Can You Freeze Pickles? – What To Do Instead
What is better than making your preserves and pickles? They always taste extra crisp and flavorful and you do appreciate them much more.
However, these can be a ton of work to make and they have a lengthy process. Worst of all, although you think the yield will be huge, you will probably end up with only three jars.
This whole process is especially tedious when you have to slave away for hours over a boiling pot of vinegar in the middle of summer.
The only way it would be worth the work is if it can last forever in a freezer.
So can you freeze pickles? As a preserving method, you cannot freeze pickles, but as a production method, you most definitely can. To make pickles in the freezer, boil sliced cucumbers in vinegar, pre-freeze, and then freeze them in glass containers. They will last up to a year in the freezer and several months in the fridge.
In this article, we will have a look at exactly what happens when you freeze pickles and how to do so correctly to make them. We will also look at some tips and tricks to make your life much easier.
When we think about freezing food, the purpose is usually to make food last longer.
However, pickling ingredients are already a preserving method that will increase an ingredient’s shelf life, possibly longer than even freezing it would be able to.
If you were to freeze already pickled cucumbers, they would lose their texture and flavor as they have already undergone a cooking process that has altered their texture. The crystals that form during freezing will expand them even further, resulting in almost mush.
Here is where it gets interesting. While we were researching how to store our homemade pickles, we came across a unique method to make and preserve pickles without all the work – by making them in our freezer.
How Does Making Pickles In a Freezer Work?
Pickling food aims to make its flavor and texture last longer. However, when you boil the cucumbers in vinegar, they tend to soften considerably and only crisp back up when placed in the fridge for a few days.
So what is the purpose of boiling, then?
You could make the argument that boiling is necessary to allow the cucumbers (along with other ingredients) to release their flavor and infuse each other.
If you have ever tasted freshly boiled cucumbers, you know that they just taste like fresh vinegar poured over soft cucumber – definitely not pickled.
Only after leaving the pickled cucumbers in the vinegar with the other ingredients for about 1-2 weeks in a cold refrigerator, then you start to taste true pickled cucumbers as we know it.
But using a cold-pickling method in a freezer works the same as traditional pickling does, without the boiling of ingredients, essentially without altering its texture.
It can all be explained using science! When water freezes, it expands considerably. Thus when the water in the cucumber and brine becomes crystals, they break down the fibers and rearrange them, making them soften.
When you put it like that it makes a lot of sense.
How To Freeze Pickles – Step By Step
This method of making pickles by freezing is much quicker than the traditional method.
1. Make the brining liquid
For this step, you can make the same brine you would with a traditional method, just don’t add the pickles. Make sure any sugar is dissolved and that the mixture has come to a boil. Cool off the brine completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
2. Macerate your pickles
Slice the pickles to your desired thickness. We recommend about ¼ – ½ inch (5mm – 1 cm). Place the slices in a colander and sprinkle with salt. The salt will extract any excess water that needs to be replaced by the brining liquid.
Allow them to sit for 1-2 hours before rinsing the slices and squeezing out any excess water.
3. Packing the cucumber slices
Pack the containers full of cucumber slices, leaving very little space. Add the cooled off bringing liquid until it almost reaches the top.
Leave at least 1–3 inches (2.5 – 8cm) room at the top of the container, depending on the size, to allow the water to expand during freezing.
As with any pickling or preserving process, labels are very important to identify faults in batches and recipes.
The following information should always be written on your pickling jars:
- Name of contents i.e. pickles and include other ingredients used such as dill
- Date it was frozen (this will assist in rotating your stock)
- Use-by date (they should last up to 1 year in the freezer)
Labeling pickles is crucial for three reasons:
- To identify any problems in a batch that may be eliminated by information from the label. For instance, if your pickles went off, but they have only been frozen for 1 month, it means that there is a different reason than shelf-life.
- To identify different jars from the same batch that will assist when having multiple preserves in the freezer.
- To ensure that the oldest batches are used first. This is called stock rotation or the FIFO (first-in, first-out) method.
Secondly, that if any meat goes off, you can check the label to figure out why. It might be because of many factors, but labeling the products will help you eliminate some of those reasons.
5. Place the containers in the freezer
Place the containers in the freezer, without any lids, for about 3-4 hours, when the liquid starts crystallizing. Place the lid on and leave until they are completely frozen.
