Pickles too vinegary- help!

gardenbug_girl(9a)October 17, 2007

This past spring I made some Kosher Dill pickle spears in quart jars with fresh dill and garlic from the "So Easy to Preserve" book from University of Georgia. They sat looking all pretty through the summer and I finally cracked open a jar (my Bread n' Butter ran out) but they were soooo vinegary and strong! What did I do wrong? It was so bad I had to let the jar "air" for a day or so in my fridge before I could stomach another one. Can I add some sugar to the recipe before I try it again to make it more palatable or would that make it unsafe to can since it throws off proportions (thats the math geek in me)? I know diluting the vinegar is a "No,No" in canning... Any ideas? I'm new to this whole pickle thing.

PS- I've been reading all your posts (Linda, Annie, Dave, etc) for the last year and have learned so much from everyone in this forum. Thanks so much ya'll! Glad to have finally joined!

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My Clausen type Dills were too salty. Here's what you can do. After you empty a jar of another sweet pickle, save the juice and put your dills in it. In a few days they will be delicious. I put my salty dills into my Sweet Dill Juice.
I wouldn't use the same juice over more than 2 times though.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 3:53PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

(about 7-9 pint jars)
8 pounds of 3- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
2 gallons water
1 1â4 cups canning salt (divided)
1 1â2 quarts vinegar
1â4 cup sugar
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons whole mixed pickling spice
about 3 tablespoons whole mustard seed
about 14 heads of fresh dill or 5 tablespoons dill seed
Wash cucumbers. Cut 1/16-inch slice off blossom end and discard. Leave 1â4-inch of stem attached. Dissolve 3â4 cup salt in 2 gallons water. Pour over cucumbers and let stand 12 hours. Drain.
Combine vinegar, 1â2 cup salt, sugar and 2 quarts water. Add mixed pickling spices tied in a clean white cloth. Heat to boiling. Fill jars with pickles. Add 1 teaspoon mustard seed and 1 1â2 heads fresh dill (or 1 1â2 teaspoons dill seed) per pint jar. Cover with boiling pickling solution, leaving 1â2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids. Process 10 minutes for pints; 15 minutes for quarts in BWB.

Is that the U of G recipe you used? Cider or white vinegar? 5% or did you buy stronger? Any white sediment in the jars or is the brine cloudy at all? Pickles "slimmy" feeling? If so they aren't safe.

The common causes of pickles that are too strong or bitter tasting - they are still safe to eat - are too much spices, spices cooked too long in the vinegar, the vinegar was too strong (over 6%), or old cukes were used. Possible?

You can't change the acidity level (some claim you can add water but it isn't recommended) but yes, according to North Carolina State Univ. Extension you can add some sugar. I'd add it only after each jar is opened for serving and will be refrigerated. I'd start with no more than 1 tsp. per quart first because you just want to take the "edge" off. ;) Give it a few days and then see how it tastes and slowly work your way up from there as needed. You might also want to remove the dill heads.

Let us know how it goes.


Here is a link that might be useful: NC State Safe Pickle Guidelines

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 4:00PM
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i'd try a different recipe ... I haven't made these yet -- the drought meant few and substandard cukes. Folks speak highly of LindaLou's... it doesn't read as salty or vinegary ... note that you don't wait for BWB to come back to boil to start canning.

"Do you know with pickles the processing time starts when you put them in the canner, not when the water comes to a boil like other foods ? That is the only exception.
Anyway, these are my favorite dill pickles" (Linda Lou's note)
4 lbs pickling cukes
14 cloves garlic, peeled & split
1/4 cup salt
2 3/4 cups distilled or apple cider vinegar 5% acidity
2 3/4 cups water
12 to 14 sprigs fresh dill weed
28 peppercorns

Wash cucumbers; remove 1/16 inch from blossom end, cut in half lengthwise.

Combine garlic and next 3 ingredients; heat to boiling.

Remove garlic and place 4 halves into each clean jar, then pack cucumbers, adding 2 sprigs of dill and 4 peppercorns.

Pour hot vinegar solution over cucumbers to within 1/2 inch of top. Immediately adjust covers as jar manufacturer directs.

Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 5:12PM
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chad_la(z7 TX)

ive had this happen too. pour out about a third of the juice and refill with table sugar. let sit in the fridge for a few weeks. give the jars a shake every few days.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 7:13PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Before filling the jars with the brine, I always TASTE it so I don't get any surprises or dissapointments later on. As mentioned, you can even pour out some of the brine and add just plain water to weaken the vinegar taste. Also adding a little sugar will reduce some of the sharpness of vinegar.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 12:44PM
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I know cider vinegar looses some of its sharpness over time, do all vinegars do that?

