Soggy Limp Pickles

Reply Mon 27 Feb, 2012 03:53 pm
I am a professional pastry chef but possess very little kn owledge on the topic of canning. Grocery prices are getting out of hand and growing up on a farm is bringing me back to my roots. My family always canned but I was too young to comprehend and store the knowledge.
I found an online recipe for "Copycat Claussen Pickles". My first blink of the eye was it called for cider vinegar to which Claussens clearly indicates distilled vinegar on their label and is quite visibly identifiable by the color-CLEAR!
The recipe calls for soaking the pickling cukes in ice water then draining and putting into the Ball Canning Jars alond with dill, garlic, and some spices. It calls for boiling the salt, water, and vinegar.........then allowing to cool.........then pour over the cukes............put the lids on..............let sit in sunny area 3 days...........refrigerate and eat.
My thoughts were "bacteria" and so I used canning jars instead of old mayonaise jars. I also sterilized the jar, boiled the liquid & salt, poured over the cukes hot, then sealed the jar with ring and lid and right into a boiling pot for 10 minutes. After I followed standard canning method for an acidic product, I allowed them to sit on the countertop about a week as my mother always made pickles and we kept them in the basement on shelves and not the fridge...........both dill and sweet!
When I opened a jar to test the flavor I noticed my cukes were very limp and soggy and not firm and crisp as I had expected. I have NO CLUE as to what happened.
I have read some recipes that call for Alum but I did not use it as I thought the canning process would be sufficient for preservation. As a child, my mother canned everything........fruits, jams, vegetables, pickles, beans, tomatoes...............nothing ever spoiled outside of an occassional circumstance that was very obvious even to the ameteur.........DON'T EAT IT!
I would like to know if you have any suggestions of what I may have done wrong?? Possibly hot mixture over cold cukes??? Doing a water bath canning process that may not have been required???
I know for sure I had Pickling cukes! I used canning salt, Hienz White Distilled Vinegar (5%), fresh garlic, fresh dill, filtered water, and a few basic spices .........mustard seed, celery seed, etc.
The flavor was very good however, they aren't Claussens! Maybe I should have used the cider vinegar although Claussens cleary indicates otherwise.
I can tool around with the spices to get a better Claussen clone but I want fresh crisp pickles................just like Clasussens!
Thank you very much for any insight you may care to lend!
Reply Mon 27 Feb, 2012 04:50 pm
From what I'm reading (and I don't do canning; I'm just taking this from instructions versus methodology as you've laid them out there) -

The instructions said - boil the liquids, let them cool before using. Nothing in there about cooking the cukes.
But you did - boiled the liquid and used it, hot, over the cukes.

I think ya cooked the cukes.

Suggestion - boil the liquid, then place in a sealed container and cool it in the fridge. I would assume that would eliminate any bacterial issues. Then pour over the raw cukes as per the instructions and age accordingly.
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Reply Mon 27 Feb, 2012 05:29 pm
The alum is used for one purpose only--to help keep the pickles crisp.

So many of our best pickle recipes point to bending the rules on what we consider today to be safe practices. My neighbor, for instance, pours his liquid lukewarm to cool over raw cukes, with no further heating, and then simply allows some amount of time on the shelf.

I like that you sterilize the jars. If the cukes were carefully washed I suspect you've come a long way in having a reasonably safe product. The only problem is that it's not a perfectly safe one, so those practices cannot be promoted or approved.

I prefer to use alum and give my quart jars a quick hot bath, then I have a snappy pickle between my teeth.

Can't advise you much on the Claussen knock-off recipe. Make your own pickles and buy a jar of Claussens if you miss it.
Reply Mon 27 Feb, 2012 07:38 pm
Surely there is nothing more delightful than a lovely firm pickle.


Alum for pickling is approved by the U.S. FDA as a food additive, but in large quantities (more than an ounce) it becomes toxic. As a result, efforts are being made to wean us of our alum dependency. If good quality produce and modern canning methods are employed, there is no need to use alum to bolster the crispness of the pickles and cherries. In any event, even if alum is used to soak the pickles, it should not be used in the final pickling liquid.

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Reply Mon 27 Feb, 2012 09:44 pm
Jespah is correct, it was the hot temp of the canning liquid. What you want is a recipe that uses what is called the "fresh pack" method and a cooled brine.

