Canning & Preserving · Farmstead Recipes

The Great Pickle Experiment

Getting children to eat veggies is a trying task for all parents.  Luckily, my 2 year old has always loved them.  Unfortunately, my 5 year old will pull out his hyper-sensitive gag reflex if I deign to put any on his plate.  Last year I was so desperate that I researched if pickles count as a vegetable, as they are the only vegetable-like thing I can get him to eat.  What luck, if eaten in small quantities (to avoid too much salt) they do!

Hey, at least it’s something…

Part of our gardens this year included experimenting with growing cucumbers.  From day one, I looked forward to teaching myself to pickle them.  I also looked forward to giving my sons the healthiest pickles possible, made with our own naturally grown cucs.  As everything in my life is about keeping costs down I went as far as to purchase my canning jars from Goodwill.  I found them anywhere from 50 cents for small ones to 99 cents for large ones.  I recommend being very diligent at the store inspecting for any nicks, cracks, or chips.  Otherwise, I found this a very cost-effective way to start up my collection.  I also like the idea of having an eclectic set of jars, and buying them this way afforded me that opportunity.  You need new lids with unused seals.

I then researched multiple methods and recipes, and combined a few to make my own so I could start simple.  I decided on a “refrigerator” pickle.  It’s a style that you can make without boiling and will last in the fridge for several weeks.  Or you can use the same recipe and boil them, and they will store for a year.  I like the feasibility of this method, and the ability to have some prepared and some stored in the same process.

So this brings us to Monday.

Our cucumbers have grown amazingly.  Monday’s harvest was spectacular, and set me up for canning.  So I figured – let’s jump right into this!  I’ll walk you step-by-step in case you want to try it yourself!  You will be amazed by the simplicity of the process.

After Jason woke up, I sent him to the store with the list of a few ingredients that I currently didn’t have on hand.  Being the obliging (and wonderful) husband that he is, he even took a kid off my hands to run my errands.  I was soon set up with all my tools for success!

First step: wash and disinfect your jars and lids.  Turns out it’s as simple as thoroughly hand-washing your jars and lids.  If you plan on canning them for an extended period of time, simply boil water and disinfect your jars and lids by placing them in the water for a few mintues.  Set them on a clean towel and – voila – disinfected jars!

Second step, fill your jars with the goodies, aka seasonings, you will use to make your pickles yummy.  For me this was a simple mixture of 2 tsp dill seed, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, and 2 garlic cloves (this is per small jar, I increased by 1/3 for a large jar).  Make sure to peel and smash your garlic.

Third, cut your cucs.  Do them as you wish.  Personally, I decided to spear the ones that would go into my short jars and coin my large jarred ones.  I didn’t want super long spears, that’s just awkward.  Pack them in tightly, but leave a 1/2 inch of room at the top.  I used the rim of the jars as a rough estimate.

Next step, boil your magic potion.  In reality, this is equal parts water (1 cup) and vinegar (1 cup), with lots of kosher salt (1 1/2 TBSP) for good measure.  Once this boils, pour into your prepared jars.  I found a ladle to be the easiest method.  Fill to 1/4 inch from the top of your jars, making sure to cover all your cucs.  Then gently tap your jars to remove air bubbles.  You’ll probably need to add more potion at this point to get back to 1/4 inch from the top.

Next you get to screw those lids on.  Screw ’em on tight, or get your handy-dandy husband to do the grunt work for you.  I chose this time to date and label my jars.  At this point, you can simply throw the buggers in the fridge if you will eat them within the next few weeks.  This I did with a few jars I knew we’d go through.  Pretty awesome, ey?  If you want them to be shelved for the year then continue on.

Boil a very large pot of water.  You need to be able to submerge your jars.  Know that when you add your jars the amount of water in the pot will rise drastically so do not overfill your boiling pot.  Do not crowd your jars.  Boil your jars for exactly 10 minutes.  Gently retrieve them and place them on another clean towel.  (We used silicone kitchen tongs, but Jason has since purchased me a fancy tool on Amazon for $5 that should make the process easier).  Allow them to cool completely.  What no one else warns you – you will hear the lids pop during the cooling process.  As long as the lids stay down when cooling  is complete, you can then store them for a year.  It’s really that simple.

Supposedly they taste the best when you wait at least 48 hours. In reality, the boys and I didn’t wait 48 mintues.  And those pickles were already everything I hoped for: crunchy, delicious, and zingy!

Who knew it was that easy?

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