Pickles!I'm on Day 2 of my VeganMoFo'ing and this post is one that I shoulda coulda written in August. Better late than never, right? Let's get right into the pickles! I'm not a dill pickle kind of girl..I mean, I love a good dill pickle in a certain deli situations but it's rare that I crave this kind of pickle. However, a good bread & butter pickle I could eat anytime! They are sweet and not for everyone but for me and my extended family, they are something we crave. Chopped up in a tofu salad or with a veggie burger: just dreamy. I was previously very intimidated by canning and very slow to warm up to the whole pickle making idea. I didn't realize that pickles are super easy and really hard to screw up! Really, I promise! Here's what you do:
First you start out with some basic equipment along with some canning jars that you should be able to pick up at most markets or indie hardware stores (for whatever reason!). Yes, I did just describe hardware stores as indie. There's a great one around the corner from me with wooden troughs that you can pick just one nail out of. Just one nail! Love it. Besides there is something about Home Dippo that makes me into a raving lunatic. Ack, I just hate that place. Okay, back on track..1 quart jars work well..you'll probably need 3-4 or you can do a mix of whatever you have like I did. You'll also need to purchase (if you don't have):
Canning tongs..seriously so worth it. I tried my first canning experiment without these. It's a horrible difficult job to lift a slippery wet jar out of boiling water without these guys. If you want to expand to jamming and other food preservation, the $5 investment is worth it!
A big ole pot that is several inches taller than the tops of your tallest jars. I got this cheap pot at a discount store and just use it for canning a few times a year.
You'll need cucumbers. Ideally, the small pickling cucumbers (the ones with wrinkly skins) are best but feel free to experiment with other kinds. You want 10 cups of 1/4" sliced cucumbers + 3 3" onions cut into 1/4 slices.
Take your cukes and onions and place them in a bowl. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of salt and add 1 tray of ice cubes. Mix to combine. Cover with a towel and let it sit for three hours. This helps remove some of the water from the vegetables and softens them up.
Drain and rinse..gently fill your clean, sterilized jars with pickles and onions. Try to efficiently pack the jars without cramming them too tight. Leave 1/2" head room from the rim of the jar.
Now make your pickle brine. This brine includes: 2 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cup cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 tablespoon mustard seed, and 1 teaspoon celery seed. Place all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the sugar is dissolved, pour brine into the prepared jars leaving 1/4" headroom from the top of the jar. Put the jar lids on and screw the metal rings moderately tight. Now you are ready to "process" your pickles! Note at this point you can skip the "processing" if you plan to eat the pickles right away. Simply put them in the fridge and consume them in 1-2 weeks.
Processing simply means placing your jars in a pot of boiling hot water for five minutes cooking time. This create a vacuum seal within your jars making them shelf stable. Place the jars in your boiling water pot and set your time for five minutes..remove with your canning tongs.
As the pickles cool you may hear a popping noise as the vacuum seal pulls the "button" on the top of the lid inwards. When your jars are cool, test to make sure they are vacuum sealed by pressing your thumb down on the "button." If it pops up and down, it is not vacuumed packed. Sometimes if you press down, the button will stay down..that is okay. You may have just pre-empted the vacuum seal but that's fine. As long as the button doesn't toggle up and down, it should be vacuum-packed. If it does toggle, you can either re-process it in a hot water bath or just put them in the fridge and eat them within 1-2 weeks.
And there you have it: pickles! I found a free WebCT course from the University of Georgia two years ago..you'll learn all about different kinds of food preservations and if you complete the course, they'll even send you a certificate showing that you completed the course. This course was excellent and helped resolved some of my anxiety around canning before I starting pickling and jamming. Now I feel like an old pro! However, they are revamping their web courseware..if you check back in January you should be able to sign up. In the meantime, they have a lot of great resources on their web site for the first-time pickler. And if I can can, you can can too =) Blech! Somebody give me a corndog. And pass the bread & butter pickles..