PICKLES!!

Whelp, I finally took Ol’ Blue down from the top of my cupboards. Holding 15 gallons of water, Ol’Blue is an aquarium for glass jars and takes 45 minutes to get to a rolling boil. She’s full to the brim for each batch during canning session, and it was a busy week between pickling patty pan squash and cucumbers, to making small batches of blueberry ginger jam. Blueberry and ginger together are my newest flavor combinations favorite, more to come on that topic later.

OlBlueinbath

One of my all time favorite food blogs and one heck of a valuable resource is FoodInJars.com.  I visit this website probably 10 times a day {no joke} during canning season, not only for reference, but also to read the delectable new recipes Marisa posts. Her blog is proof that you can can anything, and it’s also a great source of inspiration and motivation for me in creating my own blog. Cheers Marisa!

Anywhoo, it’s cucumber season, and squash season and it’s all coming all at once. What do you do with all the squash and cucumbers? PICKLE THEM. Pickling is the gateway drug into canning, once your first batch comes out and you hear the ping of the jars sealing, you’re hooked. You can even pickle without water baths and just make refrigerator pickles {they usually last a whole lot longer than the suggested week}.

Marisa has a really simple pickling blend that is a great base for pickling just about anything.  I tweaked it a little bit and added some coriander and subtracted a little chili flake. Dilly beans, asparagus, cucumbers, patty pan squash, carrots, radishes, mushrooms, beets all come to mind {oh man, I need more jars}.

inthejarBLEND

What do you do with all the picked goodness? Host a Bloody Mary party of course! Or make a mighty fine relish tray, supper club style, to bring to a summer BBQ. I’ve been known to take out a whole jar of dilly beans just as a snack in the middle of winter. Who can resist the snap of a pickle any time of year? It’s that easy, and that good. Pickle onward my friends!

Pickling Blend
{adapted from FoodInJars.com by Marisa McClellan}
4 TBS dill seed,
2 TBS black peppercorns
1 TBS red pepper flakes
1 TBS mustard seeds
1TBS coriander seeds

What to Pickle
Cucumbers are the best and safest place to start. If you’re feeling adventurous, try pickling beans or patty pan squash. How much you want to can depends on how many vegetables and jars you have. I cut one medium sized cucumber into slices and filled about one and a half pint jars. It varies for each vegetable. Just make sure to remove the ends of cucumbers and beans before slicing and cut out any soft spots or blemishes on any vegetable before adding the brine. Most vegetables will retain more of their fresh flavor better if you blanch* them first.

How to Pickle
There are two different ways to preserve your pickles. The easy way is to make the brine and pour it right on top of your veg in the jars, seal the jars and pop them into the fridge after they have cooled. This will preserve them for about a few weeks technically, but sometimes they last longer. The hardcore way is to give the brined veg in jars a quick dip in the water bath, which ensures they are safe to store for about one year.

A standard brine is equal parts (1 cup) vinegar and water, and one tablespoon of pickling salt {it’s okay to use kosher or sea salt, but don’t use iodized table salt}. I use regular old apple cider vinegar that is diluted to 5% acidity. You can use white vinegar or red wine vinegar too, depending on your personal preference.

First you want to prep your jars. Sterilizing the jars, lids and rings in a boiling hot water bath for about ten minutes is very important. Don’t skip this step, you don’t want to mess with botulism. Be careful taking the hot jars out of the bath. Set them onto a clean kitchen towel.

Next, prep your veg. Depending on your preference, cut the cucumbers into slices or spears. If you have varying sizes of patty pan squash, cut the larger ones into halves or quarters so they are all uniform in size.  Trimming off the stems and any dead flower parts will prevent a bitter flavor.

pattypancucs

For a pint jar of pickles, I used a tsp of pickling blend, and also added one clove of garlic and a few sprigs of fresh dill flowers for extra flare. If you use a quart jar, double all of the ingredients. Add the vegetables on top of the garlic, pickling blend, and whatever else you want to flavor your pickles with in the jar. Leave a quarter inch of space on top of the jar for head space.

PATTYPANJARPICKLEDCUCS

To make the brine, heat the water, vinegar and salt in a pan on the stove and stir until the salt has dissolved. Pour the brine right over the top of the vegetables and pickling spices in the jars, careful to leave one quarter inch of head space on top. Fill all the jars, then wipe the tops and edges with a clean kitchen towel. Place the sterilized lids on top and then screw the rings over the jars, not too tightly but just nice and snug.
At this point you can decide if you want to pop the jars in the fridge or the water bath. If you’re going to put them into the fridge, let them cool and be still for about 24 hours before doing so. If you’re going to water bath the pickles, gently lower them into the water and let them boil for about 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars and let them sit to cool without disturbing them over night.
Before putting your pickles into storage, check the seals on the jars. Unscrew the rings and hold the jar by the lip of the lid just an inch or two above the counter. If it sticks, you’re good – you’ll know if the lid didn’t seal right.
RESOURCES
Canning for the first time can be scary! Here are a few websites I visit often for advice and assurance.
Ball Canning has been the authority on canning techniques, tools and recipes for many a season.
Preserving Food Safely – Tested Recipes for Canning Approved by University of Wisconsin. Much love to our hippie friends over in Madison.
Food In Jars – My Favorite canning food blog, EVER.

VOCAB LESSON
*Blanch: Blanching is a way to lock in the freshness of your produce. It makes freezing and preserving easier and will keep your produce looking great. First, prepare a large bowl of ice water, heavy on the ice. Second, boil a large pot of water on the stove. Clean your produce before blanching by removing any undesirable leaves or stems. Drop the veg into the boiling water for about ~30 seconds, then immediately put into the ice water to stop them from cooking. The shock of the ice stops the veg from cooking and locks in the color and fresh flavor. Lay the veg out onto a paper towel or clean kitchen towel to dry. Make sure the vegetables are completely dry before putting into a zipper lock storage bag for the freezer. If you’re pickling, pop them right into the jars, and you’re good to go!