“Pickling is a way of preserving foods with salt and/or vinegar. The produce is not necessarily cucumbers, nor is the flavor necessarily salty and sour, though that is the most common picture and taste that comes to mind from the word pickle. Sometimes salt alone is the preserving medium, as in the classic sauerkraut and kim chee pickles. Sometimes vinegar is blended with sugar for a sweet-and-sour taste, as in sweet pickled green tomatoes and garden mix pickles….
THE SALT: For pickling and canning, it is important to use a noniodized salt in order to keep the brine, meaning the pickling liquid, clear and fresh tasting. Kosher and pickling salt work equally well….Kosher salt comes in a slightly coarser texture and has a slightly softer taste. Pickling salt is finer in texture and a bit saltier.
THE VINEGAR: For pickling, the important thing to keep in mind is that the vinegar must have a least 5 percent acidity for it to be a preserving medium. White distilled vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and malt vinegar are the usual choices” Smith & .Hawken Gardeners’ Community Cookbook, p. 316
ALUM: In former times, alum was included in the pickling brines to ensure crisp pickles. These days, a grape leaf or two is thought to do the same job without adding the strange taste of allum. In lieu of fresh grape leaves, jarred will do. In lieu of either, don’t bother. If your cucumbers are very fresh and your brine quite fine, you’ll have crisp pickles. p. 318
FRESH CUCUMBERS: …only unwrinkled, snappy fresh cucumbers will do. Out-of-season or too-long-off-the-vine produce results not only in soft pickles but also in less yield due to spoilage. The tip holds true for other produce–both fruits and vegetables–that are destined for pickling. p. 319
MAKE PICKLES IN COOL PLACE: For pickle making, a cool place means one where the temperature is always less than 70 degrees F. If…you have a cellar that is always cooler, the initial soaking in the salt brine can be done there. Otherwise, place the crock in the refrigerator to keep the cucumbers from spoiling during the initial soaking and add some days for the first stage to be completed because the refrigerator environment will slow down the curing. For Steps 2 through 4, the temperature should be even cooler, less than 65 degrees F. p. 320