26 August 2014

crunchy dill pickles


For about a month in the middle of the summer, cucumbers invaded my garden. And kitchen counter. And refrigerator. They were "Solly Beiler" cukes, especially bred for making pickles, and they were remarkably fruitful. (I ordered the seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.) Next year I will plant them again, but only two-thirds the number, so as not to be utterly overrun.

Of course this invasion meant plenty of pickling. Here is the recipe I used: it's based on one I found in More With Less, an old Mennonite cookbook, and dressed up with a few more spices. Pickles are much easier than I suspected. In fact, canning is much easier than I suspected. It involves a lot of hot water and slicing, but I always thought it was rocket science that required five thermometers and a calculator. As it turns out, it's just cooking on a large scale, with more than usual attention paid to the timer.

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Dill Pickles
(given quantities are enough for 8-9 quarts)

fresh unpeeled cucumbers
fresh dill
peeled garlic cloves
mustard seeds
black peppercorns
red pepper flakes
optional but recommended: Ball Pickle Crisp

12 cups water
6 cups white vinegar
1 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar

1) To prepare: thoroughly wash and rinse eight quart jars in hot water, and let airdry in clean area. Place lids in shallow pan of water, bring to boil, and let simmer for a few minutes. Fill large pot or canner halfway full of water and bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium and cover pot.
2) Pack each clean jar full of scrubbed cucumbers (whole or sliced), two stems of dill, one garlic clove, a pinch each of mustard seeds, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes, and a rounded 1/4 teaspoons of Pickle Crisp. Fill jars up to the shoulder.
3) Meanwhile, dissolve water, vinegar, salt, and sugar together in large pot and bring to boil. Let cool slightly, then pour over packed jars until liquid reaches the top of the shoulder with an inch of headspace. (If you have enough liquid for more than eight quarts, go ahead and fill more jars with cucumbers!)
4) Place sterilized lids on prepared jars and screw on rings. Lower gently into hot water and return to boil. Process in boiling water for 5 minutes, then remove from water and re-tighten lids. I can fit three to four jars in my large stockpot, so it takes a few go-rounds to process them all.
 5) Let jars cool on counter; lids should seal as the pickles cool. If any fail to seal, just stick them in the fridge and enjoy them over the next few days. Store sealed pickles in a cool, dark place and let sit for at least two weeks before eating.

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