Friday, October 7, 2011

Canning #1: Cucumber Pickles

Our summer/fall of canning started in late July, when Picadilly Farm e-mailed all its CSA members to ask if we wanted an extra ten pounds of cucumbers. (It was the first time I'd heard of a CSA offering its shareholders their fraction of an unexpected bumper crop, and I was very impressed.)

DID WE? Why would we not?

They noted, "These are not pickling cukes." So of course, I was determined to pickle them.

Our friends Ariel and Nathaniel made some killer pickles last summer, so we borrowed their Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and made about six pints of bread and butter pickles and six pints of dills. (It looks like Smitten Kitchen has about the same recipe for bread and butter pickles, which I think are amazing. The dills I chose didn't do as much for me.)

We don't have a proper canning pot, so I had the brilliant idea of using our giant rice cooker to process the jars. This would have been a still more brilliant idea if 1) the jars had fit in the rice cooker, and 2) I hadn't, in order to make the jars fit, turned them upside down, allowing the brine to leak out before the jars sealed. (The really exceptionally brilliant part is that after this failed on the first batch of pickles, I DID IT A SECOND TIME.)

The bread and butter pickles didn't leak much and sealed all right, but the dills ... did not, so I added some ex post facto vinegar and put them directly into the fridge.

I should mention that these are the very simplest kind of pickles -- sliced cucumbers in vinegar and salt. (Well, actually the easiest kind is when you stick fresh cucumber slices in the leftover pickle juice in your Vlasic jar. I have done this. It makes a mild pickle.) 

Complicated pickle recipes, which we will not be attempting here, involve fermentation and weeks of aging in a crock (with daily check-ins) and instructions like "Skim any mold from the surface, but don’t worry if you can’t get it all." (Here's Somerville's own JJ Gonson, with more on pickling.)

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