Garden Diary - August 2011

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Saturday, 20 August 2011
Saving Summer in a Jar: Tasty Pickles

It's August. Food stores are loaded with Jersey Fresh produce. Numerous farmers markets (and some people worry there are too many, competing against each other.) Time to get busy saving summer in a jar. And what could be easier - and safer - than pickling. You can easily pickle a diversity of vegetable, some fruit too, and just process the finished product in a boiling water bath. No need for a pressure canner, no worry that the power might go out and your freezer defrost. Summer in a jar ready to eat as a tangy accompaniment to lunch or dinner.

So today I'm off to Back to Nature Home and Garden Center in Basking Ridge, New Jersey to teach a class on just this very topic. I'll have a set of recipes to pass out, and of course we need samples for tasting. Into the kitchen - ready, set, cook!

Say pickle and most often everyone thinks cucumber. Which do make
a fantastic diversity when pickled. These crisp little slices will become
bread and butter pickles, my all-time favorite. Keep in mind that if you
are being buried by zucchini they also may be transformed into pickles.

Corn relish is a tangy means of saving the season's excellent corn.
One student liked it so much she wanted to buy the opened jar.

Green tomatoes. Fry some up for an interesting variation on that classic
- bacon / lettuce / tomato sandwich. Or, pickle 'em. These became a
curried green tomato pickle. Others ended up chopped in chow chow,
like piccalilli an end of summer medley that pickles up the garden into jar.

All set up and ready for students to arrive. I brought a starter kit that comes with an insert for a large
stock pot, 3 pint jars, and a recipe booklet and an accessory kit with jar lifter, funnel, gizmo to remove
bubbles from a filled jar, and a magnetic lid lifter. As well, Jarden Home Brands graciously gave me
small batch seasoning packets for dill pickles and bread and butter pickles to pass out to my students.
Burlap covered table, four different kinds of pickles, handouts, forks, plates, napkins - check.

Here I am, ready for my students. Interesting why they're here. One woman's son has
a vegetable garden and lots of cucumbers. Wants her to make pickles. Another just sent
her son off to college and is looking to learn something new to make the empty nest a little
less empty. Each with a reason of their own, all enthusiastic. What's your reason? Whatever.

Just to start you off, here's a tasty recipe for Bread and Butter Pickles.
Flavor is better if pickles are allowed to age for two weeks before eating.
Once opened, jars should be refrigerated. This recipe makes about 7 pints.

You need 4 quarts of medium size cucumbers, peel on, and 6 medium onions.
Rinse the cucumbers and slice thinly, as uniformly as you can. Peel and slice the onions.
Place in large ceramic bowl or stainless steel pot. Mix with 1/2 cup non-iodized salt (kosher salt is O.K. if pickling salt is unavailable.)
Add two trays of ice cubes, cover with a clean dish towel, and let stand for 3 hours. Then drain thoroughly.

When ready to proceed begin by preparing canning jars: wash with soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and inspect rims for any nicks or chips. Do not use those jars.
Set jars in canning pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Heat flat lids in barely simmering water. Have screw-on bands ready.
Assemble measuring cups, spoons, jar lifter and other useful accessories.

1) For a tart pickle use 3 cups apple cider vinegar and 1 1/2 cups sugar. For sweeter pickle add more sugar, up to equal amount.
2) Combine vinegar, sugar, and 1 teaspoon tumeric, 2 teaspoons celery seed, and 2 Tablespoons brown mustard seed in a large pot.
3) Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add well drained cucumbers and onions to hot picking solution.
4) Heat to scalding point while gently stirring to insure even heating. Do Not over-cook!
5) Pack boiling hot pickles into sterilized pint jars. Cover with syrup. Wipe threads and cap with a clean, damp cloth.
6) Place flat lids on band, screw bands on finger tight, and set jars in canning pot of hot water.
7) Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes, then remove jars and set on wooden cutting board.
8) Leave undisturbed until cool. Lids will "ping" and sink very slightly in center as they seal.
9) Any lid that remains flexible did not seal. Refrigerate, and use those pickles first.

It's easy, it's fun, it's safe. So when summer brings you lots of vegetables save them in a jar. 1, 2, 3 - let's get pickling!

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