(Dear Internet - please forgive me, but I've not had time to transfer over, edit and post my pictures. I know, it's a tragedy. I'll edit and add later, I swear)
Can I make a confession? You won't judge me, internet, will you?
I don't like cucumber pickles. There, I said it, I don't like 'em, let the stoning commence!
Perhaps I should amend that to I don't like store-bought cucumber pickles. I just don't like the way they taste. Which is why discovering my love of pickled carrots, beets, kohlrabi, etc.. has been so surprising. It's not the pickling process that I don't like, it's the spices. Which is why I approached this can jam with a heavy editing eye. My fiancee, however, loves pickles and is allergic to melon, so... time to pickle pickles!Disclaimer the First:
Now, there's been some discussion in canvolution
about editing/messing around with recipes. Let me just put it like this. Have you put up more than (arbitrarily) 5 recipes? No? Then don't mess around with your recipes. You know what's not fun? Botulism. Once you get an idea of how the process works and how to put things together, then you can start tinkering, but ONLY tinker with spices. (The addition of spices won't alter the pH of your recipe, so you should still be safe) Around here, you can also start working on changing sugar content of recipes, but be warned that sugar is one of the preserving agents and if you use less sugar, it may not last as long/have as good a texture. (I personally would rather eat something quickly than wait 10 months to eat oversweet jam, but that's me)Disclaimer the Second:
Have you noticed that all of my recipes for can jam have included some aspect of 'do as I say, not as I do?' Yeah, me too. I keep ignoring guidelines and then being annoyed when the recipe doesn't turn out as planned. I know, it's crazy talk. Anyway, what I'm saying is that I used the wrong kind of cucumbers to pickle with. Everywhere
talks about using small, warty pickling cucumbers. When I was out at my favorite pick your own
last weekend picking up plums, beets and blueberries (recipes coming when I have time, really, I swear!), I saw that they have cucumbers for sale in their store, so over I went. The cucumbers were lovely, long smooth cucumbers. Faced with the prospect of buying these or storebought, I bought these. Then I went home and got really into my pickled beets and plum chutney and left the cucumbers in the crisping drawer until yesterday. The sooner you pickle your cukes, the crisper they'll be. So, I haven't had a chance to try these pickles yet (and I won't for a month, stupid mellowing time), but from packing the jars, I know they won't be as crunchy as I like. But such is life and you know, I can always reuse the brine to refrigerator pickle more cukes if I need to.
So, adapted from the Ball Book
Grandma's 2-Day Dill Pickle Recipe (halved and added some spices to it), I give you... the pickles.
To start, chop your cukes into spears at about the right size for the jar and deseed. Place your spears in a clean, stainless steel bowl or crock (I used a large saucepot). Dissolve 1/2 cup pickling salt in 4 cups of water and pour over the cucumbers. Add cold water to cover, if necessary. Place a clean, inverted plate on top of the cucumbers and weigh the plate down (I used 2 pint jars filled with water). Let sit in a cool, dry place for 12-18 hours. I did this in the morning and then put it in the fridge while I went to work. I pulled it out after dinner when I was ready to pickle!
(I looked at a lot of different recipes to figure out what I wanted to do - some wanted you to presoak, some didn't. None of them explained why. I decided that since I had the time, I might was well try it. From what I can tell, how the cukes react to water is how they'll react to pickling long term, so soaking now means you don't have to worry about swelling or shrinkage later)
Next, combine 4 cups (filtered) water, 3 cups white vinegar (5% acidity, no botulism please), 1/3 cup pickling salt (or kosher, but NOT table salt), 2 tbsps sugar and 1 tbsp of pickling spice (in a jelly bag
, though a reusable teabag also works) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Discard spice bag.
At the same time, sterilize your pint jars and prepare the lids. I also prepare my spices for each pickle jar here, so when the jars are hot, I don't have to worry about measuring. If you're the same way, divide out 1 tbsp dill seed (or 1 head of dill), 1 tsp mustard seed, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 bay leaf and 2 cloves of garlic (whole) for each pint jar. Admire how pretty it is and take a picture.
Once you're done with your spices, pull out your cucumbers. Drain the brine and rinse the cucumbers well. Then rinse them again. Once your jars are sterilized, pull them out of the water and pack the jars with cucumbers, leaving 1/2" of headspace to the top of the jar. Pack them tightly, now. Like, squeeze 'em in until you can't squeeze any more. Then add your bay leaf and garlic and dump your seeds on top. (I try to get garlic cloves and bay leaves on the side for maximum pretty). Your brine should be ready by now, so discard the spice bag, grab your wide mouth funnel and pour the brine over the pickles, leaving 1/2" of headspace from the top of the jar. Wipe the rims, add your lids, put back in your hot water bath, bring the hot water to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool overnight. Voila! Pickles!
Pickles usually need 3 weeks to a month to mellow before they reach perfection. It's kind of killing me not to be able to try it. (Ditto my pickled beets)A Note on the Brine
- I halved what the recipe called for, which was supposed to be enough for 7 pints. I filled 4 pint jars and made a jar of just pickle brine (I'd sterilized and prepared spices and a lid for a fifth jar just in case, and there is nothing sadder than an unused, simmered canning lid in Christina land) and still had enough left over for probably another jar or two. So while this made 4 jars for me, that's only because I ran out of vegetables. This could easily make 7 well packed pint jars. Just be prepared to have leftover brine is all I'm saying. Either save it for future pickles (you can keep it in your fridge for a few weeks, then reheat to use in further canning), can it for forays into picklebacking
or whatever. Also, the red pepper flakes dye it a lovely orangey color, something that didn't happen when I made carrots in February. Iiiinteresting.Without the Bajigeddy - Spicy Garlic Dill Pickles
small pickling cucumbers (lots)
1/2 cup & 1/3 cup pickling/kosher salt (divided)
8 cups water (divided)
3 cups white vineger
2 tbsps sugar
1 tbsp pickling spice
dill seed or fresh dill heads
red pepper flakes
Wash your cucumbers, trim and cut into appropriately sized spears, deseed and put in a large crock or stainless steel bowl. Dissolve 1/2 cup pickling salt into 4 cups water and pour over cucumbers. Add more cool water to cover if needed. Cover with a clean inverted plate, weigh the plate down (bags/jars of water work well) and keep in a cool place for 12-18 hours.
Combine 4 cups water with 3 cups white vinegar, 1/3 cup pickling salt, 2 tbsps sugar and 1 tbsp pickling spice (in spice bag) in a large pot. Heat over medium-high heat to boiling, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Discard spices. Remove cucumbers bowl, discard water and rinse cucumbers well twice. Pack cucumbers into hot, sterilized jars tightly, leaving 1/2" of headspace to top of jar. Add 1 tbsp dill seed (or 1 fresh head of dill), 1 tsp mustard seed, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, 2 cloves garlic and 1 bay leaf per jar. Add hot brine to jars, leaving 1/2" headspace to the top of the rim. Add lid and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.