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Broadside Pickles take Pickle Canning to the Next Level

Updated: Jan 22


This is advanced pickle making on the homestead. Broadside pickles are just as the name implies, as wide as the broadside of a barn. You can make these with regular cucumbers but Armenian cucumbers get the massive sandwich-covering width without getting poor texture or bitterness as many regular cucumbers often get with size. Growing Armenian cucumbers are almost as easy to grow as regular cucumbers however they do not climb and need to be hand trellised to keep them from overtaking your garden. These plants can span 15 feet across when not trellised. They are extremely heavy plants that require good support. I use 16-foot horse panels. I use t-posts to support three panels each year and I plant around 10-15 plants per panel. These panels are expensive but buy once, cry once. They will outlast your gardening years.


The sad-looking plants are tomatillos. They had an early start and an early finish this season. I will be planting romaine lettuce there this week to be protected from the Kansas sun until I remove the cucumbers.


Items Needed:

THREE DAYS (a few hours each day.)

10-15 pounds of Armenian Cucumbers

2 gallons of filtered water

Extra ice

1 cup Mrs. Wages pickling lime

16 cups sugar

16 cups 6% vinegar

2 Tbs canning salt

Pickling spices

Waffle cutting mandolin

XL food safe container or food safe 5-gallon bucket

Propane burner

XL stock pot

Propane

Up to 19 wide-mouth pint jars and canning lids.


I grow these massive Armenian cucumbers to supplement feed my livestock since I went "bag-feed free" around ten years ago. Cucurbits are extremely healthy for ruminants and poultry. They add the benefit of an anti-inflammatory and hydration in the hot summer months that grain does not. Armenian cucumbers are a little more in the canteloupe family without the soft texture and don't tend to get bitter even in 100º F heat. They don't have a terribly pronounced cucumber flavor so they won't make good cucumber water to drink but they take pickling spice very well. If left to mature, they get a little canteloupe like in the center. Poultry love the seeds and sweet centers. The Armenian cucumbers in these photos are in or on 5-gallon buckets. They often grow as long as my leg if left unattended. These were early season harvests needed to feed poultry. Yes, those buckets are dirty but the chickens, turkey, geese, ducks, and hogs don't mind. I use clean food grade 5-gallon buckets to collect garden food.



I collect around 15-pounds of cucumbers for my pickle project. Armenian cucumbers often get hollow in the center when they get large. It takes a lot of extra cucumbers to get the seedless slabs that make the perfect pickle. There are a lot of leftovers that go back out to the livestock (or your compost pile) but it is worth it for a pickle that will cover an entire sandwich or burger. Imagine a ham sandwich that has homemade pickle in every bite!


This pickling process uses powdered pickling lime to make them so crispy. They are as crisp as a slice of raw potato and it really adds an extra dimension to a soggy burger or stacked sandwich.


Making the ultimate broadside pickle takes time and dedication. This is a three-day process. I will break it down, day by day.


Day 1: This will take several hours. The more patient you are the more beautiful your end product will be.


Collect 10-15 pounds of Armenian cucumbers. Seven finished pounds of sliced cucumbers are needed for this recipe, you will be discarding a lot of extra parts. Wash the cucumbers with dish soap and rinse well. Cut the ends off the cucumber first, this can remove any bitters, and it is just a good habit to get rid of stems and the flower blossom end that tends to gather dirt.

I measure out how long I will cut each cucumber with a bamboo skewer that I pre-cut so I know each pickle will be cut to the perfect size to fit in my canning jars below the pickle with the appropriate headspace of one inch. Then I run pre-cut length cucumber sections through the mandolin using the waffle cut. Slice long ways instead of making the more common coin-shaped cut. Discard seedy pieces and slabs that are all skin on one side. (Yes, you can use them if that is all you have but go for gold here.)


You may find the technique of running one side of the cucumber section through the mandolin until you get close to the seedy center. Then flip the cucumber section on the mandolin to the opposite side and slice. This will give you a few perfect slices that are edged with the cucumber skin. Then slice off the remaining sides until you get down to a square seed core to discard. Keep smaller sliced cucumbers and a few sides that don't have seeds to fill the extra spaces in your canning jars. I grab all of the baby cucumbers available when picking and run them through the mandolin as long as they make length. The smaller pickles are great for hotdogs and chopping up for relish. Be sure to weigh out EXACTLY seven pounds of finished-cut cucumber slices. Don't skimp. The water to lime ratio must be correct for the cucumbers to get crispy.



In an extra large, clean, non-reactive pot, food-safe 5-gallon bucket, or container, measure out two gallons or 8 quarts of cool filtered water. Add one cup of Mrs. Wages pickling lime and mix well.



Carefully add your cucumber slabs by hand to the lime water. Do not be tempted to dump them in. They will break. Place a clean plate on the top to keep them submerged in the solution and put them into the refrigerator overnight. Gently slosh the container a few times to semi-stir the lime around before bed and again in the morning. Aim for chilling for 24 hours or as close as you can get.


Day 2: This will also take several hours. Plan on working in the afternoon and again in the evening. Drain the lime water from the cucumbers. I use my broken container lid and put it inside the container cattywampus so the cucumbers do not tumble around in the container as it drains. They are extremely brittle at this point.


Don't gripe about my broken or cracked containers. They are that way from the sterilizing cycle in the dishwasher which is hard on them, but I know they are clean.


Here is the part that is extra time-consuming. Place the plate you used as a submersion weight in the sink and rinse both sides of each sliced cucumber to remove ALL of the pickling lime. The plate in the sink will catch any cucumber slices you fumble to keep them from getting any cross-contamination.