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 1:11PM
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I mistakenly told you I made the Clausen type. Actually they were Linda Lou's Heinz recipe. I used white vinegar. maybe I should have waited more than a week to taste them. I only tested one jar. Hopefully the remainder will have mellow a bit.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 3:57PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Pickles do need to cure about a month before eating. Usually vinegar will not lose its strength, but because its added to a very watery cucumbers, the vinegar will naturally mellow out and give more 'balance' to a cucumber pickle. I would wait a few weeks before making any adjustments.

As to the Claussen recipe, the most common is a salt brine pickle. Where lots of pickling salt and water are used to make the brine, and is tasted so it will be 'mouth watering' on the tongue. Too little salt and its salty, too much and its bitter. Once the cukes have soaked in the brine a few days at room temps, I add a small amount of white vinegar and refrgerate. They last me a year, if I don't gobble them up sooner. With any dill pckle, I like to add plenty of fresh dill and fresh garlic. Today, I noticed a few new dill sprouts in, and around my garden. Apparently I wasn't quick enough to cut down all the dill from earlier in the season , as some had seeds fall and they planted themselves. I'll harvest that soon for a fresh batch of half sour pickles, provided i can find som every fresh cukes someplace.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 1:14PM
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Wow, away a few days for a wedding and a conference (not in same place- ha!) and so much to reply to! Thanks for all your imput. Well, I double-checked myself and I used 5% vinegar so that's not it, I didn't leave the spices in the brine at all- packed them right into the jars before processing so that's not it (process of elimination here, hugh?). I did use all white vinegar and no cider/white mix so maybe that is causing a problem? No white cloudy brine or sediment. Perhaps old pickles- bought them at the farmers market that bought them from the farmer 2 days prior but the pickle cukes were the same ones- from the same bushel- I used for my sweets and bread n' butter which both taste fine and crunchy.

The recipe I used was the Kosher Dill one...
30-36 (3-4" cukes).. I cut into quarters (a few cukes may have been 5", but not hollow and no well-developed seeds)
3 cups vinegar (from Walmart by the gallon... 5%)
3 cups water
6 TBSP canning salt
Fresh dill (generous layer per jar.. I used about 4 sprigs- should I have used "heads"?)
Garlic (1 clove chopped.. I used about 2 b/c I like garlic)
Mustard seed (1/2 tsp)
Recipe said process pints 10 min... I processed my quarts 15 min in BWB according to the dill recipe in the Ball Blue book.

So, Dave, I should add the sugar AFTER processing? Tiz a nuicance when trying to give a gift though.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2007 at 3:37PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

It may be that recipe just isn't to your taste. But if you use it again, cider vinegar is milder than distilled. The pickles will be darker but a lot of old-time farm cooks preferred cider vinegar for their pickling because it doesn't have the sharp "bite" of the distilled.

You might also find if you allow another couple of months after the last jar-opening that the pickles have mellowed considerably. They do mellow but some take longer than others.


    Bookmark   October 20, 2007 at 7:00PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Adding a little sugar can help too. A few of the dill pickle mixes sold have sugar as the first ingredient, and thats for a dill pickle! I would wait a month before tasting them. It may be that you just don't like vinegar all that much. With the cukes being two days old, theres a good chance the pickles will become soft very quickly. Adding Pickle Crisp to each jar prior to pouring the boiling brine will help the cukes to retain more firmness. It could be that the Walmart brand vinegar is made from inferiour products. Because I use mostly Heinz and buy the big bottles at Costco or BJ's they have always been very good. Distilled vinegar can be made from many fermented things, and if its not the Heinz brand, they may be using some ingredients that offer an odd aftertaste. I haven't tasted Walmart brand vinegar, so I can't say much about it. I also have some 20% vinegar (not Heinz), and even if diluted to 5% its a bit too pungent for my taste.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2007 at 12:12PM
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gardenbug girl, welcome to the Harvest forum.

I'm not a big fan of sour pickles and often find that they are too "vinegary". As has been mentioned, cider vinegar seems to have less of that sharp vinegar "bite" and I use it almost exclusively for pickles.

I think the only way to really tell is make a batch, let them sit, then taste them. If they aren't to your liking, try another recipe until you find one you like. Yes, I know it's a pain and that you end up with pickles that aren't what you want, but it's the only thing that works for me.

