Tag Archives: pickles

That Leftover Pickling Brine

A frequent question lately has been about re-using that leftover pickling brine when making homemade quick pickles.

Sometimes quick pickles are made by heating cut pickbrine
or sliced vegetables in a vinegar solution to acidify them. If this is done prior to filling jars, we refer to that as a hot pack method for canning: heating vegetables in the pickling liquid before filling them into your jars and covering with the hot liquid. Other times, quick pickles are made by the raw pack for canning: prepared raw vegetables are placed directly into the jars and then the hot pickling liquid is filled over them into the jars.

Once you heat, or even soak, your vegetables in your pickling solution, pH changes start to happen. (Heating makes the interaction happen faster.) The vegetables become more acidic, which is what we want to happen in pickling. However, the pickling solution then becomes less acidic. So if your recipe is a hot pack for canned pickles, and you have heated your vegetables in the pickling solution (“brine”), then you should not use leftover brine from filling jars for another round of the recipe. The expected ratio of acid to low-acid ingredients and ultimate pH adjustment in the next recipe will not be the same.

If you are making a usual raw-pack recipe for canned pickles and have leftover vinegar or pickling solution, then that could be used for another round of the recipe if you have a significant amount left over. An example of this type of raw pack would be pickled dill green beans, or quick dill cucumber pickles. The beans or cucumbers are never combined with the vinegar solution until it is filled over them in the canning jars.  The initial boiling may have concentrated the vinegar (and other ingredients like salt or sugar) just a little, but that does not make it less safe.  If you boiled it quite a bit to concentrate the mixture, you may not want to use it for its effect on flavor, however.

In some recipes, sliced raw cucumbers are soaked for hours in the pickling liquid (vinegar, sugar and/or salt, for example). Then the liquid is drained off the cucumber slices into a pan. The soaked raw slices are filled into jars while the liquid is then heated and poured over them. Even though this is a raw pack in terms of filling jars, this vinegar solution had its original pH (acidity) altered from that initial soaking before it was heated and poured into jars. It should not be used again for a canned pickle recipe since it is now of unknown acidity.

Leftover solutions from preparing a canning recipe could be used to flavor some veggies that only get stored in the refrigerator. This would be similar to marinating for flavor. Not knowing each recipe and situation, I cannot give you a definite storage time for this new mixture in your refrigerator.  I would treat it as a fresh vegetable salad and consumer it within several days in most cases.  And remember, home refrigerators should keep foods at 40 degrees F or lower!

Unfortunately some of our “legacy” USDA pickling recipes, as well as those from other sources, and especially those using whole pickling cucumbers, do result in some leftover brine after filling jars. Different varieties of pickling cucumbers have varying diameters and lengths and will not always fit into canning jars to the same degree. Therefore, there are more uncertainty and variable results in issuing recommendations for general use.

Do realize that the safety of pickle recipes for home canning in boiling water will depend a great deal on the ratio of ingredients and preparation steps including piece size. And not all pickle recipes produce the same final, equilibrated, pH in the vegetable and brine. Even though safe for boiling water processing, the length of the process time needed for keeping them on the shelf at room temperature can vary depending on the actual acidity.

Our Pickled Products recommendations for home canning can be found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website or in So Easy to Preserve, 6th edition, from the University of Georgia. The University of Georgia Extension also has two factsheets that can be downloaded for free, Pickled Products and Canning Relishes. Please be safe in choosing your pickling recipes for canning!


What is a vegetable, a crayon color, an entire genus, and a type of pickle?

asparagus tipsAsparagus!

Commercial production of the popular vegetable Asparagus officinalis harvests primarily from January to June, but its growing season across the U.S. is likely to begin closer to mid-April and last 6 to 8 weeks. Asparagus is unique in that you have to wait about 3 years from seed planting until first harvest, so make sure you do your research before growing it for the first time. Once you do get your hands on some fresh spears, one way or another, here’s a delicious way to make them last all year:

Pickled Asparagus

For six wide-mouth pint jarswashed asparagus

10 pounds asparagus

6 large garlic cloves

4½ cups watercutting asparagus

4½ cups white distilled vinegar (5%)

6 small hot peppers (optional)

½ cup canning salt

3 teaspoons dill seed

  1. Wash and rinse canning jars; keep hot until ready to use. Prepare lids according to manufacturer’s directions.
  2. Wash asparagus well, but gently, under running water. Cut stems from the bottom to leave spears with tips that fit into the canning jar with a little less than ½-inch headspace. Peel and wash garlic cloves. Place a garlic clove at the bottom of each jar, and tightly pack asparagus into jars with the blunt ends down.
  3. In an 8-quart Dutch oven or saucepot, combine water, vinegar, hot peppers (optional), salt and dill seed. Bring to a boil. Place one hot pepper (if used) in each jar over asparagus spears. Pour boiling hot pickling brine over spears, leaving ½-inch headspace.
  4. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal canning lids.
  5. Process in a boiling water canner according to the recommendations in the table below. Let cool, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours and check for seals.

