Friday, September 9, 2011

In a pickle...

So, what would you do with 44 lbs of cucumbers?  I’ll tell you what the little beans would do!  We’d make pickles!  Which is exactly what we did about 2 weekends ago!  Sharon, Shevawn, Bethany and I (and a few of our helpful fellas) spent an evening in the kitchen, washing, chopping, making and canning pickles!  Yum!


Bethany, hard at work
washing those Cuc's!
The boys making relish!
This whole thing started with Bethany and Sharon.  They are both members of our local CSA.  (CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture and is a cool way to support your local farms.  They exist all over the country.  Read more about them here.)  They started getting tons of “Cuc’s” in their weekly basket in July and didn’t know what to do with them so I suggested we make pickles!  I love canning and look for every opportunity to show others how, so I invited the gals over for a canning party.  Our first batch yielded 15 jars and we considered ourselves pretty successful.  

Shortly after, Sharon decided she wanted to make some for Christmas gifts and then Shevawn wanted to learn, and soon enough we had bought ourselves two 22 lb flats of cucumbers from one of the local farms and were ready for another go-around!  We bought more jars and prepped the kitchen. This time...our mission was mass production!

Making just dill spears wasn’t enough for us this time so we planned on Sweet and Sours, Mustard Dills, and Pickle Relish as well.  Needless to say, we had taken on quite a project.  We had enough cucumbers on our hands to keep us in the kitchen for a good 6 hours.  Our final result was about 45 jars of pickles.  Not too shabby!  



Packing the jars!
Jars going in for their bath!
In the end, we learned a lot.  For example: don’t forget to soak the Cuc’s in salt water for 24 hours before adding in the vinegar-heavy sweet and sour brine--your pickles will shrivel up and look like mini gherkins.  Make sure the brine is still hot when you fill the jars...if it’s not, you end up with boiled cucumbers in the water bath and broken glass jars.  :(  Overall, we learned how fun canning and putting food by can be!  It’s satisfying at the end of it all to know that you’ll have plenty of delicious pickles to eat all year that are made from farm fresh local cucumbers!

Want to try your hand at pickling, but don’t have the time or money to invest in all of the equipment?  Try small batch pickling in your refrigerator!  Some of my favorite pickles are cold fermented and they are oh so delicious!  


Here is my personal recipe:
Kristen’s Favorite Refrigerator Dill Spears:
  • 3 or 4 Quart size jars with lids (any kind will do, I’ve re-used old pickle jars before and they work fine since they don’t need to seal)
  • 9-12 Medium sized pickling cucumbers, sliced into spears. (The best ones for pickling are kind of warty looking not smooth.)

Beware of men
wielding tongs!
Brine:
  • 2 cups of Water
  • 1 cup of White Distilled Vinegar or Cider Vinegar (depending on flavor preference)
  • 3/4 cup of Sugar (this is important because it’s what helps the pickles ferment in the fridge, you can sub honey or agave if need be)
  • 2 tbsp Pickling, Kosher, or sea salt (not iodized salt.)

Spices in each jar:
  • 1 clove of fresh garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 sprig of fresh dill if available or 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

Go Sharon!
*Note on spices- all are optional but some hefty combination of at least 5 of these are recommended, or 1 big heaping Tablespoon of pre-made Pickling Spice from the store in each jar will work too.  Personally, I think the more fresh ingredients, the better the pickles turn out.
Directions:
  • Put all of the brine ingredients into a pot on the stove and heat until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved.  Take off of the heat and cool to just above room temp.
  • Sterilize jars and lids by running them through a sterilize or hot rinse cycle in the dishwasher or boil them in a big pot for 10 minutes. 
  • Wash and slice cucumbers into long spears.
  • Measure spices into jars
  • Pack jar with cucumbers- it takes 3-4 sliced cucumbers to fill one jar, that’s 12-16 spears per jar.
  • Using a ladle or pitcher, pour brine into jars until cucumbers are covered completely but leave at least 1/2 and inch at the top of the jar.  
  • Put lids on tightly and place in fridge.  Pickles will be ready in about 2 weeks!

Final result- Pickles!
For more fun with canning, learn all you need to know from what I like to call "The Canning Bible"- The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  The Ball Website also has loads of great tips and info!  If you do can already and have other great resources, please feel free to comment and list yours here too!  

I hope you all have a fun and productive weekend!
Kristen




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