pickles pickles grammas pickles are way better

pickle3‘Tis the season for picklin’! After a smaller test-run just 2 short weeks ago, and a successful tasting yesterday I was confidant enough to commit my Saturday afternoon. The test batch was verified by my roommates mothers approving statement: “There’s gotta be something addictive in those pickles!” – I think that’s a pass, and I press on.

After my obligatory Saturday morning visit to the farmers market, I was prepped and ready. It’s important to mention that the motivation for these pickles is primarily my g-ma’s pickled carrots. If you’ve never, then you must – and I will teach you. I have a charming photocopied booklet of ‘Mom’s Recipes: Recipes collected over the years’. Each page is lovingly hand-written with instructions for everything: baked ham, a Norwegian pastry called Blinda Crunsa, herbed buns and borscht. Each page begins with an old proverb lost in time. The pickle page begins with ‘clear as the nose on your face’ – that totally relates to pickling.

The recipe, as written, goes like this:

Wash cucumbers and dill. Pack in clean jars with a garlic clove and dill in each jar. Make a brine of: 3 Qts water, 1Qt Vinegar, 1/2 cup pickling salt. Bring bring to a boil. Pour into jars and seal. (I use the same recipe for pickled carrots)

This is so simple. Compared to what actually is required, though this was written for an audience who knew a thing or two to fill in the blanks. I, however, had to do some googling and testing.

Produce selection is important –  apparently there are bad cucumbers for pickling. Don’t use the bloated fatty’s – no one is a fan of bloated fatty’s. These cucumbers are overripe with, no warts and developed seeds – I learned this here. When you have the luxury of a farmers market, you have the privilege to pick your own produce so do this with care. Carrots this time of year taste like candy, and any carrot will do. If you have humongous carrots that have lost their sweetness they can be given new delicious life as a pickle, chopped into sticks. Dill can be a little tricky – try to use the more robust flowery tops with the yellow buds. They will hold up better in the brine than will the feathery dark green bits, but both will work fine. Clean everything thoroughly, slice the carrots so they are about finger width and if you prefer, slice the cucumbers for easy sandwich pickles. I also added a bright hot pepper to each jar for some heat.

Get a large pot of water boiling large enough to fit your largest jar. This will be used for sterilizing the jars and lids. Start the brine in another large pot. For reference 1 Quart = 4 cups. Once you’re set up, things move quickly. There are jarring kits to make this process as safe and sanitary as possible, but I’m ghetto so I use bbq tongs and old salsa jars. Reference the photo for my safe ghetto way to remove a jar from boiling water. Be careful as the glass is quite brittle. I did the jar filling in an empty sink to make it a little safer. Pack the jars with everything, starting with the garlic and dill. I chopped 1-2 cloves of garlic into large chunks, and 3-4 spears of dill with lots of flowers. Don’t be afraid to pack the jars tight – who doesn’t like tight jars? Next, fill the jars with the brine, leaving about 1-2 cm of space at the top (oxygen is necessary for the fermentation process, apparently). Pull your lid from the boiling abyss with tongs or a fork and seal it tightly without touching the inside of the lid. Repeat.

Though I’ve expanded on Gramma O’s instructions, there are far more complex instructions online, so check those out too including this sharp looking blog called food in jars. Sanitization is paramount, and I there is still much for me to learn about all of this. I plan to eat or gift these in the next 2 months – any longer and I don’t trust my methods.

You can see the color difference in the jars below. The middle jar was the first one I canned, and about 20 minutes later was the small jar on the right. Give these pickles 2 weeks in a cool dark place. Gramma had a cold room, I have the garage, and you might have an ex to leave them with – a cold, dark ex.  If the tops don’t suck down while cooling then they haven’t sealed properly and you should try again with a better sealing jar, or put it in the fridge for 2 weeks and eat right away.

This has been an adventure, but not with the usual pay-off. It’s a lot of research, and a lot of work and then a lot of waiting. I originally thought what a dissatisfying experience to be over a hot stove all afternoon and still be hungry at the end. Though, the results are absolutely worth it, and if you’re up to it, throw a roast in the oven before you start and you will be rewarded!

I saw a sign at the farmers market this weekend: 25lbs of canning tomatoes for $35. That is my next challenge –  I’m already looking forward to a winter of locally produced organic tomato sauce – who doesn’t like a local saucy winter? Good luck!


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