Thursday, July 8, 2010

Making Pickles

My husband was recently gifted with some homegrown cucumbers, and we were at a loss as to what to do with them. Then we remembered that we had grown cucumbers of our own in order to make pickles. I thought it might be a good idea to to practice pickle making on these cucumbers before ours have even gotten started good.

I asked my Mama for tips, but she has not made pickles in years. Then my thoughts turned, as they do these days, to whether any of my neighbors have experience with making pickles. I started calling around and soon found a few people who were willing to give me pointers and willing to be interviewed for an article for the Spencer Magnet. (Read "Discover the Benefits of Canning.")

While I still have not made my own pickles (I'll let you know when I do), I was delighted to be invited to Lora Cheek's home to watch her make pickles with her mother one morning last week. When I arrived, they had just sanitized the canning jars and were cutting the cucumbers. It was fascinating to watch cucumbers go from bright green to olive as the vinegar mixture was added. Most thrilling of all was hearing the jar lids "pop" as the jars sealed themselves after 10 minutes in a water bath.

I was inspired by Cheek's use of a crawfish pot as a water bath canner, and a glass measuring cup for pouring the vinegar mixture into the jars. It made me realize that I didn't need a lot of equipment to can anything. I have some jars and a pressure canner. Other things can be improvised.

My daughter, who normally is very shy around strangers, warmed up almost as soon as we got out of the car. The dog, a beagle/dachshund mix, came up to her and licked her face. She started laughing and made herself right at home, at one point actually crawling into Mrs. Cheek's lap to rock with her! I started to wonder if a different kid got out of my car.

I'll tell you all about my own adventures in making pickles as soon as possible - hopefully I'll have something useful to add in a few days. In the meantime, here are some resources for you if I've inspired you to make your own pickles:

  • Preparing & Canning Fermented Foods and Pickled Vegetables - I can't say enough about using your local extension office as a resource. I called the Family Resource agent, and she left a booklet on all kinds of food preserving at the front desk for me. I only live a few miles from the office, but I could have asked to have it mailed. Or you can always look up your state extension offices brochures online.
  • Good Eats: The Early Years by Alton Brown - This book is such a fabulous resource! I need to remember to look through it when I have questions about nearly anything food related. (Can't wait for volume 2 this fall.) Anyway, the pickle chapter explains the history and science behind pickles in a fun way (I wish chemistry class had been this much fun). It contains 2 recipes for refrigerator pickles, but explains the differences between those and fresh pack and fermented pickles.
  • Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book - contains fresh pack recipes, and explains common problems.
  • Reader's Digest Homemade - Contains several pickle recipes.
  • Southern Living Annuals - I have almost every one since 1998, and they of course contain pickle recipes (cause us Southerners love our pickles).
  • Ball Blue Book of Preserving - This is the grandaddy of all canning books. Originally published in 1909 and updated every few years (although I can't find a difference between this year's edition and my edition from 2004 except the new one is prettier).
  • Peak Food: Why a Local, Seasonal Diet is Never Boring @Leda's Urban Homestead - The maple bread & butter pickles she made sound intriguing.
  • Pickles @ A Mountain Mama - I read this post of Kelli's last summer, and was fascinated by this method of making pickles. I also love her basket.
  • Spicy Pickled Carrots @ Wisdom of the Moon - These are so pretty! Plus I like that she combined several recipes to make her own.
  • Canning Pickles @ Little Birdie Secrets - Detailed description, plus photos of the steps. A great tutorial.
Happy pickling!

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1 comment:

eastkentuckygal said...

Fermented pickles are so easy. I want to try more of the "canned" methods though. I got to get my courage up.