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How to Can Pickles without a Canner

Since I was a child, I’ve loved pickles, especially in the summertime alongside a grilled dinner. But it wasn’t until I was much older that my taste for pickled items expanded and I began to crave a broader range of vegetables. What I discovered in the stores was that pickled items beyond cucumbers could be rather pricey. And then there was the simple fact that by late summer I had a ridiculous surplus of vegetables from my own garden filling up the fridge. It was here that I took a step back and wondered why I couldn’t pickle my own items.

As it was, I came up with a very short list.

1. I didn’t “know how”.
2. I didn’t have a canner.
3. I was terrified of something going wrong and making myself ill.

Thankfully, these three concerns were easily remedied by a little research—I discovered that I could pickle items without a canner, pickle items without concern of botulism, and have the items keep in the refrigerator for upwards of three months. The reason being that the brine (which I make from scratch and is heated up on the stove prior to packing the ingredients) contains herbs and spices that have preserving properties (not to mention the fact that the homemade brine is vinegar-based, which in itself is a natural preservative). This brine is where that fantastic “pickled” taste comes from, and it can be reused, within reason.

Summer Vegetable Medley 

Summer Vegetable Medley Pickles Recipe

Makes two 1-quart jars

For Homemade Brine:

• 1 cup white vinegar
• 1 cup apple cider vinegar
• About 12 cloves garlic, peeled and gently crushed
• 6 teaspoons salt (I use kosher or Himalayan)
• 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
• 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
• 1 teaspoon celery seeds
• 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
• Fresh sprigs of herbs

1. To make the brine extra spicy or savory, you can also add flavorful ingredients such as dill seeds, red pepper flakes, ginger or pink peppercorns—I suggest adding them in 1 teaspoon increments or using them to fully or partially replace another ingredient (for example, 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns alongside 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns). You can even make your medley sweet with the use of cinnamon sticks, cloves or sugars. However, the main spices and components needed to get that “pickled” taste are listed above.

2. Bring 4 cups water to a boil and add your crushed garlic cloves. Reduce heat so it simmers for at least 5 minutes. Add vinegars and salt, and increase heat so it boils once more. Stir until all of the salt dissolves. Remove from heat.

3. While your brine is cooking, divide seeds between jars and add any fresh sprigs of desired herbs (for example: dill, mustard, scallions). Once the brine is ready, divide garlic cloves into jars and pack them full of your cleaned, raw vegetables.

Pickling Veggies:

Cucumbers: Sliced anyway you desire. If you use whole cucumbers, they will take longer to pickle.
Summer squash: I will pickle sliced yellow summer squash, but I tend to use the pieces in my cooking rather than eating them raw. They make a fantastic addition to stir-fries.
Hot peppers: For taste, but my husband loves eating them raw as well.
Green beans

Preserve Vegetables
Photos by Leslie Diane

4. After packing the jars, bring brine back to a boil. Fill jars completely, covering vegetables with brine so there is little to no air. Don’t worry if, after eating some of the items, there is space in the jar. It’s only during the original packing stage that I suggest little to no air pockets.

5. Once cooled, store jars in refrigerator for up to 3 months. The pickled vegetables will be ready to eat within a few days. (Honestly, you can begin eating them within hours, but they taste better if you let them pickle for a few days.)

What About Reusing the Brine?

As for reusing the brine, I will do this once per jar as long as I am within the three month time frame. Because I eat my pickled vegetables so quickly, I oftentimes finish a jar in a single week. When this occurs, I will replenish the jar with just-harvested vegetables from my garden. I don’t use the brine indefinitely, and when I am no longer comfortable with using it for pickling, I add it into my cooking (stir-fries, sautéing vegetables, etc.). Again, I only do this when it’s within the three-month time frame. After that time has lapsed, I dump anything left over.

I hope you enjoy the recipe! Please leave comments below on your own experience pickling items and what you thought of this pickling medley!

Leslie DianeWith a background in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and a minor in English, Leslie Diane is currently studying at Prairie Wise Herbal School in Leavenworth, Kansas, with a goal of becoming a Master Herbalist. She is an avid gardener and a maker of tinctures, teas and baked goods. An aspiring author as well, she weaves tales of fantasy along with scarves, baby and pet blankets, and shawls on her table loom.