Fire & Ice Pickles! And How to Preserve Them to Keep ‘Em Crispy.

You’re not only getting insight into a rather obscure food preservation method today, you’re ALSO getting a dynamite Fire & Ice pickle recipe (to try this new method out.)  


Jars of pickles sitting on Karen Bertelsen's butcher-block kitchen counter top. An ironstone crock with cooking utensils in it and a kettle can be seen in the background.

I’m a sucker for a good pickle.  

What constitutes a good pickle?  A skin that isn’t tough, good flavour and at least a little bit of crunch.  Getting stuck in an elevator with Lenny Kravitz for 4 hours? Also a good pickle to be in.

If you just make a few jars of pickles that you keep in the fridge it’s easy to keep them crispy. The number one tip is ice.

To keep pickles crunchy … 

After cutting the pickles, put them in a bowl filled with ice and about 1/4 cup of kosher salt per 3 litre (quart) basket.  Let them sit for 3 or more hours.  Drain, then rinse, rinse, rinse away the salt.

But what if you want to make MORE.  What if you want a shitload of pickles?  Officially speaking.

Well then you have to put your pickles through a waterbath canning process. That involves submerging your jars of pickles into a pot of boiling water for 10-20 minutes depending on the elevation of where you live.

As you can imagine 20 minutes in boiling water is enough to make even the stiffest pickle go limp. 

How do you combat this?

Low Temperature Pasteurization

Low temperature pasteurization is a little known method of preserving foods. It cannot be used with ALL foods, only foods that have been tested to be successful with it. The recipe I’m about to give you has been tested by the National Centre for Home Food Preservation.

Low temperature pasteurization is a method of preserving food that INCREASES the length of time you process your food, but DECREASES the temperature.  

So instead of processing your food for 10 minutes in rapidly boiling water, you process your food for 30 minutes in 180° F (82° C) water.

The lower temperature preserves more of your pickle crunch. 

This method requires the temperature stay within the 180 – 185° mark without fail for the entire 30 minutes. So how do you do that?

Method 1

Submerge your jarred food into a pot filled with very hot tap water.  Insert a candy thermometer into the water and gradually pour in boiling water until you reach 180° F.   Make sure your jars are covered by at least 2″ of water.  Fiddle with your stove element until you have the water at a constant temperature of 180° F.  Then start your timer and stay by the stove so you can make sure the temperature doesn’t drop below 180° or go above 185°.

If the water drops below 180° you need to get it back up to temperature and restart your timer.

If the water rises about 185° there are no safety issues with regard to bacteria, but your pickles will be softer.

Process for 10 minutes for most altitudes. (But check this to make sure you know the right processing time for your altitude.)

Method 2

Use a Sous Vide stick.

Fill a pot or Sous Vide container with hot water and submerge the Sous Vide stick, set to 182° (just to be safe). Make sure your jars are covered by at least 2″ of water.

Once you’re at temperature, put your jars in, wait for the water to get back up to temperature (it will drop a bit when you put the cooler jars in) and then set the Sous Vide for 30 minutes.  You can walk away because the Sous Vide will automatically maintain your desired temperature. 

For these pickles, I was going to use my ultra fancy Sous Vide Supreme Demi water oven but half of my jars were too tall for it.  So instead I borrowed my mother, Betty’s, Sous Vide stick. You may know Betty from that time she sledgehammered down the wall in my kitchen when she was 80, or that time she scared the crap out of me.  (that time was my LIFE time by the way)

I wanted hot pickles, so I contacted North Dakota State University professor and extension specialist, Dr. Julie Garden-Robinson, a food safety expert. 

I asked Julie if I could add jalapeno rings to this low temperature pasteurization approved pickle recipe.  I received an answer of a resounding NO.

I was hoping that because jalapenos are very similar in terms of acidity to cucumbers and onions that they could safely be added to the recipe.  They cannot.

The logical part of my brain suspected this.  You should never alter any canning recipe at all. And you should never just randomly can something assuming if you process it for long enough that it’ll be fine. 

Julie did however say I could add as many crushed red pepper flakes as I’d like to make the pickles hot. So that’s what I did.  You can read more about food safety and why you shouldn’t use old canning recipes in this food safety post she wrote. 

A copper pot filled with canning liquid sits on a marble counter top. Beside the pot is a small spice jar containing red chili flakes. Sliced cucumbers in a white bowl can be seen in the background.


As I said I also opted to use the low temperature pasteurization method to help keep my pickles crunchy.

The Nova Sous Vide stick in a stainless-steel pot. An ironstone jar with a flower arrangement sitting can be seen in the background.


This is the exact Sous Vide Stick I used.

