Monday, July 30, 2012

Pickles Pickles Pickles, Oh My!

The past few weeks I have been trying to keep up with the abundance of our garden.  I am very tired of cucumbers and zucchini, two vegetables that ANY gardener can grow because they produce like maniacs.  I am not a huge pickle fan, but my dad loves bread and butter pickles and Eric eats sweet gherkins (little whole pickles).  We do not like relish, but I am even making relish just for fun.  I have also canned over a dozen jars of dill pickles.  I have no idea who is going to eat all of these pickles, and I will very likely be giving jars away to anyone who likes them.  Here is how I can bread and butter pickles:

This is my family's recipe for bread and butter pickles.  You can also find a ton of pickle recipes on the internet.  I recommend looking for ones approved by the USDA and Cooperative Extension, as there are some unsafe recipes floating around out there.  Here is a USDA Guide to Pickling, with recipes.

I just learned that powdered alum, a common ingredient in traditional pickle recipes because it helps to make pickles crisp, is actually toxic in amounts over 1 ounce.  I encountered alum in a dill pickle recipe given to me by a relative.  I was tempted to use it anyway, but it just isn't worth the risk.  I used pickling lime (Ball Pickle Crisp) instead.  We have not tasted the dill pickles yet to see if they are crisp, because it takes a little while for them to develop a good flavor.

Anyway, back to the bread and butters!  Cut your cucumbers, onions, and peppers.  I was crying so badly after 6 onions that I stopped there.  Anna came in and was watching me cut vegetables and she was even crying; the whole kitchen was fumigated with onion.  After my first batch I picked up a Progressive onion cutter, like this one.  I am in love!  I had way fewer tears using this handy kitchen tool.

Let the cucumbers sit under ice for 3-4 hours.  Drain.  Simmer your pickles in the vinegar/sugar/spice mixture.  The spices I use are celery seed, tumeric, and ground cloves.
Stir the pickles every now and then while simmering for 15 minutes.  It takes awhile for them to come to a simmer.  I snacked on some freshly picked blueberries while I was waiting.
I also prepared my jars and water bath canner so that everything was ready to go as soon as the 15 minutes was up.

Pack the hot pickles and pickle juice into hot, sterilized, jars.  Place the hot lids on them and screw on the bands.  Process in the hot water bath for five minutes. 
Remove the jars and place them on a wire rack to cool and enjoy the sound of jars sealing!

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