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University of Minnesota Extension

Pickling basics

Pickled pickles cucumbers.

The correct combination of acid, spices and sugar with cucumbers creates an acidic food product known as pickles. Many other vegetables, from asparagus to zucchini, can be pickled also. 


Pickling is a relatively easy process, but in order to produce a safe and crisp product follow a recipe specifically designed for the vegetable you're pickling. Use recipes from a reputable source:



Use only unwaxed, pickling cucumbers. "Slicing" cucumbers will give you a soft dill pickle.

  • Pickle the cucumbers within 24 hours after picking. 
  • Use cucumbers 1 1/2 inches in length for gherkins; 4 inches for dills. 
  • Wash cucumbers thoroughly, especially around the stem area, to remove soil that may contain bacteria. 
  • Remove the blossom end to prevent pickle softening. 
  • Do not use cucumbers that have any mold on them.
Two jars of pickled beans on a table.
Pickled beans.

Pickling other vegetables

Vegetables from asparagus to zucchini can be home preserved by pickling. The key is to select a recipe from an approved source that is specifically designed for the vegetable you are pickling. Follow the directions carefully for a safe, high quality product.

  • Begin by selecting tender vegetables and plan to pickle within 24 hours of picking. 
  • Wash well and drain.
  • Pickled vegetable recommendations vary widely on the need for a first step of blanching, pre-cooking or raw packing. 
  • Asparagus is blanched. 
  • Beets need to be pre-cooked in their skins for 30 minutes. 
  • Green beans, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and zucchini are raw packed.
  • White distilled vinegar is used for onions and cauliflower where clearness of color is desired.


Other ingredients

Canning pickled beets, canner and jars.


Yeast and molds are common spoilage microorganisms of pickles. These and most acid-tolerant bacteria are destroyed by proper water bath processing. Use only recommended methods of water bath processing.

Pickled vegetable recipes are developed for pint or ½ pint canning jars. The water bath processing time is determined by the acid level of the vegetable and the pickling solution, and the size of jar. Water bath processing times range from 5 to 30 minutes to insure a safe home canned product. Many fresh pack pickles can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks without heat processing. However, discard if you see any signs of spoilage.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a variety of resources for pickling a various vegetables.

You can also call the AnswerLine at 800-854-1678.

Deb Botzek-Linn, former Extension educator and Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2021

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