It all started with a garden.
Anyone who has one, or knows someone who does, understands exactly what I mean when I say that there are some weeks in the middle of summer where you have fixed a cucumber every which way you can and still there are bags full coming out of the yard. This (glorious) problem led me down the road of pickles. Admittedly the art of canning and pickling seemed so perfectly grandmotherly, and a bit out of my league, but if I have learned anything from Daring Bakers it is to accept a challenge.
My mom passed a book down to me called Preserving the Fruits of the Earth that I have regularly dusted and never used. Until now, that is.
Pickling turns out to be entirely doable, enjoyable, and addictive. (Our grandmothers really had the right idea.) My friend Sarah and I tag teamed the effort, and I must tell you to have a good friend on hand when you venture into pickle-making. There were many moments of slicing, pouring, sealing, and waiting that would have been quite difficult to manage single-handedly. My word to the wise is to invite over a good friend and give pickle-making a try.
In Preserving the Fruits of the Earth there is a list of necessary equipment for pickle-making. I will tell you what they recommend, but also admit to you that I just used a colander, a large stainless steel soup-pot, a pair of high heat tongs, and a set of canning jars. You do need to use a pot made out of one of the materials listed. If you do not, the material could be affected by the acid in the pickles and spoil the pickles. That would be a bummer. Other than using a stainless steel pot, you can make due without any fancy pickle-making equipment. This is sounding better and better, isn’t it?
•Kettle made out of stainless steel, unchipped enamelware, aluminum, or glass
•Sterilized glass canning jars with new self-sealing canning lids
•Kosher salt (not iodized salt)
•White vinegar that is between 4 and 6 percent acetic acid
We made a recipe for bread and butter pickles not because they are our favorite variety but rather it was the most accessible procedure. (A challenge is one thing, but let’s not get carried away.) Telling you that you can make pickles in about 4 hours versus 4 weeks just sounds a bit more approachable. So, bread and butter it is, and they are mighty tasty bread and butter pickles if I do say so myself.
I updated the recipe based on our experience. We made six pint jars of pickles out of this quantity. Feel free to double it if your garden is really prolific. Larger cukes will likely turn soft and bitter, so be sure to use small Kirby or other pickling cukes.
Have fun and enjoy the process. It just feels so perfectly smart to be putting up food in the summer time. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Bread and Butter Pickles
Makes 6 pint jars
Adapted from Preserving the Fruits of the Earth
4 pounds small pickling cucumbers
1 pound Vidalia or other sweet yellow onion
kosher salt for initial soaking (about 1/3 cup)
3 cups white distilled vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons celery seeds
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1. Cut unpeeled cucumbers into 1/8 inch thick slices
2. Cut peeled onions into 1/8 inch thick slices
3. Arrange in layers in large stainless steel pot (kettle). Salt each layer with kosher salt
4. Let stand for 3 hours. Drain the cucumbers and onions and rinse well
5. In another large pot bring water to a boil and sterilize jars. You will need the jars to be hot for the canning process so either leave them to boil just until ready to fill or place in warm oven until just ready to fill. The hot jars and the boiling vegetables is what will make them seal
6. In your stainless steel pot (kettle) bring other ingredients to a boil and add vegetables. Bring to a boil again and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Pack into hot, sterilized jars and seal with self-sealing canning lid. Twist outer ring until almost tight and set jar aside. The seal should pop down within a few minutes to hours***
The pickles are tasty already. There is no waiting for months before eating. You should start snacking now!
*** If you do not trust this self-sealing method, tighten the outer rings until not quite completely tight and place the jars into a hot water bath. Boil for 5-10 minutes until the tops seal.
Store in a cool dark place or just keep in the fridge so that they are chilled and ready for the inevitable snacking.