Fire & Ice Pickles

Hot and sweet pickles you can preserve using the low pasteurization method.
4.5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Canning/Preserves
Servings: 8 pints
Calories: 35kcal


  • 6 lbs cucumbers pickling variety
  • 8 cups onions thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup salt pickling
  • 4 cups vinegar 5%
  • cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp mustard seed
  • 6 tsps crushed red pepper flakes
  • tsp celery seed
  • 1 tbsp turmeric ground
  • 1 cup pickling lime (optional)


  • Wash the cucumbers and cut the blossom end off.
  • Cut into 3/16-inch slices. I use a wavy cutter to give them a crinkle look.
  • Combine cucumbers and onions in a large bowl. Add salt on top and mix. Cover with 2 inches of crushed ice. Let sit for 3-4 hours. If you have room in your fridge stick them in there, if not don't worry about it.
  • Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot. Boil 10 minutes.
  • Drain and add cucumbers and onions and slowly reheat to boiling. 
  • Fill jars with slices and cooking syrup, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process. 
  • To process in a hot water bath: submerge jars in a pot of boiling water. When water returns to the boil, process for 10 minutes if your elevation is 0 - 1,000 ft. ---- Process for 15 minutes if your elevation is 1,001 - 6,000 ft. ---- Process for 20 minutes if your elevation is above 6,000 ft
    When finished processing remove jars from water and let sit undisturbed on counter until seals pop.
  • To process with low temperature pasteurization: Place jars in a canner filled half way with warm (120º to 140ºF) water. Then, add hot water to a level 1 inch above jars. Heat the water enough to maintain 180 to 185ºF water temperature for 30 minutes for pint or quart jars.


  • If you aren't sure which is the blossom end, it sometimes has remnants of the flower on it. The scab is also usually larger than the vine end.
  • These instructions are for pint or quart jars.
  • Variation for firmer pickles:  Instead of mixing cut cucumbers and onions with salt and ice, mix 1 cup pickling lime and 1/2 cup salt to 1 gallon water. (a crock is handy for this) Soak cucumber slices in lime water for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally.  (do not add the onions)
  • To me these pickles are hot but not blindingly hot. You may find you'd like them hotter or less hot.  All you can do is make them and make a note on the recipe for next time.
Remove from lime solution, rinse, and resoak 1 hour in fresh cold water. Repeat the rinsing and soaking steps two more times.
Continue on with recipe, adding the limed cucumber slices and unlimed onions to the boiling liquid solution.
***Avoid inhaling lime dust while mixing the lime-water solution***.   Drain well. 
Calories calculated pertain to slices of pickles only, not additional sugary sweet liquid.


Serving: 5pickles | Calories: 35kcal | Carbohydrates: 136g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 7091mg | Potassium: 735mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 124g | Vitamin A: 245IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 109mg | Iron: 2mg

I didn’t opt to use the pickling lime because I didn’t have any and couldn’t be bothered to run out and get some.  When a gal wants pickles, she wants them as soon as possible. 

A copper pot containing pickling liquid sits on a marble counter top with a copper ladle and clear glass jars filled with pickles around it.

Try this recipe while pickling cucumbers are still in season and let me know what you think.

Can’t be bothered to do all this?  || Read my post on how to turn regular sweet pickles into Hot & Sweet pickles ||


A fork with pickles on it above the clear glass jar of pickles on a rustic wooden board.

Good luck with them and keep your fingers crossed for me getting into that other pickle.


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Fire & Ice Pickles! And How to Preserve Them to Keep \'Em Crispy.


  1. Courtney says:

    Method 1 must maintain 180-185 degrees for 30 minutes, not 10!

  2. Missy Marie says:

    I had a hard time finding a canning recipe for fire and ice pickles so I was pleased to stumble across this one. Do I need to let them sit for 4-6 weeks before popping open a jar like some pickles?

  3. connie says:

    Hi Karen , an update on the fire and ice pickles I made and froze instead of canning them.
    I opened the first jar this weekend to add to our turkey dinner and they are verryyy tasty and crunchy enuf for my liking . The only thing I changed with the ingredients was to cut back on the chili flakes by 1/2 cuz I didn’t want it too spicy. So while they have a bit of heat, I wish I had used the full amount, they could be spicier. Next time…. and the crinkle cutting is a nice touch- makes them look very gourmet ! A very nice addition to our table this Thanksgiving. thx for sharing the recipe.
    Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving !!

    • Karen says:

      Great! I’m hauling some of mine our for Thanksgiving too. If you’d like yours hotter, when you take the next jar out of the freezer, put more chili flakes in and let them sit a few days. You can also add an entire dried hot pepper cut in half, or a jalapeno. Then just let the pickles sit for a few days in the fridge. It’ll help heat them up a bit. ~ karen!

  4. connie says:

    Hi Karen -The 2 recipes are very similar in preparation . With the freezer pickles i soak the cucumbers and onions in a salt/water mix for 2-3 hours. Then boil a sugar and vinegar syrup. I don’t drain off the salt water with my recipe – instead I combine the salt brine with sugar syrup cucumbers and onions. Ladle everything into jars and freeze them.
    I’m going to try your recipe today but without the canning process and try freezing them instead. (just for convenience) And i’m curious ;)
    I’ ll let you know how they turn out. Wish me luck!