Frozen pickles will last for up to a year in the freezer. Once defrosted (see related questions) they will last in the fridge for many months before losing their texture and crispness.
Benefits of Freezing Pickles
When cooking cucumbers on heat, they can very easily become very soft and mush. When the water in the pickling mixture freezes, it cannot freeze further, making it impossible to over-cook or soften the cucumbers.
Because there is no heat involved and the whole pickling process takes place in an anaerobic environment, the cucumbers will not oxidize and turn grey.
These pickles are much quicker to make than when using the traditional method as you don’t have to wait for any ingredients to boil or cool.
Although it is always recommended to use sterile jars for pickles, because we aren’t using any hot liquids, if your jars are clean and you follow the steps correctly, you can save even more time by skipping this step.
Tips & Tricks For Freezing Pickles
For best results when making pickles, in the freezer or using the traditional method, you may want to keep some things in mind:
- As when freezing any product, make sure your freezer is free from any odors and do not have fluctuating temperatures. Especially because the texture of these pickles is very important to preserve, you cannot have them thaw and freeze constantly.
- Ideally, the freezer should have a temperature of at least 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius).
- We would advise you to use glass containers for the pickles. These containers are easily sterilized and will not transfer odors or tastes to your batch. Just keep in mind that the glass containers can become very fragile when frozen.
- Try to section your freezer into different areas such as meats, vegetables, pickles, etc. This way you can store all of your pickles in one section, making them easily accessible.
- Another neat trick is to use re-sealable freezer bags to store the brine and cucumbers in. Make sure to not fill the bags all the way and to squeeze out all the air inside. Lay the bags flat on a tray in the freezer and when completely frozen, they will stack very efficiently.
- Most pickles contain sugar in the recipe. It is important to note that sugar lowers the freezing point of a mixture so the more sugar the brine contains, the longer it will take to freeze. Try to keep your sugar levels low so the pickles freeze quickly.
How to thaw or defrost the pickles?
Once you are ready to use your frozen pickles, thaw them in the refrigerator for 24 hours before you need them. Once defrosted, they will last a very long time in the fridge, but will eventually lose their texture.
Are there specific cucumbers that work better?
We haven’t personally tried a lot of different cucumbers, but we don’t see why a different cucumber will yield different results.
However, if you are using entirely different vegetables, that could affect the freezing process.
Can these pickles be consumed, still frozen?
If you can manage to get a frozen pickle out of the frozen brine, you can consume them frozen, but this would be difficult to do. We would recommend at least thawing them a little.
Can this method be used in a refrigerator?
You can pickle the cucumbers in a refrigerator, but they will not last nearly as long or get a crispy texture like both traditional and freeze pickling methods would.
This pickling method is sometimes referred to as quick pickling as it doesn’t infuse as much flavor and doesn’t create a nice texture.
Freezer Pickles Recipe
Homemade pickles made and preserved without all the fuss.
- 1 lb cucumbers (English, gherkin, or Kirby recommended)
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1/4 sugar
- 2 tbsp salt
- optional: garlic cloves, dill leaves, other herbs or vegetables for flavor
- Make the brining liquid by boiling vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and any added ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan. Boil on high until sugar dissolves completely.
- Let the bring cool to room temperature.
- Slice cucumbers to desired thickness. We recommend about ¼ - ½ inch (5mm – 1 cm). Or leave them whole if desired. Place the slices in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. The salt will extract any excess water that needs to be replaced by the brining liquid.
- Allow cucumbers to sit for 1-2 hours before rinsing them and squeezing any excess water.
- Pack freezer-safe jars or containers full of cucumber slices. You don't want to leave much space. Pour the brining liquid. Leave at least an inch of space to allow the water to expand when freezing.
- Label and place the containers in the freezer without lids for 3-4 hours.
- When the liquid starts crystallizing, place lids on the containers and leave to freeze completely.
- When you want to enjoy your pickles, it's best to let them defrost in the fridge for 24 hours.
Pickles will last for up to a year in the freezer. Once defrosted they will maintain their texture for several months in the fridge.
You should also note that the exact amount of pickles as well as the nutritional information will vary by which type of cucumber you use.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 10Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 876mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g