Archive | September 2, 2014

Soggy but Tasty: Making Pickles with Slicers


“Dear Horticulturist,

This year I grew a ton of Diva Cucumbers and canned pickles from them.  The little ones turned out okay, but the spears made from larger ones had very soft insides.  The taste is okay, but there just isn’t any crunch.  What did I do wrong?  Is there anything I can do to them to make them crunchy?”

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Before we delve into why your pickles are soft, let’s examine how a pickle is made:

Pickled vegetables are a great example of fermentation.  The vegetable is submerged in a brine solution.  This prevents the growth of mold while promoting bacterial growth.  Good bacteria eat the sugars present in the vegetable and, as a bi-product, create lactic acid.  Lactic acid is what gives your pickles the characteristic tart taste.

The problem that comes into play with how you made your pickles is that you used Diva.  Diva is a slicing cucumber.  Slicers are not recommended for pickling because they contain the enzyme endopolygalacturonase.  Endopolygalcturonase is created at the blossom end of the fruit and acts to soften the normally-rigid tissues of the cucumber.

Pickling cucumbers also have endopolygalacturonase; however, they also have various proteinase, and amylase  inhibitors.  These inhibitors work on protein and sugars, respectively, to prevent the softening action of endopolygalacturonase.  As a result, a pickle created with a pickling cucumber will be crunchy.

The reason why your smaller cucumbers had no problem witht he pickling process is because they were less mature and lower levels of endopolygalacturonase would have been present.

These pickles are safe to eat, but what will likely be more of an issue is just that they are not going to give you that typical pickle crunch.

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