I looked into fermented foods as my husband was recovering from a rare form of genetic lung cancer. His immune system was so fragile that we were trying anything and everything - fermented foods are known to have all sorts of health benefits so we gave it a try and just never stopped. Anyone that wants to learn about fermentation, get the book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz - he is the god of fermentation and has a bazillion videos on you tube too. You can just ferment cucumbers to make pickels but I usually ferment my cucumber THEN pickle and can them. There is a difference in taste and texture but takes a bit longer...well worth it you ask me. If you like the sweet varieties, fermentation isnt for you but if you get excited over the sour-ish one, try it. Instead of using vinegar, you use a salt brine, just like kraut. You can add garlic, dill, fennel and all sorts of things. Once they get "tangy" enough for you, put them in the fridge and the fermentation stops. I ferment diced carrots, turnips and cloves of garlic, yum! Baby carrots and hot peppers make great little spicey snacks too. To answer the other question, I only can what I will use in about 12-18 months. Granted, I think I still have some bread and butter pickles that are just over that now but 18 months is the max time to shoot for. I know my granny and mother both would have stuff canned 2+ years and the food was rarely spoiled, the rings would rust from the moisture in the basement but that would be about it. To give you the "official" word - The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends a storing in a cool, dry place for up to a year for optimal use.