Preserving food is nothing new; people have been salting, pickling and canning food for centuries. Preserving is an easy way to reduce food spoilage and make the fruits of one’s labor last all winter.
Just about anything can be pickled- even pig’s feet. While pickled pig’s feet is not my choice of cuisine, cucumbers, beets, asparagus and onions are. Pickling is easy enough to do at home, following a few simple rules, and pickling can be quick. Of course, if you are going to take the time to pickle correctly, you might as well pickles as much as you can. So sometimes pickling isn’t so quick.
A note on preserving: Pickling, canning and salting can be done safely in your own kitchen. What cannot be done in your kitchen is packing food in oil. We do not have the capacity to safely preserve food in oil in our home kitchens! Botulism is colorless, odorless and tasteless. It will also kill you. Just don’t do it.
For this venture, I went to the Woodstock Farmers Market and bought pickling cukes. At the market I also bought some lovely beets and dill. All for wicked cheap. I also got a plethora of cucumbers from a friend (you can pickle any kind of cucumber, it doesn’t have to be a pickling cuke. She also gave me tons of green beans and purple green beans, which I pickled. After the market, I strolled to Bi-Mart (the most wonderful store!) and got pint and quart size canning jars, pickling salt and jar tongs.
So here are the rules of pickling:
- If you already have jars, be sure to buy new lids and rings. Used lids and rings are bent, although you probably can’t see it. You want to make sure to inspect new lids and rings for holes and other imperfections.
- Sterilize, sterilize, sterilize everything. This can be accomplished by boiling jars, lids, rings and tongs for at least 15 minutes.
- Wash your veggies. Make sure they are ripe and of good quality.
- Use pickling salt. Why? It does not contain additives that can turn your produce brown and make the brine cloudy. There are recipes that call for kosher salt, but use pickling salt anyway.
- Follow the recipe exactly. Do not try to alter the brine recipe or make smaller batches. Vinegar is cheap enough that if you have to throw some down the sink, oh well.
- Have fun!
Gather your ingredients.
Brand new jars!
Bring a very large pot of water to a boil and submerge the jars, lids, rings and tongs. Boil to sterilize for 15 minutes.
I am using my All-Clad 12 qt. stock pot with the pasta insert.
Meanwhile, set the rack in the canner.
Place the canning rack in the bottom of the canner, fill with water and bring to a boil.
A basic canner is essentially a large pot. Pressure canners are also available for purchase. Some pressure cookers can be used as pressure canners, but not all. Make sure to read the manufacturer's instructions before canning in a pressure cooker.
Pickling cucumbers, scrubbed.
This cucumber has a great pair of legs
Prep the ingredients: Peel garlic, slice cucumbers (if you wish), rinse the dill.
Once the jars have been boiled, gently pull them out of the water with jar tongs. I like to do can one jar at a time. Feel free to leave the other jars in the boiling water until ready to be used.
Use caution. Boiling water is hot!
At this point, you want to start stuffing your first jar. Add the garlic, dill, peppercorns and cucumbers.
I added a few shakes of chili flakes to this jar for a little heat. Jalapeno works well too.
Pack the jars as full as possible. Add the brine mixture (not pictured). Give the jar a shake and using a chopstick, poke the cucumbers to knock out any air bubbles. Make sure to leave about 1/2 inch of room at the top of each jar, while also making sure all the cucumbers are completely submerged in the brine. Wipe the rip of the jar, seal with the lid and ring. Process in your canner according to your recipe instructions, usually 10-15 minutes- depending on what you are canning.
When the pickles are done, set aside to cool. After a while, you will hear the lids start to seal (pop!). Check to make sure all the lids seal, if not, do not use. Store for 2-3 weeks in a cool dry place. Open and enjoy!
Pickles, pickles, pickles!
Just remember, take your time, follow the instructions and enjoy!!