Monday, August 9, 2010


Well, I've made my first venture into the world of pickling. I'm not sure I'd want to call it a success-- the real test will be once the pickles come out of their jars. I will say that they don't look all that impressive, and the conditions/ingredients were not ideal.

I used the recipe I got from Sister Elaine Schroeder at the monastery. She has already put up 44 quarts of pickles, and Sister Josue, her partner in pickling, has put up another 48 quarts. That is a lot of cucumbers, which they pick at optimum size for baby pickles. My sizes varied, and I ended up cutting most of them in halves or quarters to fit more into each jar. I did six.

I was excited about the recipe because it did not involve boiled canning, though it does require a fair amount of boiling.

I started with the first step, putting the cucumbers in cold water with a half-teaspoon of alum in the fridge overnight. This supposedly crisps them up, and it was true that they had changed in texture overnight.

When you're ready to pickle, you make a brine, roughly: 2 cups vinegar, 2 cups water, 1/4 cup salt and 1/4 cup sugar. The other ingredients go directly in the jar: a little onion, a little garlic and a sprig or two of dill.

My dill was in great shape until a hailstorm on Saturday night broke off all the stalks. I had them put aside and there were still some green sprigs in the bunch. I'm not sure it matters if the dill is "fresh" or not. The bigger issue was the vinegar. I thought I had a large bottle of distilled white vinegar beneath the sink. I did, and a smaller bottle that was half empty. That bottle yielded 2 cups, but that only filled half the jars. The larger bottle, when opened, did not smell at all like vinegar. It is old, I'm sure-- I even wondered if it had been refilled with distilled water instead. So I made up for that by using white wine vinegar. I don't see why this wouldn't work, but white wine was not part of the recipe! We'll see how it goes.

You boil the brine and while boiling, stuff the jars with cucumbers and the onion, garlic and dill. Then pour the brine over the pickles until the jars are full, and let them sit a few minutes until the pickles and water start to change color. This was hard for me to see the first round. Then you pour back the brine, reheat it to boiling again, and repeat the process. The third time you pour the boiling brine into the jars, you seal them. They should seal as they cool and be good for a year. One jar sealed with a loud pop pretty soon, but I haven't heard anything from the others yet. If they don't seal, we'll just eat them earlier and keep them refrigerated.

I actually don't like dill pickles. I'm a bread-and-butter pickle girl, preferring those ridged slices of sweet pickles. But I like the idea of pickles! I really like the idea of making them. Even if this batch doesn't turn out, I'll try again, although probably not this year since the hail has probably put an end to my lovely cucumber plants.

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