Good luck, some people spend a lifetime in the quest for the "perfect pickle". LOL Turns out everyone's definition of the perfect pickle is different, go figure. :-)


    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 11:15AM
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Thanks so much ya'll! I'll let you know when I find the perfect dill that I don't buy from the store! =)


    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 4:08PM
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my perfect dill comes from a kosher deli

    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 6:02PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Most of those 'perfect Kosher Deli dills' are half sours, which usually use a salt brine cure instead of all that vinegar.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 6:41PM
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dgkritch(Z8 OR)

Chase's Dills are good if you like a "Nalley's" type flavor.
I think this is the "perfect pickle".......for me.

And the recipe is easy to boot. Gotta love that!
Here's the recipe:

Chase's Dills
You can usually count on between 6-8 dills (cukes) per 1 quart jar, depending on size.
Use 3" to 4" cukes that have just been picked.
Place the cukes in ice cold water (I use my bath tub!!) and add a bag or two of
ice to the water. The cukes should stay in the ice water for a minimum of 2
hours but no more than 8. Refresh the ice as required.
I make the brine in great big batches using this ratio:
2 cups white vinegar
6 cups water
1/3 cup coarse pickling salt
For each jar of dills you will need 2 nice size garlic cloves peeled and cut in
half (4 pieces) and two dill heads. Leave the cukes whole.
I sterilize my jars using the sani cycle of the dishwasher (you could
boil the jars instead) When they are really hot, almost at the end of
the cycle I place them in a oven at 150 degrees to keep them good and
Make the brine and bring the brine to a full and rolling boil.
Place the rings and lids in a large saucepan with water and bring them
almost to the boil. Then turn down but keep them hot.
Place the cukes, garlic and dill in the hot jars. I do garlic, dill,
cukes, garlic, dill. Pour brine over the cukes. Only do 2 jars at a
time, leave the rest in the oven to keep them hot.
Wipe the rim really well, this is critical to sealing, and place lid
and ring on and screw to finger tight. Let sit 6-8 weeks before eating!

MY NOTE: I couldn't wait to try them and started sampling at 5 weeks and they are still good.

Also, I bought "medium" cukes at the Farmer's Market and ended up with 17 quarts. I would have called the cukes "large medium", they were 4-5 inches long and easily 1 inch diameter. Next year I will try it with slightly smaller ones. I can always eat two, but rarely will I cut one in half! On the other hand...I like these so well, I might eat two big ones anyway!!

I've also used the Heinz Dill Pickle recipe posted by Linda Lou. It's very good too and allows for processing small batches.

(who's been on a mission for the "Perfect Pickle" for years like Annie said)

    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 6:48PM
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Ken, EXACTLY!!!!
- Kay

    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 6:49PM
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What is a Nalley's type flavor?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2007 at 8:34PM
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dgkritch(Z8 OR)

I guess to me, Nalley's flavor is just dill, garlic and vindegar. Nice and crisp.


    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 11:25AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Ok, here goes.. I finally caught the whole Alton Brown episode dealing with pickles in a salt brine. He does tend to go overboard a little, but it was accurate for measuring the salt and water ratios. The episode also featured fried pickles, as well as some made with an after brining in Cool Aid cherry flavor.

He states that 5 1/2 ounces of pickling salt be used with a gallon of water. He also says that it should be water that is non chlorinated, so that it will not affect the curing process. He only uses a couple of cloves of garlic, (for the Kosher touch), and includes dried dill seed, and fresh dill weed (frons). As an added taste, a little black and red pepper. They cure at room temp for about 3 days. He goes into the method of skimming the white scum off the surface, which I don't usually see here. He also doesn't add any vinegar once they are cured, but does refrigerate them. He also mentions cutting off the stem end, and as we all know, the blossom end should also be removed. Needless to say, it may be an easier way to make these by not using your old Polish grandmothers brine tasting method.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 12:44PM
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OK- just canned again-- Love the Kosher (Heinz) broth so I'm hoping the pickles taste as good as the broth! Do I really have to wait 6-8 weeks to try them?


    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 8:03PM
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Sorry, meant "brine"- not "broth" that I made for those little cukes.
Bet you're all REALLY wondering now what I do to my pickles and why they taste funny! Well, I "broth" them, ya' know in the "Secret family recipe". Ha! Just kidding! Sorry, long day at work.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 8:08PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

If you reuse a commercial pickle juice as a base for a brine, its not going to turn out very well. These brines contain enzymes that the cukes release as well as they lose some salt and acid due to the cukes absorbing it. If you do reuse a Heinz brine, be sure to 'fortify' it with a bit more salt and vinegar, as well as a little more spice. The enzymes released by cukes are stil going to be in there though. Yes, about a month or more is a good time to taste. I usually taste a brine before its added to the cukes, just because I don't want a weak or salty pickle.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 1:17PM
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