Few things in this world are as satisfying as the crunch of a good pickle. Whether that pickle is dill, kosher, or sweet, the important part is that it was made with love and by hand. This is especially true if you choose the best cucumbers for pickling.
The best cucumbers for pickling are between 1.5 and 6 inches long, blocky, and have bumpy skin that stays crisp after pickling. Good varieties include anything with “pickle” in the name, as well as types like Boothby’s Blonde, Bushy, Calypso, Double Yield, Hokus, Little Leaf H-19, or Parisian.
Pickles are a food that offers endless options! The growing season, availability, and alternatives to pickling cucumbers are addressed below.
What are the Best Cucumbers for Pickling?
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Pro Tip: I buy almost all of my gardening supplies from True Leaf Market. Use this link to get $5 off your first purchase from True Leaf Market.
Pickling cucumbers are diverse and offer options to appeal to every taste! Some are small and crunchy, others are tart, and some are sweet. The majority of pickling cucumbers come from the Cucumis sativus cultivar, which is ideal for pickling.
Making Pickles from Grocery Store Cucumbers?
Pickling cucumbers are generally not what you’d find at the grocery store. Those cucumbers, while delicious, are so long, soft, and smooth that they would make a fairly mushy end product. Nobody wants to bite into a soggy pickle. If your only options are from the grocery section, “quick pickles” are a tasty way to get you through a meal until pickling season arrives.
Recommended Pickling Cucumber Varieties
The recommended pickles today, especially for home gardeners, are Boston Pickling, Boothby’s Blonde, Burpee Picklers, Bushy, Calypso, Double Yield, Fresh Pickles, Hokus, Homemade Pickles, Honey Plus, Lemon, Little Leaf H-19, Miniature White, National Pickling, Northern Pickling, Parisian, Pick a Bushel, Picklebush, Supremo, and Wisconsin SMR 58.
These options provide a variety of flavors, uses, and growing climates. You’re likely to find at least one or two at your local farmer’s market, and many can be grown in a backyard without too much struggle. The Picklebush variety can even be grown on an apartment balcony, so your family can have easy snacks on-hand for weeks at a time!
Where Can I Find Pickling Cucumbers?
Unfortunately, this can be the trickiest part of pickling for many would-be canners. Where can you find good pickling cucumbers? Are they just out of reach for you?
No! You have options. With a little hard work and creativity, homemade pickles are in your future.
Grow Pickling Cucumbers Yourself
You can grow foods to pickle in your own backyard easily. This will give you the satisfaction that comes from growing your own food. You will know where it came from, enjoy early mornings with cool cucumber leaves, and be able to pick each item at the perfect moment.
When some varieties need to be picked while tiny, like those used for French Cornichons, as this can make the difference between a delicious pickle and a hollow bite.
The downside to this is that many people either don’t have the space or don’t have the time. Taking two days off work in pickling season is very different from spending time gardening every day for a few months, and not every home has a place for a garden. Even tiny container gardening needs space for a window.
But don’t give up, pickle lovers! You still have options!
Farmers Markets/Buying Local
Even pickle-lovers who live in the biggest cities or smallest college towns usually have access to a Farmer’s Market. These wonderful events are beneficial for the vendors and for the communities they serve. There’s a chance you could make a connection here with a farmer that either grows pickling cucumbers or who can tell you where to find them. They may even have an heirloom recipe for you!
The Grocery Store
This one is a challenge. Remember that many grocery store pickles are too wet, too thick-skinned, or are otherwise unsuited for pickling. Your best option is the very small pickles labeled as “Salad Cucumbers.” Some fancier grocery stores or natural food stores might have more variety, so feel free to go exploring in your community!
Buying Pickling Cucumbers Online
This might sound crazy, but shopping for pickling cucumbers online is an option! Stores like Melissa’s Produce or GrubMarket offer 2-day shipping for niche products like these. If you are really out of options, this could be a great way to get the cucumbers you need.
What are Good Substitutes for Pickling Cucumbers?
This is a great question! Pickles, while generally associated with the classic cucumber, are really a wide variety of products that have undergone the pickling process. Cucumbers might not be available, but that doesn’t need to stop you. The real question is, how adventurous are you feeling?
Classic Pickle Options (that Aren’t Cucumbers!)
Classic pickling options are things you might see on the grocery store shelf like beets, onions, carrots, or peppers. Think of all the pioneer and heritage recipes that can be used once you branch out! Fancy restaurants won’t have the edge on crunchy pickled cocktail onions for much longer, and your charcuterie boards will be legendary.
Classics can include things you are sure to find at any grocery store, like a tasty Watermelon Rind Pickle. Besides making a fun and nutritious new food that stays good on a shelf all winter, impressing guests and in-laws alike, you’ll also reduce waste and maximize your grocery budget.
Another classic that might have seemed out of reach before is the street-taco pairing of pickled jalapenos and carrots. This crunchy, tangy, spicy treat is a mouth-watering accompaniment to meals, and a great snack on its own. Now you can make it at home! What will impress your dinner guests more than that?
Do you love sushi? What about that sweet and spicy ginger that goes alongside it? That’s a type of pickle too! Take your home sushi nights to the next level by pickling your own baby ginger. This will help you save money and show off like never before. Bragging rights have never tasted so good. 🙂
Pro Tip: Read my article, What are the Different Types of Pickles? for more ideas!
Think Outside the Pickled Cucumber Box
What do you have growing in your yard? You might be able to pickle it!
Some tasty and interesting pickles brought back by gourmets worldwide include pickled blueberries, blackberries, peaches, and cherries. Pickled fruit might seem like a strange concept, but the combination of salty, tangy, and sweet is an incredible combination on top of ice creams, crackers, cheeses, meats, or just by itself.
Asparagus, squash, cauliflower, and tomatoes have pickle potential too. Pickled green beans can make a boring side dish interesting again. Pickled bell peppers make overdone sandwiches into something fancy. Listen to your heart and check out your garden! Follow the rules of safe pickling and have fun experimenting.
Related Pickling Articles
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these articles about pickles. 🙂
- Pickling Vs. Fermenting | Are Pickles and Ferments the Same?
- Are Pickles Vegetables?
- What is Pickle Crisp and How Can You Use It?
- What is the Pickling Process?
- What are the Different Types of Pickles?
- What Types of Vinegar Can be Used in Pickling?
Recommended Resources for Pickling and Fermenting
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you strive to stock your pantry with delicious pickled and fermented food! Here are some tools that I use that I’m hoping you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I’ll earn a commission. Please know that these are the tools that I actually use and recommend and believe in 100%!
DIY Pickling: Step-By-Step Recipes for Fermented, Fresh, and Quick Pickles (on Amazon). This is the first pickling and fermenting book that I purchased. I love that it has great photos and very clear instructions. If you want to learn about both quick pickles AND ferments in a single book, this is the one I recommend.
Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods (on Amazon). One of my good friends grew up on a farm and has been fermenting food since he was a young boy. This is the one book that he says is an absolute must if you want to learn how to ferment food.
Stainless Steel Fermenting Kits (on True Leaf Market) I love using stainless steel products because they stand the test of time. Though they are a bit more expensive than other options, in the long run they save money because they last pretty much forever. I also love products that work with mason jars, and these certainly fit the bill.
Fermenting and Pickling Kits (on Cultures for Health) are the best way to start with fermenting if you want everything you need to (except the food!) to start fermenting. If you’re hit with the intimidation factor when it comes to pickling or fermenting, consider starting with a kit.