Here's a recipe from the Ask Uncle Phaedrus archives that claims to be very close to that of a Claussen. You could probably safely eliminate the garlic, onions and peppers to get something closer to the standard Claussen pickle.


----- Original Message -----
From: Joan
To: [email protected]
Sent: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 6:16 PM
Subject: recipe request

Dear Phaedrus,

I have been searching and searching for some time for a pickling recipe that duplicates
the Clausen Hearty Garlic Dills. I have not had any luck what so ever. Hoping you can help.

Thanking you in advance for your efforts.


Hello Joan,

I had no success locating a copycat recipe for Clausen Hearty Garlic Dills. However, at least one person who tried the below recipe said it was close and that it was very good.


Hearty Garlic Dills


2 quarts cucumbers
1/3 cup instant minced onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds
1/4 cup dill weed
3 cups water
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup canning salt
a few chili peppers thrown in for good measure


Slice up your cucumbers into long wedges and fill prepared jars (sterilized jars and lids).
Add a bunch of dill to each jar.
Heat vinegar and water with remaining ingredients just long enough to dissolve salt.
Cool this mixture to room temp and then pour into jars up to the rim.
Cover and refrigerate at least 3 days.

White vinegar is most commonly used in pickling because it is clear and does not color the pickle. Distilled white vinegar has more of a bite than cider vinegar.

Cider vinegar has a mellow flavor and is the preferred vinegar in many sweet pickles and chutneys. It will darken the pickle.

It is okay to substitute one vinegar for another as long as the vinegar contains 5% acetic acid. Always adhere to the recipe instructions for simmering/boiling the brine because vinegars lose acetic acid with prolonged boiling.

Never reduce the amount of vinegar in a recipe. If the brine is too sharp for your taste, add sugar.

I've been pickling cucumbers from my garden for several years now and have accumulated several pickling recipe books. If you want to improve and expand your canning results, I recommend getting these favorite books of mine:

The paperback version is $12.50 on Amazon.com. It has technical instructions for several methods and a recipe for just about anything you'd want to preserve or can. It is from the makers of Ball canning jars and has been goof-proof tested over the decades.


This one is $9 on Amazon.com I have used several of the recipes in this book for pickling my cucumbers:


If you give me an idea of what type of Claussen pickle you are trying to achieve (sweet, dill, bread and butter, etc.) I can probably find one in my books and post it here for you.
Reply Tue 28 Feb, 2012 02:34 pm
The recipe you posted is the recipe I used as it is posted on several websites. I was after the garlic dill which I really wasn't the problem. As a chef, I have the skills to tweak recipes and achieve the desired results I'm looking for. My issue was the crispness not being in the final result. I can connect with the theory that the liquid being hot may have boiled the cuke...........very possible! Then I boiled the jar 10 minutes for lid seal and any bacterial possibilities. I'm assuming that this recipe can be done without any of that canning proceedure based on the theory that the acid will prevent any bacterial formation........I'm not an expert in that area and I question the theory based on canning technique??? Why would they have a canning proceedure if the acid prevents the problem..........very good possibility it doesn't and this is what I need to know! If I make the mixture, cool it, then add to my cukes and just twist on the lids without creating the canning process seal...............what's the shelf life and will the cukes stay crisp?
One author copied and pasted a paragraph or two regarding ALUM. I read that article prior to this post. Alum is not a SAFE use ingredient..........it is a chemical and to top that, it has been proven that aluminum does NOT leave the body..............EVER! In fact, it coagulates in the brain and is suspected as a cause of such diseases as Alzhiemers and others. The study was performed as a result of all the aluminum cookware during the 50's and 60's and the rise of these diseases.
I want to keep my food as organic as possible without adding all the preservatives and chemicals............that's one reason I chose to can my food! As a farm child, we always ate FRESH..............FRESH meat, FRESH vegetables, FRESH milk and cream, etc! All this store bought stuff is stacked right full of harmful products because money is the driving factor..........not safe and healthy!!
I think I'm going to give it a try again following the recipe recommendations and see what the final product reveals! You can't taste botulism or any other food borne bacteria...........once you ingest it the damage is done................I'd like to avoid that senario by all means!!!
0 Replies
Reply Tue 28 Feb, 2012 06:04 pm
Alum keeps them crisp...
0 Replies

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