Logo for N.C. Cooperative Extension N.C. Cooperative Extension Homepage

Common Causes for Soft Home Canned Pickles

From time to time, even the most experienced home canning enthusiast can experience a batch of soft pickles. We receive this question often at the Mecklenburg Cooperative Extension Office. In efforts to help you get the best out of your summer harvest, here’s a few common causes for soft/mushy pickles:

Problem Cause Prevention
Soft or slippery pickles (If spoilage is evident, do not eat.) 1. Vinegar too weak. 1. Use vinegar of at least 5% acidity.
2. Insufficient amount of brine. 2. Keep cucumbers immersed in the brine.
3. Pickles not processed properly (to destroy microorganisms). 3. Process pickles in canner after filling jars.
4. Moldy garlic or spices. 4. Always use fresh spices.
5. Blossom ends not removed from cucumbers. 5. Slice at least 1/16th inch off blossom end of cucumbers and discard. (1)

Identifying and Removing Blossom Ends

One of the most common issues leading to soft pickles is failure to remove the blossom end. Blossoms may contain an enzyme that causes pickles to soften. Removing 1/6 of an inch of the blossom end will help increase the outcome of a firm product, as the potential enzyme has been removed.

Other solutions

Other options that may assist you with creating a crisp product include Pickle Crisp, or lime, a form of calcium that helps keep pickles crisp. Excess lime should be removed to make pickles safe. The process includes soaking fresh cucumbers 12 to 24 hours in a lime-water solution before pickling them. Excess lime must be removed to make safe pickles. To remove excess lime, drain the lime-water solution, rinse well and then re-soak the cucumbers in fresh water for 1 hour. Repeat the rinsing and soaking steps two more times. (2)

Sources:
(1) University of Georgia. (2009). Preparing and canning fermented and pickled foods. National Center for Home Food Preservation. Retrieved from http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/prep_foods.html.
(2) Penn State University. (2012, July 19). Crispy pickles. [Web post]. Retrieved from http://extension.psu.edu/food/preservation/news/2012/crispy-pickles.