I feel some days like there is so much to share with you. So much going on. And yet, where to begin? Part of me wants to start by telling you about the rain that finally fell last night and how worried this drought has had me feeling. Part of me wants to tell you about the swimming hole we just discovered, the kale going wild in the garden, the farm we are contemplating, or the visit from my sister-in-law.
Part of me wants to share a variety of stories - some heavy on my heart and others warm in my soul - but then there is that bushel of cucumbers on the kitchen counter, demanding that I tend to it.
Produce is good that way. It keeps us in the now. So we'll start with pickles. Because the cucumbers just won't wait.
How to Make Canned Pickles
If you have never canned before, pickles are a good place to start. They are simple, require few ingredients, and the product is outstanding. (Really. These will blow your mind.)
If you are interested I will share how to make live-fermented sour pickles next week. But for storage, canned pickles keep beautifully all year long.
Gather your supplies.
You will need:
A hot water bath canner. (I am using a pressure canner but not pressurizing it because it's all I have. We'll be hot water bath canning, which in a pinch can be done in a stock pot!)
Canning jars and lids. Check Craigslist and garage sales if you have the time or pick them up at the grocery or hardware store. My lids are Tattler lids because I am more comfortable with them as they are BPA-free but use what you have. Do remember that you need new metal lidsfor every batch. (Used rings, free of dents and rust are fine.)
Salt. Most recipes call for "canning salt" but mineral salt or sea salt works perfectly and provides minerals as well. Just stay away from salt with added iodine. Also know that if you use mineral salt you'll have some clouding in your jars (to which I say, "Who cares?").
Vinegar. While most recipes call for white vinegar I love apple cider vinegar for pickles. This time I did half of each since I was a little low on both. (I just refrained from making a joke about being "in a pickle becasue I was low on vinegar". Sorry. I couldn't resist.) The message is: use what you have. Any 5% acid vinegar will work.
Cucumbers, of course. You can pickle all manner of firm vegetables but we're starting with the basics. Cucumber pickles made by this recipe will become your addiction. We ate through a double batch of these by February last year, so I made a quadruple batch this time. I just hope they last.
Prepare to Can!
Soak your cukes. Unless you just picked them moments ago, submerge your cucumbers in ice water to rehydrate them. You can soak them overnight or just for an hour. It's up to you. Your pickles will be better for it, but if you are in a time pinch don't fret - just skip to the next step.
Wash and sterilize your jars. Yeah, I hate washing clean jars too. If they are in my kitchen cabinet I don't bother but jars from the basement need a quick wash. Fill your canner with enough water to cover your jars. Bring to almost a simmer, then submerge your jars. Bring to a boil, turn off heat, and soak for a few minutes. Remove jars pouring water back into canner.
Sterilize your lids. Bring a small pot of water to boil. Remove from heat and add jar lids, gaskets (if applicable) and rings. Leave in hot water for now.
Cut off the blossom ends of your cucumbers. This is the end with the tiny belly button rather than the wider stem belly button. A friend and reader shared this tip with me last year. There are hormones in here that will soften your pickles over time, so cut that end off by 1/4 or 1/8 inch. Discard.
The Recipe: Viroqua Pickles
makes approximately 7 pints
4 lbs (or 1/4 bushel) of cucumbers, preferably small and firm
2 3/4 C vinegar
3 C water
1/4 C salt
7 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of dill
Bring vinegar, water, and salt to a boil. While the brine heats place in each jar 1 clove of garlic, a pinch of peppercorns, and a few springs of dill.
Place whole small pickles or cut larger pickles in the jar. Be mindful to really pack them in, standing spears on end and wiggling as many in as possible.
When the brine comes to a boil pour over cucumbers, leaving 1/2 inch of head-space. (The neck of the jar is more than enough room.) Carefully wipe the rims of your jars with a clean dry cloth.
Drain the water off of your lids and rings. Lid the jars being mindful to not over tighten. (I tighten mine and then unscrew them just a touch.) Using canning tongs, lower the jars into the hot water. Add more water if necessary to cover jars with at least 1" of water or remove a bit if your pot is overfilled.
To prevent jar breakage, don't crank the heat! Lid the canner and set heat to medium-low. Allow to come to a simmer. This will take a while, maybe 10 or 20 minutes, depending on the batch.
When the water reaches a slow boil/heavy simmer set your timer. Simmer for 10 minutes for pints and 15 minutes for quarts. Check occasionally to ensure that it's still simmering. If you find it isn't simmering anymore adjust the heat and add a couple of minutes to your time.
When the timer chimes, remove with tongs and set gently on a towel. Allow to sit undisturbed for one hour, then check your jars. For metal lids, just push down the center to test the seal. If the lid pops down your jar did not seal. Fridge it or attempt to reseal. To reseal, check rim for chips and lid for damages, then reprocess as above. To test the seal on Tattler lids carefully remove rings and gently lift lid. It will come off if the lid failed.
Your pickles are done! Bravo!
I saved the text above as a PDF for you to print out. Have fun with this. You are awesome and so are your pickles.