adventures in canning

I’ve never feel so handy and self sufficient as I do when I’m canning or preserving something. Whether I’m stuffing jars full of jams and fruit preserves or pickling beets, I think it is a lot of fun and a really useful skill to have. Erik and I were looking at the labels on jars of pickles at the grocery store a few weeks ago trying to decide what brand to buy and noticed that every one of them had said “Product of India” or Product of China or somesuch. I feel that is silly. I mean, I’m not one of those “every single thing I own must be made in America” types of people but I really feel that when it comes to the food I’m purchasing and eating, I’d like them to be a lot more local than India or China. So we abandoned our pickle purchasing expedition and noticed some small cucumbers in the produce aisle. Obviously you know where I’m going with this. We made pickles. And they are outstanding. And super simple to do. We invested in one of those huge canning pots last year and I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of it – I make mass quantities of tamales in it too. It’s a lot of steps but it’s really not that difficult to pack things in jars. Then you never have to shell out the cash for jams or jellies or pickles. The cheap bastard in me especially likes that.

I’m giving some amounts down here for a very cut down version of this recipe linked below. As always, I encourage you to visit the linked recipe and decide how you want to handle the amounts. My own math is wonky. We ended up with three quart jars of pickles with our cut down version. Also keep in mind this is a two-day recipe so start it one day, finish it the next.

Basic Dill Pickles
recipe from Simple Bites

You need:

about 1 lb. small pickling cucumbers
a few Tablespoons of pickling or canning salt
a few Tablespoons peppercorns
couple more teaspoons pickling salt
2 cups water (they ask for filtered but I used plain from our tap)
1 3/4 cups vinegar (plain, distilled)
4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 teaspoons dried dill (alternatively you can use fresh dill sprigs in your pickles – I just don’t have access to that kind of thing here)

Day 1:

Rinse your pickles and slice off 1/8 inch off each end. Prick all of the cucumbers all over with a fork. Start layering your pickles in a large bowl and sprinkle with pickling salt; layer the rest on top and sprinkle with more pickling salt. Cover the cucumbers with cold water (enough to cover by an inch). Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temp overnight.

Day 2:

Wash your canning jars in hot, soapy water. Rinse well and place in your canning pot. Fill your canning pot with hot water (make sure your jars are covered with water). Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer the water and let the jars hang out til you’re ready to use them.

Place your canning lids in hot water on the stove and let them simmer for a bit. Remove from the heat.

Rinse and drain your cucumbers well. Erik and I decided to cut ours into spears rather than pickling them whole. So if you’d like to do that, um go ahead and cut ’em up.

In a saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, and pickling salt. Bring to a boil for a minute or two until the salt dissolves. Keep it hot til ready to use.

Remove your jars from the canning pot; pour out the water and set them on a towel on your counter. Distribute the peppercorns, garlic halves, and dried dill evenly between all three jars. Pack your cucumbers into the jars next, leaving an inch of headspace on top. Carefully ladle your hot vinegar mixture into the jars covering the cucumbers but leaving a 1/2 inch of headspace at the top. I remove air bubbles by carefully running a butterknife around the edges inside the jar. Wipe your jar rims, place your heated lids, then twist on the canning rings but not too tightly. Just enough to make sure they’re closed. If they’re on too tight the jars won’t process right. Put your full jars back into the canning pot. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and let them process for about 15 minutes. Transfer the jars to a towel on your counter and let them sit there for about 24 hours. You should hear the lids make a popping noise. If the lid is sucked in, you’ve got a good seal. If they don’t seal, just refrigerate them. Ours were ready to eat within a week.

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