When you’re growing cucumbers, you’ll likely enjoy a harvest that is either feast or famine. You will spend much of the summer awaiting the arrival of the delicious vegetables, and then you will be so inundated with them that you just don’t know what to do with them!
Luckily, there are several easy methods of preserving cucumbers that you need to know about. It is something that can be done quickly and easily at home – without a ton of equipment, in most cases – so that you can enjoy the fresh flavors of summer all year long.
Many people aren’t aware of one of the best methods of preserving cucumbers – amazing cucumber jelly! It’s easy to make and best yet, it can be preserved afterward using a water bath canner.
To make cucumber jelly, you will need about 2 ½ cups of cucumber juice, seven cups of sugar, a cup of vinegar, and two pouches of liquid pectin. You can add a bit of vanilla if you’d like, too.
Combine everything in a pot and bring it to a boil, stirring every now and then. Boil it for two minutes then remove it from the heat. Add your pectin, then bring it back to a boil. Let it boil for another couple of minutes.
Pour the jelly into canning jars, leaving about ¼ inch of headspace. Wipe down the rims and place the lids on the jars. Once your lids are on the jars, you have a choice – you can either cool the jelly and store it in the refrigerator, or you can process it in a water bath canner for ten minutes. Just make sure you let it cool for 24 hours before storing!
Cucumber jelly tastes delicious on toast, or you can serve it with your favorite meat. I recommend serving it as an alternative to mint jelly on lamb!
Cucumber Breads and Muffins
If you are a baker at heart, you can make your own sweet breads and muffins. These can then be stored for use later on, or eaten immediately. To make them, simply substitute cucumber for zucchini in your favorite zucchini bread or muffin recipe. It works exactly the same. The goods freeze well for quick breakfasts, too!
Dehydrated cucumbers, or cucumber chips, are surprisingly delicious – plus, they’re a healthier alternative to chips. All you need to do is slice your cucumbers into thin pieces before laying them (ideally without touching) on the trays of your dehydrator. Let them dry for four hours or until they are brown and crunchy.
Feeling adventurous? You can also add spices to your chips. Most people just stick to salt and a little bit of olive oil, but you could also use things like ranch seasoning, turmeric, garlic, or rosemary if you are feeling creative!
One of the most popular methods of preserving cucumbers to make pickles out of them. You have two options: dill pickles or bread and butter pickles.
Personally, I like a nice crunchy dill pickle. To make crunchy dill pickles, you will need about eight pounds of cucumbers. You can use any kind of cucumber, but the kind that are grown specifically for pickling will work best.
For your brine, you will need ½ cup of salt, two quarts of water, ¼ cup of sugar, and 1 ½ quarts of vinegar. You can use any kind of vinegar you’d like, but I recommend white vinegar (this will prevent any discoloration).
For the crunchiest pickles ever, make sure you soak them ahead of time (about twelve hours total) in a saltwater solution. This will help remove excess moisture that can make your pickles soggy.
After you have prepared your cucumbers (peeled and sliced), you can heat your brine to boiling. Place a teaspoon of mustard seed and 1 ½ heads of fresh dill in the boiling brine. If you want, you can also add a few teaspoons of store-bought pickling spices.
Place your cucumbers in your hot, prepared canning jars, then add your brine. Make sure you leave about half an inch of headspace. You will need to process your jars in a water bath canner for ten minutes, adjusting for altitude if needed.
You don’t have to can your pickles if you don’t want to, either. While most pickle recipes call for a quick dip in the water bath canner (like the recipe I just detailed for you), keep in mind that you can also make refrigerator pickles. You’ll use the exact same recipe as if you were going to can the pickles, but instead of canning, you’ll stick the jars in the refrigerator. You will want to wait a few weeks for them to fully develop their flavors, but after that, you can go ahead and eat them up.
Don’t want to eat them up right away? They’ll last at least two months in the refrigerator, so you don’t have to worry about them going bad.
Whip Up Some Cucumber Juice
Cucumber juice is a great way to harness all the flavors and nutrients of delicious cucumbers. All you need to do is send the cucumbers – seeds, skins, and all – through a juicer. You can then use the juice in cucumber jelly or in smoothies. It can even be used in creative recipes like frozen margaritas! If you don’t have a juicer, you should be able to achieve a close consistency with a blender or food processor, too.
Make Cucumber Relish
Making relish is another popular method of preserving cucumbers. Sweet yet acidic at the same time, a good cucumber relish is the perfect addition to the quintessential summer barbeque.
To make an easy pickle relish, combine three or four pounds of cucumbers with a large onion, ¼ cup pickling salt, 1 cup of sugar, three cups of white vinegar, and some garlic, mustard, turmeric, and celery seed to taste. You’ll boil everything in a large pot for three hours.
Once your mixture is warm and mushy, you will ladle it into canning jars. Keep in mind that relish is meant to have a soft, somewhat saggy consistency. However, you are going to want to remove as much excess moisture as possible.
When your relish is finished, you can pack it into pint jars and can for ten minutes or you can store it in the refrigerator. The choice is yours!
Create a Cucumber Salsa
There are plenty of ways you can make salsa with cucumbers. Most also call for tomatoes, onions, and other vegetables. Here is an excellent cucumber salsa recipe for you to consider.
To make cucumber salsa, you should combine two cucumbers, peeled and chopped, with two tomatoes, chopped. You can also add ½ cup of sweet bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, and even a small onion to the mix. Just make sure everything is chopped finely.
You will also need a clove of minced garlic, two tablespoons of lime juice, and some parsley, cilantro, dill weed, and salt to taste. You will mix everything together before covering and refrigerating it for one hour.
Serve it with tortilla chips or pack it into a canning jar and stick it in the refrigerator. It should store for up to two weeks. I don’t recommend canning this cucumber salsa – since it does not contain vinegar to raise its acidity, it’s not safe to can it in a water bath canner.
Compose a Cooling Cucumber Sorbet
If you’re tired of all the typical healthy recipes for preserving cucumbers, consider this unique dessert. A cucumber sorbet is not only delicious, but it’s also nutritious. Plus, it’s easy to make.
All you need to do is put 1 ½ pounds of cucumbers in a food processor. You’ll process them until smooth and then add a cup of sugar and three tablespoons of lemon or lime juice. Then you can blend the mixture until it reaches a soft consistency. Put it in a freezer-safe container and let it freeze for at least four hours.
That’s all there is to it! Summer – served.
Can You Can or Freeze Cucumbers?
You can easily freeze cucumbers in freezer-safe bags, containers, or mason jars – however, I don’t necessarily recommend it. It will render your cucumbers somewhat soggy and mushy upon thawing, which is definitely not desired for most applications. However, if you only plan on making a soup or something else that doesn’t require much texture, this method may work well for you. Give it a go!
However, canning cucumbers is definitely not recommended. There are no water bath-safe recipes for canning cucumbers, since they are a low-acid vegetable, and pressure canning cucumbers can make them soggy and unpalatable. Plus, this soggy texture can create uneven pockets inside your canning jars, making it difficult for them to be safely canned.
Instead, consider one of these other awesome methods of preserving cucumbers. Bon appetit!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.