Pickles, more specifically, canning was an art that I had yet to try my hand at. Until this morning that is. But with summer drawing to a close and Thanksgiving approaching more quickly than we would like to think, it seems like an appropriate time to give preserving food a try. Because when it comes down to it, that’s all you are really doing. People used to can so that they could eat fruits and vegetables in the dead of winter. Now we have refrigerators and we can get whatever produce we want all year long. Not to mention you can go out and buy a jar of Bick’s. However nothing beats the taste of a homemade pickle. Especially when you factor in the satisfaction you get from knowing you made them yourself. So out came my Grammie’s recipe, which was unfortunately slightly vague, and a lot of Youtube videos to fill in the holes. Which wasn’t a bad thing considering this crazy old lady I came across stomping on her sauerkraut. Don’t ask, just watch,
8 lb pickling cucumbers
1 cup pickling (coarse) salt
8 cups white vinegar
8 cups water
8 cloves garlic
8 bay leaves
8 sprigs dill
The original recipe said something like “soak cucumbers in water – cold overnight. Bring brine to boil – pour over cucumbers. Small carrots are delicious!”. Descriptive right? And where the heck did the carrot thing come from? For the sake of everyone involved, I will provide some further instruction.
Step 1: you have to wash your cukes – thoroughly. I found they had this weird gritty, almost sand-like stuff coating them. I would think that must be unpleasant to bite into. Next, to maintain ultimate crispness, soak them overnight in ice water. I even added a sprinkling of salt to keep the temperature as low as possible.
And in the morning, alas it is pickle time! I rinsed the cucumbers one more time, then proceeded to prep my mise.
8 garlic cloves, 8 bay leaves.
A crap load of dill from the Hutterites. Needless to say there’s some leftovers.
But most importantly, sanitation. Having made quick pickles before, I understand the whole pickling concept. But canning, that’s a whole different jar (no pun intended) of worms. I want delicious pickles but the last thing I want to do is give people food poisoning. No botulism outbreaks here please and thank you!
The jar lids, I just dunked in boiling water for a couple of minutes.
The jars themselves, I simply put in the dishwasher and allowed the sanitizing cycle to do it’s job.
Now we can officially begin! Each jar (I ended up using 8 1 L jars in total) gets one piece of garlic, one bay leaf and one sprig of dill in the bottom. I found it easier than trying to squeeze the spices in on top of the pickles. Except if we want to get technical, I did that too, to shove in some extra flavor.
Meanwhile you can be bringing your brine and a separate pot of water to the boil. The brine is simply the 8 cups each water and vinegar, along with 1 cup of pickling salt. As for the water, make sure there’s enough so that you can submerse the filled jars in it.
Time to start packing in the pickles. Pickles that are still technically cucumbers.
Make sure to get them in there as tight as possible, slicing or snapping them in half as necessary.
Pour the hot brine over the top (a funnel helps to ensure that the brine goes in the jars rather than all over the counter). Make sure the cucumbers are covered but leave about 1/2 an inch of “head space” to allow the seal to form properly. Screw on the lids tightly but not too tight. Again, air needs to be able to escape to create the suction effect which seals the jars.
Boil for 15 minutes. My stockpot was relatively large and I still had to do it in 2 batches. Remove and cool. And if you are me, this is where you start to worry. Have they sealed? They’re not sealing! What if they don’t seal??? BOTULISM!!!!
At least they look like pickles. That’s always a good thing, right?
As for the sealing shenanigans, I managed to get all 8 jars sealed to perfection. Some of them were having issues but I found that the whole inverting the jar trick actually worked. When I flipped them right side up again I even heard a little click. If you are unsure whether or not your jars have sealed, just press down on the top of the lids. If it doesn’t give, you are good to go. If it clicks up and down, you’re not. But really, it’s not a huge deal. As long as you realize that they are not properly sealed, just pop them in the fridge and they will keep under the cool temperature. It’s when you don’t realize it, then you let them sit on your shelf for 2 months while proceeding to eat them and get sick that you actually have a problem. Never fear though, just pay attention to the state of your jars.
Ok so pickles are all made. I will get back to you in 4-6 weeks regarding the actual taste part. Thankfully they are in the basement where I can’t stare at them every 5 seconds and be tempted to pop one open!