Sharing Stories in Bits & Bites

In A Pickle!

Recently I have learned that there are very few things that will result in the pulling out of Grandma’s recipe books faster than a discussion over pickles! I’m not going to lie to you, expert at canning, I am NOT. But I am always game to try something new…or in this case, should I say old? My pickling adventure all began in the hallowed aisles of Costco. We had just rapidly gone through a immense jar of the briny goodness, so I was looking to replace it with a slightly more economical version. It is finally becoming an automatic habit for me to read all the product information on labels. It took me a long time, I confess. As I quickly scanned through the mostly harmless ingredients, my eyes were suddenly drawn to where they were from. India. Really??? We have to ship a huge glass jar full of heavy liquid all the way from India?  That just doesn’t make any sense. Is Canada going through a devastating cucumber shortage that I haven’t heard about yet? That fire was lit. The declaration was made right then and there! “This year…we are making our own damn pickles!”. My children rolled their eyes, nodded, smiled and snuck extra chips into our cart while I preached on about my grandiose pickling plans.

As luck would have it, a dear friend posted a pickle recipe on Facebook, the next morning. As far as I was concerned that was a sign from God. My absolute destiny. I searched the city on a quest for jars, guesstimated how many I’d need and gathered my supplies. As I was going through the checkout I smugly nodded at the people in line. “Yeah, that’s right…I’m making my own pickles…I’m a freakin’ pioneer.”   I did warn you, I am new at this.

I drove all the way out to Coombs, recollecting that they had massive bags of organic local cukes. Out of breath from excitement (and a horrid park job), I pushed my way through the people of the produce market. Only to discover an empty space…where my sweet little vegetables had once rested. Dazed and confused, I turned to leave…staring down at my shoes, blinking back tears.

What-about-my…destiny?

Blinded by disappointment,  I smacked into a woman pushing a hefty cart. Halfway through my apology, the contents of her cart came into focus. My precious! Forgetting any semblance of manners I pointed down “Wh-wh-wh-ere did you find those?” A quick flick of her head and BINGO! Crates of cucumbers, choice beyond my wildest dreams! Right beside them? Huge stalks of dill!!! It was almost as though, I wasn’t the only person who was going to do some canning. Weird, right?

Finally, the day arrived and I  was able to put my “Pickling Powers” to work. I followed the technique from Zelaney Farms (she said it was easy) and altered the recipe a bit. I have provided my recipe below, but be warned my friends…pickling is a personal palate pastime. Make a small batch , wait a few weeks and test it out. Alter what you need to. We have tasted ours and we are pretty pleased with the puckery perfection…okay, okay…I’ll stop!

While waiting for ours to ‘age, I was bombarded with fresh excitement regarding fermentation in many forms. A resurgence of interest in sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, miso, kim chi…all products that were made using good bacteria, is blazing through restaurants right now. That kind of good bacteria that will help with proper digestion, immune support even sensitivity to lactose . Great news for all of us! My Mom-In-law even shared her old 4H books with oodles of variations for pickling just about anything! My adventure has just begun, there is much pickling play in my future. I do realize many of you have been doing your own pickling for years and you have all sorts of special skills and amazing tips, this is probably not the post for you. However, for those of who who’ve just joined the club, like me…

C’mon in …the brine is fine.

bunchofpickles

The “Noobie” Guide to Picklin’ (the hot jar method)

There is no extra canning equipment needed and this method produces delicious crunchy pickles.

You’ll need :

  • 12-24 medium to large sized canning jars (depends on the size of cukes you get, I found the large 56 oz worked best for me)
  • same number of lids & seals if you are getting your glass jars 2nd hand (which is a very economic way to go)
  • a couple of big bags of fresh dill pickle sized cucumbers (vague right? sorry I really did eye ball it…about 10-15 lbs)
  • 2 big bundles of dill stalks
  • 8 cups pickling vinegar
  • 16 cups water
  • 1 cup coarse salt
  • 3-4 heads of garlic, peeled and cloves cut in half
  • 4-6 hot banana peppers (if you like life a little spicy now & then )

Method:

  1. Pre-wash all your jars, then when you are ready to go place them, lids off, in the oven at 80°C
  2. Place lids in a pot of hot water on  the stove, keep them not quite boiling
  3. Wash all cucumbers well, discard any that are too soft or show signs of spoilage.
  4. Place cucumbers in a very COLD water bath in the sink.
  5. In a large pot mix the vinegar, water and salt. Heat until the salt has dissolved and keep at a very low boil.
  6. Using long oven mitts, take a hot jar from the oven add four cloves of garlic and 3-4 heads of dill weed
  7. Lean jar (on a heat pad or rolled up towel) on to its side and carefully start stuffing with cucumbers, start with the bigger ones and fill with smaller ones near the top. Don’t fill too full, they shouldn’t be able to touch the lid.
  8. Carefully pour hot brine over the cucumbers  and fill until about ¾ inches from the top. You can use a funnel to make this easier or simply wipe the rim with a clean wet cloth, the salt on the rim can prevent sealing.
  9. Use tongs to get a lid from the hot water bath, set on jar and then spin on a ring, until it is just hand tight…beware if it is too tight it can prevent sealing.
  10. Set completed jars on hot pads so they can seal, usually within an hour, sometimes overnight.

If they don’t seal (you check by pressing the center of the lid…if it pops up and down, it’s not set) the pickles are still good, just store them in the fridge.  WAIT at least two weeks to try them…they do get better with age though.

You can use this same recipe for pickling carrots and beans, you just have to lightly blanch (steam them for a few minutes until tender then submerge in a cold water bath) them first and use 1½ cups salt. For a few of my jars of pickles & definitely my beans I added a few sliced banana peppers for a kick. Next time…I’ll add more!

“This is grandmother stuff, not avant-garde molecular cuisine.”

~Chef Cortney Burns

(on the resurgence of fermentation experimentation)



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