickling cucumbers are often smaller than the traditional slicing cucumbers that are widely available at most grocery stores. Pickling cucumbers also have thinner skins. Thin skin is the single most important factor when selecting cucumbers because a thick, waxy skin will slow or prevent the brining process and can yield a bland, one-dimensional pickle. If you plan on buying your cucumbers at a local grocery store or farmers market, then try to find small, firm, thin-skinned cukes for the crunchiest bite.

pickling ingredients
Adobe Stock/photo crew

I asked Andrea Chesman, author of The Pickled Pantry, how to prevent soggy pickles and she reminded me to always cut off the blossom end of the cucumber, which contains enzymes that speed softening. If you don’t know which end is the blossom end, then cut off both ends. She also recommends keeping harvested cucumbers chilled until you have time to begin the fermentation process. (Chesman covers this topic in more detail in the Sage Advice department of Heirloom Gardener’s summer 2017 issue, which will be on newsstands nationwide from June 6 to September 4.)

Heirloom Pickling Cucumbers

A proactive way to prevent soggy pickles is to grow cucumber cultivars that have proven to be ideal pickling candidates for generations of home preservers. The cultivars listed below are open-pollinated heirlooms that have been successfully pickled and positively reviewed by thousands of home gardeners. My two favorite seed companies to source heirlooms from are Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and the non-profit Seed Savers Exchange.

boston pickling cucumber 'Boston Pickling'

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