It’s another milestone in my quest to learn more about growing, making and preparing food. A couple of weeks ago, I tackled fresh dill pickles that do not require heating and sealing jars. These are simple enough so that Ella took the lead on this recipe. In addition to the quick refrigerator pickles, on Wednesday, I got together with the village and we canned pickles all morning. The whole canning thing was very intimidating for me perhaps because I did not grow up with it, but my virgin canning experience was actually quite easy most likely because I had some experienced teachers. It motivated me to get some more days on the calendar that will be dedicated to saving my little backyard harvest and beautiful finds at the farmers’ market, like amazing Colorado peaches.
- 2-3 pickling cucumbers or as many as you can fit in the jar
- 5 sprigs of fresh dill
- 2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
- 4 Tbsp white distilled vinegar
- 3/4 Tbsp kosher salt
- Water to top off
- 20 black peppercorns, optional
- Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
- Jalapeño pepper sliced, optional (for more spice)
- Cut cucumbers to your preference (discs, spears, or sandwich slices) and add to the jar with all ingredients except the water. Once everything is in the jar, fill to the very top with distilled or filtered water and screw lid on very tightly. Shake the jar up to distribute flavors and leave on your countertop for 12 hours. Shake again and turn upside down for another 12 hours, making sure the lid is screwed on tightly to avoid leakage. These pickles are best to eat after 24 hours. Make sure to store in the refrigerator.
- Don't be afraid to experiment with amounts. The above is a guideline that you can adjust to your taste and desired spiciness.
If you have tons of cucumbers and want to enjoy your pickles for the year to come, it is time to can them. For all the newbies to canning like me with no mom or grandmother to reference you are going to need to buy or borrow a few important tools.
I link to Amazon for all the tools so you can get a quick look at cost and description. I want to stress that though I know how easy it is to order from Amazon, please SUPPORT your local shops when at all possible.
Here are some tips most of which I learned on Wednesday. I referenced the tips below from from the Old Farmer’s Almanac so that I would not miss anything:
- Produce must be fresh when pickled. Avoid using waxed supermarket produce.
- Select the most uniform, unspoiled produce.
- Scrub food well.
- Be sure to remove and discard 1/4–inch slice from the blossom end of fresh cucumbers. Blossoms may contain an enzyme that causes excessive softening of pickles.
- Use canning or pickling salt (not iodized table salt!). Pickling salt has no additives. Iodized salt makes the brine cloudy and may change the color and texture of the vegetables as well as possibly leave sediment at the bottom of the jars.
- For the best results, use white distilled or cider vinegars with 5 percent acidity. Use white vinegar when light color is desirable, as with fruits and cauliflower.
- For crisper pickles, put the vegetables (whole or sliced) into a wide bowl and spread a layer of pickling salt on top. Cover and let sit overnight in a cool place. Discard the liquid, then rinse and dry the vegetables before pickling or canning as usual. The salt helps to pull the moisture out of the vegetables and makes them crisper.
- Sterilize your empty jars. Do not use recycled commercial jars or old-style home-canning jars. They can break in the canning process.
- Use new jar lids for a tight seal. To avoid rust, screw bands should be removed from processed jars that are stored. They can be easily removed after the jars have cooled and sealed, and then reused.
- Always wipe the rim of the jar clean for a good seal after filling and just before putting the lid on.
- Process jars in a boiling-water canner for the correct amount of time (a canner is a large standard-size lidded kettle with a jar rack, designed for heat-processing 7 quart jars or 8 to 9 pint jars in boiling water).
- Label and date your jars and store them in a clean , cool, dark, dry place such as a pantry, cabinet, or basement. Don’t store in a warm spot!
- To allow pickles to mellow, wait at least 3 weeks before using.
My friend April put together a pickling spice that we used with the cucumbers. This recipe can be used in pickling different vegetables, not just pickles.
- 3 tbsp crushed bay leaves
- 3 tbsp fresh peppercorns
- 3 tbsp whole allspice
- 3 tbsp coriander seeds
- 3 tbsp mustard seeds
- 3 tbsp juniper berries
- 1 tbsp whole cloves
- 1 tbsp dill seed
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
- Combine all spices in jar and shake. Use anytime a mixed pickling spice is called for.
Once you have your desired pickling spice, you can start your pickling process.
- 4 pounds small cucumbers
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled, for each jar
- 1 fresh sprig of dill for each jar
- 1 tbsp of mixed pickling spice
- 2 quarts vinegar (apple cider or white distilled )
- 1/2 cup pickling salt
- Slice, spear or leave cucumbers whole. Pack cucumbers into sterilized jars along with the garlic cloves, dill sprig, and mixed pickling spice. In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the vinegar and salt and boil for 5 minutes. Pour the hot brine over the cucumbers, leaving 1/4 inch of headroom. Wipe dry the rims of the jars, then cap each with a lid and screw band. Prepare a boiling water bath and process the jars in it for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the bath and set them on a towel on the counter. They will “seal” (you will hear a pop) during the cooling-off process. Place any jars that do not seal properly in the refrigerator and use first.
- See the pictures below.
Finally, since this canning experience was my first please do not hesitate to leave a comment of any suggestions that will make the above process better or just different methods that are also proven or preferred.
Happy harvest, friends!