Nutrition Corner: Lower your sodium by making your own pickles

July 19th, 2016 12:24 pm

Has your health care provider recommended that you reduce the amount of sodium you eat? The USDA Dietary Guidelines reminds us to limit the amount of sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. Currently the average amount of sodium that we eat in an average in one day is 3,440 milligrams!

Most of the sodium we eat comes from bakery items because we eat them frequently. Also, prepared or processed foods that are ready to eat typical are high as well. Any processed food is higher than if you made it yourself. For example, soups, chicken and pickles can be lower in sodium if you make them yourself.

If you are not a “canner,” which is one who cans vegetables or fruits, there is an easy way to make pickles right in your own refrigerator. Even the novice cook can feel successful in making quick fresh refrigerated pickles.

The first trick to making a crispy pickle is to know which end of the cucumber to trim before slicing into wedges or thick slices. Cucumbers have a stem end and a blossom end. The blossom end is the very first growth of the cucumber and contains enzymes which can cause softening. This end is where the blossom attached to the cucumber. It’s important to slice the blossom end off. Trim just 1/16 of an inch. This will keep the pickles from softening.

Next, choose a clean glass gallon jar. If you do not have a glass jar that size, then choose a large glass bowl with a small plate to cover. Glass containers are best to use because pickles are made with large amounts of vinegar. Since vinegar is an acid, it could penetrate plastic or even react with porous metal containers like aluminum or galvanized metal.

A one gallon container holds five pounds of fresh cucumbers. Do not use copper, iron, galvanized metal containers or lead-glazed crocks. Other 1 to 3 gallon food-grade containers may be used if they are lined inside with a clean food-grade plastic bag. Do not use garbage bags or trash can liners.

The first step in making pickles is to make the brine. This is the vinegar solution that makes cucumbers into pickles. It’s important to bring the mixture to a boil to dissolve the salt. Once it boils, turn off the heat and let it cool. Glass containers may crack if boiling water is poured into them.

Next, prepare the cucumbers. First wash in water that is slightly warmer then the cucumber. This will release the dirt more easily. Drain and begin by slicing off the blossom end. If you are using baby cucumbers, leave them whole. Large cucumber can be sliced on the diagonal.

The last step is to add the other ingredients to the containers, garlic, peppercorns and dill, followed by the cucumbers and lastly, the brine. Pickles can last in the refrigerator for two weeks.

Easy Dill Pickles

5 cups water

2 tablespoons salt

¾ cup white vinegar

1 1/2 pounds cucumbers

3 garlic cloves, peeled

4 large dill sprigs

1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

If using a bowl, place the plate on top to keep the cucumbers under the brine. Enjoy!

Recipe taken from Chop Chop Magazine.

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford Counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at