Sunday, August 7, 2011
Saturday was our weekly trip to the Farmer’s Market. This week Daniel and Hannah of Easy Yoke Farm had set aside two boxes of pickling cucumbers. Anita is a pickle fanatic and needs lots. Jars and jars. I heard her barter a trade with them: this week she will weed their carrot patch in exchange for cucumbers, dill, garlic and onions. She did ask, how big is it? 40 acres? “Naw,” said Daniel, “that would be Joe’s patch.”
The recipe for garlic dill pickles calls for cucumbers to soak overnight in cold water, whereas the bread & butter pickles only need three hours in icy salt water. So we began. I love how cucumbers smell - clean and fresh - and how the sweet vinegary smell of the brine floods your nose and your hands get saturated with onions and garlic, so when you sleep at night with your hands under your cheek you dream of pickles. Denis joined the slicing and ladling of hot pickles into jars. About two thirds of the way through we realized we needed more jars and I was impatient with the dishwasher taking too long to sterilize another batch. So I grabbed them out saying, “I know. My mother did this.” All I needed was a shallow pan, so I put a cake pan on the electric burner turned on high, placed the jars upside down in two inches of water and waited for them to get really, really hot. Then I was like, wait. Who cares? This is PICKLING. The vinegar will kill anything that dares move. As they bubbled away, Denis picked the pints out one by one and filled them and Anita wiped the rims and put on the lids. Done! 24 jars!
Later, as we were cleaning up Anita was going to dump the water out of the cake pan, but found it oddly stuck to the burner. What the..? Denis tried prying it off and finally had to horse the burner up with the pan welded to the top. He managed to pop off the pan, but there was no saving either. So I no longer advise this method of “sterilizing” jars. Besides the risk, it isn’t very cost effective. And perhaps my mother DIDN’T do that. Perhaps I imagined it. Still, those pickles are really good and not that hard to make.
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Bread & Butter Pickles
4 quarts pickling cucumbers, sliced thin (cucumbers should be 5-6 inches long and not too fat)
3 c. onions, cut in half, thinly sliced
2-3 bell peppers (green or red)
3 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1/3 c. pickling salt
Mix together. Add salt. Cover with ice water. Soak for three hours.
3 c. apple cider vinegar
5 c. sugar
2 T mustard seed
1 ½ t. celery seed
1 ½ t. turmeric
Heat together until it comes to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Drain the cucumber mixture. Place in large stock pot (do not use aluminum).
Pour in the brine. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
While hot, ladle into jars and seal. Do not over-fill. Be sure brine covers the cucumbers.
Store after jars have cooled and sealed. Eat them as soon as you like, though pickle snobs wait for several weeks for them to thoroughly cure.