It is summer, and gardens abound with fresh produce, many of them producing more than their tenders can eat. That is unless your garden is like mine. Mine isn’t doing much of anything, but I do have one jalapeño pepper, and I expect the okra to go gang busters here pretty soon. But my dad’s garden? Well his is already pumping out more squash and cucumber than he can eat alone, and so he gave some to me. I have discovered some new ways to eat squash, but I’ll save that for another post.
Yesterday, I spent an hour or so taking care of the cucumbers. I like cucumbers, I really do, but after using one for sandwiches, and one for salad, I get tired of it. I still had 1.5 pounds of cuc left to do something with. Good thing I love pickles. If you ask me, that is the best use of a cucumber ever. But I’ve never made pickles, and I don’t think I know if I even know what home made ones would taste like. Still, I thought I’d give it a try. Anything is better than simply letting them rot.
So I found a recipe, and then I used lots of math to figure it down from the required 7 pounds of cucumber to the 1 and a half that I happened to have. Then, I set to work.
I filled my gigantic pasta pot with water, and boiled the jars and their lids. Since I couldn’t find my jar tongs, and worse, couldn’t remember if I even own a pair in the first place, I put the pasta insert into the pot, and when I needed to remove stuff, I just pulled out the insert.
But that wasn’t the only hiccup of the experiment. After I mixed together the water and vinegar, and pulled down the bag of pickling salt, I discovered that it wasn’t pickling salt at all. Well, it had some in it, but it was a premixed bag of dill pickle stuff, including spices and salt, and required 9 pounds of cucumber. Not to worry, the internet can save me, right?
I always have kosher and table salt on hand, and there just had to be a conversion online. There was, and I learned that you can’t use iodized salt cause it makes the liquid cloudy, but the conversions were for cups of salt. It just wasn’t going to work. I decided I would just make my own.
When we make drinks that require sugar, we often spin regular sugar through our blender to make it extra fine and easily dissolvable. To be honest, I was going to donate my blender before I learned the sugar trick, and I reasoned that this would work for salt too, since canning salt is really just extra fine salt, right?
I poured in lots of salt, and sent it for a spin.
I have never seen pickling/canning salt, but I figure it’s got to be close to this, right?
Oh well, if not, then my pickles will just be saltier than the recipe intended, and since we like our food a bit on the salty side, that’s not such a big deal. I even saved all the salt that wasn’t use, which was most of it, for later popcorn topping. The salt will stick better to the popcorn, although I won’t get to run my fingers along the bottom of the bowl for the salty goodness. You know you do it too.
Once I got the pickling brine all mixed, it went onto the stove to boil. I spent the time slicing up the cucumbers into chips; next to theatre pickles, hamburger chips are my favorite.
The recipe said to put the cucumbers into the hot jars, and then ladle the brine ontop. So I did. It also said to fill the jars up to a 1/4″ from the top, but I ran out of brine. I decided that I was already committed, and that I had nothing else to lose, so I just topped the jars off with cold vinegar and some of the boiling water from the jar bath. I also placed the dill heads and peppercorns in just as instructed, and placed the jars back into the bath for “15 minute processing.”
I hope this means boiling them in the water, with the lids partially on, because that’s what I did. When the time was up, I pulled the insert out of the pot, and placed it into the sink so that the jars could cool. Once I heard the tell-tale pop! of the lids sealing, I tightened the rings the rest of the way.
I now have to wait 4-6 weeks to see if I’m any good at this. I’m half Polish, so pickles are in my blood, I think. If it doesn’t work out, I will let you know, and we’ll blame the recipe – right?