Making pickles is very serious business in my house, which means knowing what varieties of cucumbers make the best pickles is also serious business. I come from a family of dill pickle lovers. My brothers first word out of his mouth was pickle, no joke it is actually listed in his baby book. My job is to keep all the pickle lovers in my family supplied with crunchy dill pickles for the entire year (or at least a good chunk of it). Last year I canned 72 quarts of dill pickles folks, that is a lot of pickles! Needless to say in order for that to happen I have to grow a few cucumbers.
I’ve been at the pickle making business for awhile now so I definitely have some cucumbers that I consider to be tried and true varieties I grow each year for making dill pickles.
Snow’s Fancy Pickling Cucumbers: This one is my favorite because the cucumbers are perfectly sweet and crunchy, so they work great for pickling but also for fresh eating. The cucumbers only get about 5″ long by about 1″ wide which makes them a perfect fit for canning jars. They work great for making pickle slices as the shape of the cucumber isn’t perfectly round which I think gives the slices a little bit fancier look. This variety grows plentiful amounts of cucumbers- it seems for every one that you pick two more appear which is awesome when you are trying to have a pickle factory in your kitchen.
Russian Pickling Cucumbers–I like this variety as it usually keeps producing cucumbers the longest. I typically pick the cucumbers when they are about 5″ long if I can (they can get up to 8″). They are covered with quite a few spines which I actually really like the bumpy texture when making pickles. These have a more mild flavor so I prefer to use these just for pickling.
Homemade Pickles–This variety is one of my favorites for the crunch and sweet taste and their beautiful color. These guys have a green skin with white spines that gives them the coloration of what I think a perfect pickle should look like. They get about 5″ to 6″ long, but they will get wider the longer they are left on the vine which makes them a great candidate for making pickle spheres.
I figure I could be missing out on different or great variety so I always make an effort to try some new varieties each year. This year I am trying a variety called Alibi which only grows 3″ to 4″ long. It can also be picked at a smaller size for baby dills. It is suppose to have a delicious sweet flavor for fresh eating and great crunch for pickling.
I am also finally trying the Mexican Sour Gherkin, also sometimes called Cucamelons. I’ve been wanting to grow these guys for awhile and finally left room in the garden for them this year. They are a cucumber that only grows about 1-2″ and look like little tiny watermelons. They are suppose to taste like a cucumber with a hint of lemon. These guys can also be used for pickling.
My last new variety is called Striped Armenian which I decided to try after I heard a customer rave about this cucumber and how it was the best one he had ever grown. They are a cucumber that grows in a curvy S shape and they have pretty dark green stripes. The cucumbers can get from 8″ to 18″ long. I won’t be pickling this one, as it if just a fresh eats cucumber.
I’ve used bamboo tepee style trellises the last several years to grow my cucumbers which have worked well for me but sometimes the cucumbers can be a little difficult to harvest or to reach in the confined center space. This year I decided to update my cucumber trellises to these A-frame style trellises to have a little bit better access for harvesting.
As we go through the season I’ll be sharing tips, tricks and recipes to create plenty of crunchy and delicious dill pickles.