Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pucker up!

I have quite a bit of canning to catch up on.  Seems like this year, other aspects of life have been continually cropping up. But now it seems like I'll be in the eye of the storm a bit, so I'm resolving to catch up.  Or at least reduce the backlog.  Hence, you'll see the next few weeks bring a group of pickling posts.  Not that this is a bad thing, as August is high canning season.

I'm the only one in my house who eats pickles.  At least so far, as I'm trying to acclimate the little guy to them.  In France they say children will like anything if they try it enough.  I hope they're right.

Nalls has pickling cukes right now. For any pickles you make, you'll want to use the same guidelines for choosing the good ones.  Look for small, very firm ones, with prominent bumps.  Like this one:

I make two kinds of pickles.  The first is a classic Kosher dill, and the second ones are sweet and spicy.

The dill pickles are the easiest.  I have a large Fado jar which starts being used when the cukes first appear and stays in use until the last pickle of the year is eaten.  Start off putting 2-3 sprigs of fresh dill in the bottom of a dishwasher-sanitized jar.  Take 2 or so (to taste) garlic cloves, halve, and toss in with 2-3 black peppercorns.  Cut the tips off the cukes, wash them thoroughly, and pack the jar halfway.  You can leave small cukes whole, cut them into spears, or slice disks, whatever your preference.  Add more dill, garlic and peppercorns, the rest of the cukes, and a final round of dill, garlic, and peppercorns.

Photo via
Make the brine.  I use distilled water just to be sure about the salt level.  For each cup of water, add a teaspoon of Kosher salt and a tablespoon of white vinegar.  Microwave the water a bit if necessary to get the salt to dissolve.  Cover the cukes completely with brine, and leave the jar on the counter at room temperature.  You'll see bubbles form, that's the fermentation taking place.  Remember to "burp" the jar a couple of times a day.  After a couple of days, taste one.  When they're as sour as you like, put the jar in the fridge.

When my jar is half empty, I fill the bottom with more cukes.  When the brine starts getting cloudy, I change out the jar's contents.

Photo via Food Network
The sweet and spicy pickles are made with this recipe.  A word of caution on this.  I usually like spicy, the recipe as-is makes WAY HOT pickles.  I usually use about a third of the peppers.  I haven't had a lot of luck getting those peppers at stores around Alexandria, but Penzey's in Falls Church is a reliable source.

As other veggies come into season, we'll talk about more creative pickling.  Meanwhile, pucker up and enjoy!

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