Canning dates back hundreds of years and in hard economic times, can often provide a very cost-effective way of creating a lot of food that tastes good, is cost effective, and will keep in the fridge for significantly longer. It also brings a sense of pride in making your own food instead of buying it from the store.
Canning does require a few tools to start up, however these tools are easily found, are often reasonably priced, and can be used repeatedly. You will need a pair of jar grabbers for grabbing jars out of hot, sanitizing water, a magnetic lid lifter for the same purpose, only for lids, a jar funnel, a large pot, spoons/ladles, and a canner. A canner is a specialty pot that is sold in most kitchen stores. It sanitizes jars after filling, secures the lids to the jars and keeps your food sanitary.
Of course, you will also need reusable jars and lid rings, as well as non-reusable (but still cheap!) lids. When selecting the food to be canned, you should look for crisp and fresh pickles, with none wilting, over ripe or soft. There are multiple types of vinegars and quick processing pickling mixes available at stores and this is to your taste and how much you are planning to can. The packages will show how many packages you need for how many jars you plan to make. Also, a good buy is a 64oz bottle of vinegar, which will provide you the 4 cups that you need, with leftover vinegar, and all for a good price!
When cutting and preparing the vegetables, you will need about 3-4 cucumbers that are 4-5″ to fill one jar. Be sure to cut off the bottoms of your pickle spears- as the bottoms can hold bacteria. Set aside the pickles and start two pots of boiling water. It may also be a good idea to have the canner boiling as well to increase speed and sanitation. Sanitize the jars in one pot of water, while sanitizing the lids and rings in the other pot of water. Let the jars and lids dry while you bring the package of pickle seasonings to a near boil.
Be sure to follow the directions on the pickle seasoning package. Also, do not use a metal pot to cook the mixture of vinegar and seasonings, unless the metal is coated). This prevents leaking and mixing of the metal into the pickling mix, making it cloudy and bad tasting.
Fill the jars with the pickles, leaving room to allow for the liquid and expansion of the pickles. A quarter of an inch is usually enough. Pour the mixture slowly into the jar and place the lid on the jar, while tightening the ring around the lid to secure it. Be sure to use hand coverings, as the glass jars will be hot from the water.
After all of the jars have been filled, place them in the canner in order to fully secure the lids to the jars. The hot water will secure the lid. Keep the jars in the water for 10 minutes, or what ever the canner or pickle mixture instructions say. Generally, the longer the jars are in there, the more “mushy” the pickles will be.
Gently remove the jars, and let them cool in an undisturbed area for 24 hours. The lids should be secured to the jar. A good test is to push the top of the jar- if it “pops”, it is not secured. The seasonings generally take 2 weeks to season the cucumber into a pickle.