Pickled AsparagusAllow pickled asparagus to sit in processed jars for 3 to 5 days before consumption for best flavor development.

Recommended process time for Pickled Asparagus in a boiling-water canner.

Process Time at Altitudes of

Style of Pack

Jar Size

0 – 1,000 ft

1,001 – 6,000 ft

Above 6,000 ft


12-ounce or Pints

10 min



Visit the NCHFP website for recipe quantities to make seven 12-ounce jars and links to more information about Using Boiling Water Canners and Principles of Home Canning.

Recipe developed at The University of Georgia, Athens, for the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Released by Elizabeth L. Andress, Ph.D., Department of Foods and Nutrition, College of Family and Consumer Sciences. October 2003.

So long Summer Squash…see you this winter!

Squash PicklesSo, if you’ve already grilled squash outside for a cook-out, prepared stir-fry with squash, enjoyed a delicious squash casserole, and even fried squash blossoms, then you might be wondering what else you can do with the summer squash that’s still coming in. Preserve it!

One tasty option is to make Squash Pickles, following these recommendations from USDA/University of Georgia:

Recipe makes about 5 pint jars.


4 pounds summer squash (or zucchini)

½ cup canning salt

1 quart vinegar (5%)

1 cup water

Dill seed (1 teaspoon per pint)

Garlic (1 clove per pint, if desired)


Wash squash, remove ends and slice into rounds. Pack garlic, dill seed, and squash into jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Bring vinegar, water, and salt to a boil; simmer for 5 minutes. Fill jars to ½ inch from top of jars with the boiling hot liquid. Remove air bubbles and check that headspace is still ½-inch. Wipe jars rims and apply lids as directed by manufacturer. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath (remember to make altitude adjustments as needed). For a crisper product, you may want to add an agent such as crisping products containing calcium chloride.

Generally you CANNOT safely make substitutions in tested recipes, but there are a few noted exceptions.  USDA does support the substitution of summer squash for cucumbers in this recipe for Bread-and-Butter Pickles, which you might like if you prefer a sweeter flavored pickle.  If you are not a fan of pickles, then you may prefer to include summer squash as a substitute for zucchini in the recipe for canning Mixed Vegetables .

Zucchini PicklesCanning summer squash (without pickling) is not recommended, so if you prefer the flavor of plain squash, follow these directions for Freezing Summer Squash.

Recipe from So Easy To Preserve, edited by Elizabeth Andress and Judy Harrison, printed 2011.

Pickling…Not just for Cucumbers

Pickled Cantaloupe

Dill, sweet, fresh-pack, fermented…there are many varieties of pickles to choose from. While these types of pickles are available on grocery shelves as well as in recipes, most of the pickles on the grocery shelves are made with cucumbers. What if you want to try a different type of fruit or vegetable as a pickled product? Then follow the links to tested recipes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation and add one or two of these fruit and vegetable pickle recipes to your home food preservation practice.

Interesting vegetable recipes include Bread and Butter Pickled Jicama, Pickled Sweet Green Tomatoes, and Pickled Horseradish Sauce.  (Note the horseradish sauce is to be kept in the refrigerator only; there is not a canning process to recommend.)  If you are keen on the flavor of fruit pickles (or interested in a taste adventure), then you might like to try Watermelon Rind Pickles, Spiced Crabapples, or even Cantaloupe Pickles (also available is a No-Sugar Added Cantaloupe Pickles recipe). Quite a few more fruit and vegetable pickle recipes are also available.

Pickled Pearl OnionsPickled Baby Carrots

Remember that the level of acidity is not just important for the taste and texture of your pickled products, but also for the safety of the product. For every tested recipe, the recommended amount of vinegar is necessary for a uniform acidity throughout the product to prevent the growth of botulinum bacteria. Do not alter the proportions of vinegar, water, or foods in tested recipes, and please, use tested recipes.

As for your produce, select fresh, firm fruits or vegetables that are free of spoilage or other damage, and wash them well.

Visit the NCHFP website for more information about Preparing and Canning Fermented and Pickled Foods.