How to Make Pickles: All About the Vinegar-Brine Pickling Method

What You'll Need

  • Vinegar – Must have an acetic acid content of at least 5%
  • Salt for pickling
  • Vegetables for pickling. You can mix and match but textures will vary from vegetable to vegetable.

Vinegar-brine pickling uses the water bath canning method. Always make sure you follow all safety guidelines outlined by the USDA when canning anything.

Looking for info on fermented pickle brines? Check out our recipe for Fermented Garlic Dill Cucumber Pickles, our article Fermentation and Pickling and Their Common Roots and our Video Workshop on Fermented Pickles.

Homemade Food is Tasty

Here at Mountain Feed, we encourage the idea of making homemade food whenever possible.

It’s part of our story, and a large part of why we opened our doors back in 2004 - so that we could help friends and family live a little lighter on the land and eat some delicious food grown right in the backyard.

Since then, we’ve helped thousands of our customers experience the sweet taste of food produced right at home. Today we’re going to talk pickling.

The Vinegar-Brine Method

Making pickles is relatively easy and inexpensive. If you’re missing any of the necessary equipment check out our must-have list of canning supplies.

In this recipe we will focus on the vinegar-brine method for pickling and the water bath canning method for canning our pickles. Fermented pickles and quick pickles are two other delicious methods of pickling that you will most definitely want to try once you have mastered the vinegar-brine technique. The vinegar-brine method involves packing and preserving your pickles in canning jars by filling the jars with a boiling vinegar-brine solution.

1) A Note About Your Ingredients

Vinegar is your go-to ingredient for pickling, chutneys and sauces. Produced by the double fermentation of fruit or grain the name “vinegar” means “sour wine”. There are many types of vinegar but only vinegar with an acetic acid content of at least 5% is appropriate for pickling and canning. 

Vinegars with less than 5%, such as Rice Wine Vinegar, can be used but must be in combination with other vinegars to increase the acid percentage.

2) Don’t Forget the Salt… But What Kind To Use?

Using salt is one of the oldest methods of preserving. Salt creates an unfriendly environment for yeast, bacteria and molds making it optimal for preserving foods. In addition to being a main ingredient in the process of preserving, it is often used before canning to draw moisture out of foods and to avoid the taste being diluted by their naturally high water content. 

The type of salt you use in your pickles will vary. Sea Salt, Rock Salt, Kosher Salt and Canning or Pickling Salt can all be used. Never use Iodized salt in pickling or canning. If you choose to use a Rock Salt, make sure to find one that is free of additives and won’t affect the final flavor of your product.

If you choose Sea Salt, make sure to buy in bulk to cut your costs and find one without anti-caking agents. We prefer to use canning or pickling salt because it is more affordable than Sea Salt and has a finer grain.

3) Get Your Equipment Ready Beforehand

Prepare your equipment by filling your water bath canner 1/2 to 2/3's full and start it heating on your burner. Select the number of jars you will need based on your recipe. Select jars free of cracks, defects or chips.

4) Sterilize Your Equipment

Wash the jars, lids and bands and all of your tools in hot, soapy water. Sterilize your jars by placing them in the hot canning water for 10 minutes. To sterilize your jars properly, you must have the water above 185° F. Leave your jars in the hot canning water until you are ready to fill them so they remain sterile and hot. DO NOT BOIL your lids - wash them in hot soapy water instead. It is no longer safe to sterilize Ball canning jar lids in hot water before use.

5) Recipes Matter When Pickling

Always follow a recipe when canning anything. If you stray from your recipe, you risk spoiling your food or ending up with an undesirable taste profile. If you’re looking for a great recipe, check out my original dilly beans recipe. It makes 4 wide mouth pint jars of dill pickled green beans - a delicious snack at any time of the year!

6) Making Your Brine - It’s All About The Vinegar

A general rule is 2/3 vinegar to 1/3 water when making brine. This ratio will result in an acidic enough base for whatever vegetable you choose to pickle. Other recipes may have a lighter vinegar brine but you must follow the exact recipe when using those or risk spoilage.

TIP: Add a slice of red beet to your brine when packing your jars to get a beautiful ruby color in alternating batches.

Ready for the Next Step?

Check out our Must-Have List of Canning Supplies and Karla's Pickled Dilly Beans Recipe

Over to You...

It’s part of our mission here at Mountain Feed to help you make delicious, sustainable, homemade food more often. Stop by and say hello on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Or, as always, you can do it the old fashioned way and come by the store to speak with one of our in-house experts.

If you are not familiar with the water bath canning method watch our water bath canning video workshop. Always make sure you are following all safety guidelines outlined by the USDA when canning anything. Keeping a great journal leads to delicious results! Get inspired by new recipes, expert articles and homemade food adventures in our Monthly Journal.