When it comes to canning and preserving foods, one of the most traditional things to make is pickles. Unfortunately, many novice pickle canners find themselves anxiously opening that first jar only to discover that the pickles are somewhat soggy instead of being that crisp, snappy treat they were hoping for. If this is something you struggle with, you may be surprised at some of the subtle things that you can do to help maintain that crispness in your pickles.
One of the biggest culprits for making soggy pickles is enzyme residue on the blossom end of cucumbers. No matter how well you wash them, there's a chance of some enzymes being left behind. Those enzymes can cause the pickle to soften, so the best thing you can do is to trim the very ends off the cucumbers before you put them in the jars. This eliminates the risk of introducing those enzymes, preserving the crispness of the cucumber as it pickles.
Make Use Of Tannins
Many of the older traditional recipes included the use of grape leaves or cherry leaves in the pickling liquid with the cucumbers. The tannins in those leaves will inhibit the enzyme development that can cause pickles to soften, so add a leaf to each jar before you seal it. If you're not familiar with tannins, know that they are plant polyphenols. They're responsible for contributing some of the astringent flavor you find in wines.
Keep Things Cold
Before you jar the cucumbers, soak them in an ice water bath. Create an ice water solution deep enough to submerge the cucumbers entirely, then let them soak for four to five hours. This will help to maintain the crispness of the cucumber when it goes into the pickling liquid.
Add A Bit Of Alum
Alum is another great tool for enhancing pickle crispness. You can find it with the other spices in your grocery store and sometimes with the canning supplies as well. Add a small amount to your pickling liquid to help promote that texture.
With these tips, even a novice canner can create pickles that are full of flavor and snap when you bite into them. If you're still struggling with the texture of your pickles, check out a local deli to buy them from. Many delis will sell them by the jar or even have a barrel where you can pull your own.