Why Beginner Canners Shouldn't Start With Pickles

Canning food is a process met with a certain amount of reservation — and the majority of the apprehension comes before anyone even begins their first canning session. As The Chopping Block explains, a lack of knowledge, fear over spoilage/botulism, unwillingness to spend money on proper equipment, lack of time, and belief in "outdated" traditions are all factors that lead people away from this particular method of food preservation. There are, however, many who come to canning with a energy and enthusiasm, only to become discouraged when their efforts don't turn out right.

According to The Kitchn, this discouragement is not the result of lack of ability, but rather in choosing the wrong recipes. They point out that two of the most popular canning recipes — strawberry jam and cucumber pickles — are actually among the hardest to master. Unfortunately, beginners who start and fail with these two recipes seldom feel the motivation to keep canning. 

The many challenges posing the pickle-canning process

The Kitchn explains that canning pickles is difficult owing to the fact that "even the snappiest pickling cucumber has a hard time retaining its texture after five or 10 minutes in a boiling water bath." As cucumbers are a vegetable primarily composed of water, they may lose their crisp texture when exposed to boiling water after being jam packed into a brine and vinegar solution. The Clemson Cooperative Extension lists some other common problems to watch out for, such as the development of yeast, cloudy brines, and neglecting to remove the blossom ends of the cucumbers, which can introduce unwanted microorganisms to your pickles. 

It would behoove beginners to start their canning experience with easier recipes. Foods that have high-acid content are relatively easy to can and Food in Jars explains that high levels of acid "[inhibit] the germination of botulism spores into the botulism toxin." Rural Sprouts lists some other easier canning recipes for beginners to try, such as applesauce, tomato chutney, apricot jam, and cherries in honey. 

Developing any new skill always includes a learning curve. Be sure to give yourself some grace, start off simple, and build your confidence from there.