  5. Connie says:

    Hi Karen, While I’ve made freezer pickles for years now (yumm) i’ve never heard of Fire and ice pickles but they sure sound interesting! I’m wondering if I could make your recipe but freeze them in jars like i do with the freezer pickle recipe instead of canning them.
    When I make the freezer pickles I have to brine them first for a couple of hours too and they seem to stay crisp despite being frozen .

  6. billy sharpstick says:

    Sous vide: I have the Joule(Chef Steps) sous vide stick. It has vigorous circulation. I also have a slow cooker shaped thing that claims to be a sous vide cooker. Like your Supreme demi, it has no circulation pump. I feel that for accurate sous vide cooking, good circulation is required. For that price, I would expect a pump! You can always compensate for that by adding a small circulation pump(make sure it is high temperature rated).
    (I also made my own sous vide system years ago with a bucket heater, Johnson temperature controller and water pump. I used that to make an old 100 quart cooler into a rib cooker.)

  7. Jb says:

    You mention that you can’t add fresh chillies, but never why it’s bad.

    What did the food expert say?

    • Karen says:

      She said the pepper might be similar in acidity but have a different density which could completely change the safeness level of the canning. Her answer was basically just NOT to alter any recipe that hasn’t been tested. ~ karen!

  8. Patti says:

    The first time I tasted Fire and Ice pickles was probably 20 years ago at a buffet table at a party. I instantly fell in love. I wanted to stand by those pickles all night and snarl at anyone that even thought of eating one of those pickles because I wanted them ALL! The woman that made those pickles would not give out the recipe but would sell them. Now I find out how easy they are to make. Thank you!!! Gotta go make me some pickles.

  9. Rita Chiquita says:

    Q. How does a cucumber become a pickle?
    A. It goes through a Jarring experience..

  10. Brian C says:

    Hi Karen,
    Hope you and your mom are doing well! My mom is doing well and so are we. Good article =)

  11. Jen says:

    A bigger topic is SHOULD I BUY A SOUS VIDE STICK? Or will it die of loneliness with my juicer?

  12. Marci says:

    I’m still stuck on the pickle of being stuck in an elevator with Lennie Kravitz (sigh). The real mystery is how Lisa Bonet got Lennie and now the even more exquisite Jason Momoa to marry her!

  13. Mary W says:

    I’m canning jalapeno pineapple relish today. Must be something in the air for us picklers!

  14. Carol Hogan says:

    I make these pickles all the time. My family loves them and I serve them as a side with lots of casual meals like burgers. I also gift them as gifts. I start mine with store bought dill pickles – not Kosher dill, just regular dill – and go from there so its a slightly different recipe but very similar.

  15. Danni says:

    My kids got me a Ball water bath/multi cooker, absolutely worth it!! Over 4 prime weeks of cuke and jalapeño growing I made over 40 jars of my bread and butter and jalapeño pickles.
    I assume the hot process is fine for the peppers… been doing for years and haven’t killed anyone yet!
    And jalapeño jelly…. if you haven’t you must!!!

  16. Debbie says:

    Timing of this article is amazing! I signed up to take a food preservation course offered through our Master Gardener program some time ago and the class is on Monday! We will be going over different types of canning, freezing, drying, smoking foods, etc. Can’t wait! Have canned veggies and jams before but am excited to learn how to do more! Happy we will be going over pressure canning as pressure cookers scare the **** out of me! I am hoping to get over my fear of using one. Either that will be accomplished on Monday or I will be scarred for life (or more so than I already am)!

  17. Jenny W says:

    I can’t believe I missed your post on Wickles!
    “Making” some today :)

  18. Glenda says:

    Your jar collection is sick.

  19. MaryJo says:

    Karen, I do not like sugar in my pickles, but otherwise this recipe sounds really good. So, can I leave out the sugar and make the recipe as otherwise written?

    • Karen says:

      Hi MaryJo. I’m afraid not if you want to can them. When processing food you have to follow a canning recipe exactly. If you just want a pickled jalapeno recipe (much like you’d buy in a jar at the store, with no sugar) there are a lot of choices for recipes though. They include vinegar, water, salt and spices. Here’s one from the National Centre for Home Food Preservation website … ~ karen!

    • Sherry Harrison says:

      Won’t let me do comments, but never hot water bath a a dill, kosher pickles I don’t an sell them for yrs Dill pickle and carrots wash an stuff the jars fresh cukes garlic carrots if you want bring brine to a rolling boil stuffed jars should be sitting in sink in a few inches of hot water prour brine over tighten lids turn upside down on kitchen towels for 30 minutes or so turn over most already sealed if not tap lid

      • MaryJo says:

        Sherry Harrison, nope, I’m not going to can the old fashioned way. I am extremely careful to follow the current guidelines of univeristy extension offices so I can be sure that the foods I make are as safe as they can be for others to eat. The procedure you mentioned is not safe. I know a lot of people have done it over the years, but I’ll stick with the modern, scientific methods. You’re taking an awful big chance of selling a producft that could make someone very sick.

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