Post Image
Credit: Peter Colin Murray/Kitchn

Want to Pickle Something? Don’t Start with Cucumbers.

updated Aug 6, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

Back in Martha Washington’s day, the word pickle encompassed a wide range of produce possibilities. Nearly any fruit or vegetable was acceptable for preserving — either in a salt brine or a vinegar brine, with spices, herbs, and aromatics. 

However, over the last 100 years, the scope of what’s considered a pickle began to narrow until the word became entirely associated with small cucumbers. In the mind of the general public, that has become the only true pickle. Unfortunately this means that most of the time, when new food preservers start thinking about making pickles, they assume that they need to start with cucumbers. 

Why Cucumbers Aren’t the Best Pickle for Beginners

The trouble is, homemade cucumber pickles are often disappointing, particularly if you choose the wrong cucumber variety or process them in a boiling water bath canner. When heated, cucumber pickles can lose their crunch or even turn spongy, which isn’t delicious. Varieties that weren’t bred for pickling can have tough or bitter skins, which can impart an off-flavor to the entire batch. 

Credit: Peter Colin Murray/Kitchn

Why Green Beans Are Far Superior to Cucumbers

For all these reasons, when people approach me about pickling, I always suggest starting with green beans. Pickled green beans — called dilly beans — have the classic vinegar, garlic, and dill flavor, but simply use a slightly different vegetable. 

The beauty of using green beans is that they can stand up to the heat of the boiling brine and water bath process without losing their crunchy texture. They also absorb the flavors of the herbs and garlic gorgeously. And it’s got a bit of gourmet cachét, which makes it a fun one to share at potlucks and parties. 

You can make a quick refrigerator dilly bean, which will keep just fine for a few weeks in the fridge. But if you’ve got a bulk of green beans from the garden or your farmer’s market — or just want to make sure you’ve got a jar to open in January — try making this shelf-stable method.

Credit: Peter Colin Murray/Kitchn

Learn How to Preserve Green Beans

Plus, more on pickling green beans:

More Pickle Recipes

From Kitchn’s Editors: We hope you try out Marisa’s dilly beans; pick some up at the farmers market this weekend and get pickling! But if you would like a nudge to try something next, here are a few more pickle recipes including, yes, a cucumber: Marisa’s own garlic dill pickles which are out of this world!

The main thing to remember is this: you can quick-pickle almost any vegetable and store it in the fridge for weeks, for eating on salads and burgers and chicken. No canning required.

Credit: Peter Colin Murray/Kitchn

Weeknight Preserving is your beginner’s guide to preserving the best of the season even if you have a small kitchen or a couple hours on a weeknight. We asked Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars for a true beginner’s guide to preserving, from pickles to jams to freezing to fermenting. You (yes you!) can make a pickle or a jam to be proud of this summer. Share your preserving triumphs with us by tagging #thekitchn on Instagram.

Wondering what to do with the pickles you’ve made? Check out Marisa’s latest book, The Food in Jars Kitchen. It contains over 100 recipes to help you cook, bake, transform, and share your homemade preserves!

Follow Marisa on Facebook, Instagram, and by visiting her website Food in Jars.