Adjust for Elevation, and more: pickles!

Other Processes


First, for fermented pickles, sauerkraut, etc. — use the Low Temperature Pasteurization Process outlined by the NCHFP. Because this process uses water between 180-185 degrees–which is below the boiling point–and a thermometer to determine/maintain temperature, there is no elevation adjustment for this process.

Second, pickles and pickled products fall into a several basic groups when it comes to elevation adjustments. The majority of them fall into various groups that can be split out on a three-stage elevation chart, which gives the elevation adjustment in easy five-minute increments:

Different recipes start with different amounts of basic time, then each goes up in increments of five minutes at a time, based on elevation. The time is increased once you go higher than 1,000 feet, and then once again when you go higher than 6,000 feet. See the chart above for a visual representation of where those breaking lines fall.

These three elevation-zone pickle recipes can easily be divided into three groups.

Then you have the problem children, the recipes that have different processing profiles than the ones I just listed, despite the fact that they also fall into the same basic pickled food category. First, there’s the group that divides elevation up into four categories rather than three:

  • 20 minutes for under 1,000 ft
  • 25 minutes for 1,001 to 3,000 ft
  • 30 minutes for 3,001 to 6,000 ft
  • 35 minutes for over 6,000 ft

This group includes: half-pints of Marinated Whole Mushrooms, pints of Spiced Crabapples (either recipe one and recipe two), pints of Pear Pickles, and pints of Pear Relish.

And, finally, we have Pickled Beets, which defy being plugged into any of the other groups … probably because beets are a root crop … and root crops are notorious for being hosts to some of the worst canning cooties. Because of that, pints or quarts of Pickled Beets both process the longest canning times of any pickles, namely:

  • 30 minutes for under 1,000 ft
  • 35 minutes for 1,001 – 3,000 ft
  • 40 minutes for 3,001 – 6,000 ft
  • 45 minutes for over 6,000 ft


What does all this mean? Well–first–it means that a lot of people have tried to pickle a lot of different things :)

Second, it means that … if you have a pickle that doesn’t fit into any of the standard NCHFP pickles … then you need to try to find one that uses similar ingredients. Spices are freebes in this category, too … so what you need to look at beyond the vegetable/fruit is the ratio of vinegar to produce. Sugar–if included–also helps keep your pickled foods safe long-term … but this is one of the areas where–if you use undiluted vinegar–you can easily substitute Splenda or other artificial sweeteners … and still be assured of maintaining food safety. And–as always–when in doubt, and when you can’t find any approved pickle recipe that looks anything like yours … try to adjust what you have to be closer to an approved recipe … and always use the greater amount, be it vinegar, sugar, or processing time … just to be safe. Don’t be afraid to try older family recipes, too … just remember, more acidity = a safer pickle … so–when in doubt–don’t dilute your vinegar with water … even if the old recipe says it’s safe to do so. Vinegar is cheap, and using it full-strength won’t change your flavor all that much. Better safe than sorry, right? :)

About Lane

Just a canner ... on this food journey called life :)
This entry was posted in Canning Goodies! and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply