8.29.2010

yes we can

My Thirty Before Thirty list has been, um, a bit lax of late. I am making plans for some of those fun things (surfing, ahem: any recommendations for a starting-from-scratch learner?), and working, if not assiduously, at least intermittently on some others.

Today: can/preserve some food. Specifically, some dill pickles.
Until I was twenty-five or so, I would eat only
one type of pickle. It had to be my paternal grandmother's recipe, and it had to be made by either my mom or grandma. All other pickles were inferior. (It's worth it to note that this grandmother died when I was twenty-one, so I spent four years without pickles, as my mom had better things to do from four states away than to indulge my obsession.)
I eventually grew to accept other dill pickles, to the point when looking in my fridge last week would have shown you three giant jars of pickles, one Mexican Coca-Cola, one gallon of mint tea, and one leftover empanada. I looked at this and thought "hey, rather than spend $1.99 per jar, why don't I just buy some cucumbers and go for it?".

Thus: Sunday Pickling Project!

The goods: cucumbers, garlic, kosher salt, fresh dill, vinegar, and alum. I am a little suspicious of the alum, personally, but it's in Grandma's recipe and I can't think of a good reason to eschew it, although I feel it might just be a $3.99 McCormick's Spice Co. conspiracy to get me to buy useless dry goods.

Grandma's recipe, my notes:

Sterilize a bunch of quart jars with hot water. In the bottom of each quart jar, put ½ bud of garlic (cut into two pieces) and some dill seed. I used three cloves of garlic per quart jar, because I love garlic more than is normal or necessary. You can use either just the dill seed (1-2 tbls) or several heads of fresh dill in each jar. Then pack in your pickles, left whole preferably, but you can cut them, if need be. Heat to boiling the following & pour over the pickles:

6 Qts. Water

1 Qt. vinegar

I switched this up, based on a few other hot-water canning recipes I found online. I used a 1:1 ratio of white vinegar to water, figuring it was somehow botulism-reducing. Also, I love vinegar.

2 cups canning salt

Apparently Chicago groceries do not carry "canning/preserving salt". I went with kosher salt. I also modified this- sorry, Grandma!- and used only 1/2 cup of kosher salt, based on a bunch of other hot-water canning recipes and the fact that I didn't have two cups of salt.

1 tsp. alum

Put on a jar lid and ring, then process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. You’ll need a big canning kettle, preferably with a rack, to do this. The kettle has to be tall enough to cover the tops of the sealed jars with boiling water. Don’t put the jars directly on the bottom of the kettle: you’ll need some kind of a rack to get the jars up off the bottom. I used a dish towel on the bottom of the pot. It seems to have worked, as nothing has burst open or shattered yet. Remove the jars after 15 minutes and set on a towel. As they cool, you’ll hear the lids pop. Once they’ve sealed and cooled enough to handle, you can remove the ring. You don’t have to remove it, but sometimes if you store the jars with the rings on, they just get kind of stuck & are harder to remove.

This quantity is for maybe 15-16 quarts of pickles, so adjust it accordingly.


Quart jars packed full of garlic, dill, and cucumbers.

I put a bunch of whole peppercorns in two of these, because why not? Also, cold beer is a very good idea when canning things in a huge boiling-water bath in an un-air-conditioned kitchen when it is 90+ degrees outside.


Simmering water bath, tea towel, nothing has overflowed yet, miraculously.

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