Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pickle Time

We had a good summer here in my corner of New England. There were enough hot days to be lazy and defect to the beach, enough rainy days to keep the garden alive and many sunny days to walk the dog, use the grill to cook meals and get the house repaired from last winter's  storms.

Currently,  I am watching the Summer's bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables shift to Fall at the farmers market.  So, it is time to get those Summer vegetables in a jar and saved for future meals that will remind us that it was warm here for a while . It is pickling time at my house. I am new to making pickles. I have a crazy fear of botulism that has steered me from canning things and causes me to scrutinize every jar and can I buy at the store. But I pulled up my big girl panties this year and gave it a whirl.

I made two kinds of pickles this year. My garlic pickles are refrigerator pickles and I can toss them together with a little effort. They are the preferred pickle of the men in my family. I also made Bread and Butter pickles. They are like pickle candy. They are sweet and crunchy. There are onions in there to break up the cucumber overload. Now, I cannot imagine tuna salad without those pickles mixed in with a little mayonnaise.  I preserved these pickles in jars because I want to share them with those I cherish. My mother gave me this recipe with the understanding that I will not share it. So, I will only list the Garlic Pickle recipe here. I will say that there are a lot of Bread and Butter recipes out there that look a lot like my mothers so I think that it is not  unique(sorry mom). I will give a hint about the brine. Use equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and granulated sugar...and add some mustard seed. From there, experiment with flavors that appeal to you. Although I love my mothers recipe just as it is, I am tempted to throw a little hot pepper in the brine just to heat it up a bit.
Bread and Butter Pickles await the hamburger!

The garlic pickles are not sweet. They are garlicky, of course, and a bit sour. They are the best side dish to a Reuben sandwich and pulled pork. Because I am busy scarfing down the Bread and Butter pickles, the garlic pickles are mainly a weekend treat eaten by my hard working hubbie and guests. I think it would be easy to preserve these as well but I just give my cherished ones the recipe and encourage them to make their own. They are not hard to make and they do look very cute in a big jar.

Garlic Pickles

5 pounds pickling cucumbers
1/2 gallon  water
1 cup kosher salt
5 cups water
1/3 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons pickling spice
2 sprigs dill, or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
4 cloves garlic
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Put the cucumbers onto a clean glass container. Add the next two ingredients to make a brine. Cover and let sit 7 hours or overnight.

2. Mix the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes to make the pickling mixture. Turn off the heat and let the brine sit for a moment.  Drain the  cucumbers and rinse with cool water, Drain well. 

3. Pack the cucumbers into a clean glass jar. I rinse the jar with hot water  before adding the cucumbers so the jar won't break when I add the hot brine. Pour the hot pickling mixture over the cucumbers. 

4. Allow the pickles to stand uncovered until room temperature. Cover and chill until ready to eat. 

5. These pickles can be eaten as soon as they are cool but they are better after two weeks.

Note: you can process(can) these pickles. See my thoughts below about the canning process. Also, this recipes halves easily in case you do not have a lot of pickling cucumbers..

Now it is time to talk about canning those pickles. I was not sure I was going to like canning so I did not buy any fancy equipment for the process. I used Weck canning jars that I bought years ago when they were not trendy so they were inexpensive. I did buy new bands for them.  I used a towel in the bottom of my stock pot to buffer the heat from the bottom of the pan so the jars would not crack. I got that tidbit from the Internet and while not ideal, it does work. Last week, I gave in and bought a canning pot with a removable rack that has handles. I love it.
For canning, I found that there is a method for each type of container that you use and each product you want to process. Researching as much as it took to relieve my fears helped enormously so I really recommend that you read as much as you need should you want to can your food. I started with pickles and now I am moving on to barbecue sauce. I have a good recipe that is not forbidden  by "mama law" to share. I will keep you posted but meantime,  try your hand at some yummy pickles.
Yes, I know it is a little sad how this canning pot looks amazing to me. Thanks for understanding.:)

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