It’s been my late summer/early fall habit for many years to preserve for the winter. I like to pretend I’m Ma Ingills and work from sun up to sun down getting ready for winter so my family doesn’t starve.
Last year with selling the house and packing up and moving and unpacking, canning didn’t get done. Over the winter we’ve gotten used to store bought relish and salsa. That’s made me a little less Ma Ingalls, I can just buy everything at the store instead.
Only I can’t ignore bushels of fresh produce at the market. And while canning is a lot of work, the work is on the front end and then I can sit back enjoying the fruits of my labour. Literally.
So I will can. I will haul myself up by my Birkenstocks and get it done just in case The Long Winter comes.
First up in the Canning 2013 line up is pickles. Lots and lots, and lots, of pickles.
I’m a pickling newb, I had no idea how many cucumbers were needed for a batch of dill pickles.
Here’s what I know now – not that many, like a small basket would have done me fine.
But I had all these cucumbers a fine farmer and his wife grew, I had to do something with them. So I kept pickling. I’m not a pickling newbie anymore. I am now a pickle expert.
My only other pickling experiment was over 10 years ago and it was a bust. The pickles were soggy and the brine was cloudy. Now that I am a pickle expert I know what I did wrong. And I’ll tell you so you know what not to do wrong if you take up pickling. Which of course you should, only don’t buy a whole bushel of cukes. Classic do what I say not what I do.
- Cut the blossom end off the cucumber, there’s an enzyme in that end that causes a reaction that makes the pickles soggy. I wasn’t taking chances and I cut off both ends.
- Brine your cucumbers in an ice bath prior to pickling makes an extra crispy pickle.
If you didn’t notice I was after super crispy pickles.
Here’s how our pickle party went down-
Because I had so many cucumbers to use up I decided to try a whole lot of recipes to see which ones we liked best. The clear winner was Bread and Butter Pickles. I hadn’t had a bread and butter pickle in a long time but they are very tasty and I learned the secret to their deliciousness – there’s nearly a 1/2 cup of sugar in each jar.
Also, they are a mess to make. Both you and your kitchen will be a sticky. It’s totally worth it. I had to make a second batch because I was feeling like I might hoard our 9 jars and I already promised to share with my sisters. And I had all those cucumbers.
I was a pickling machine for 3 days. My mom showed up with fresh picked green beans, I pickled them. I smelled like vinegar and there were dill seeds all over my kitchen floor. By the end I was in a bit of a trance. I might have needed an intervention, though no one I have gifted pickles to this week has complained.
When it was all over I had-
- 10 x 1L of Fresh Packed Dills, whole.
- 17 x 500ml Bread and Butter Pickles. (we already ate one)
- 4 x 500ml Pickled Green Beans.
- 15 x 500ml Dilled Slices. (4 with jalapeño)
- 3 x 500ml Sliced Jalapeño. (all from our garden)
- 2 x 1L Mark Bittman’s Fridge Pickles. (super crispy!)
- A few other experimental refrigerator pickles.
- Several canning related scrapes and burns all stinging with salt, vinegar and jalapeño juice in them.
- Very sore feet.
We’ve only tasted the bread and butter and MB’s fridge pickles the rest are doing their thing in their jars. I’m aiming to hold out for 6 weeks. If it wasn’t for the refrigerator pickles I’m not sure we could do it.
Now if you excuse me I have to find somewhere to store a million pickles where the mice won’t find them.