Pickles

Cucumbers Galore

A garden offers so many wonders.  Whether growing a patio tomato or the whole produce department, you know the feeling.... sitting down to eat the bounty from your plot of earth, big or small.  There is nothing like biting into something that you nurtured day after day to it's maturity.  Sharing the gardens riches with friends is another of the garden perks.  Pickles, preserves or baked goods made from what I've grown and nurtured are a true gift of love... to give and receive.  

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One vegetable that I adore growing is the good old cucumber. That good old cucumber gives us pickles, dill or sweet, whole or sliced and relish.  How about soups; gazpacho and chilled cucumber with yogurt, YUM!  How about some raita served with grilled unleavened bread?  I could eat that duo for every meal!  As kids I remember eating marinated cucumber and mayo sandwiches!  Last but not least, how about that ever popular, never a southern summer table without, bowl of sliced cucumbers with a bit of dill, a pinch of sugar and vinegar? 

  Because there are so many things a person can make with cucumbers, size doesn't really matter BUT if pickling is your intent, it can be tricky harvesting cucumbers.  Since the very best pickles are made from cuc's right off the vine you want to be able to pick enough of the same size all at one time.  Unless you have quite a few cucumber plants it's not likely you'll find the quantity needed in one picking.   When a few cucumbers are ready to be picked the others are still coming.  That is why I love this  DILL Pickle recipe from a previous blog post...all you need is enough cucumbers to fill one quart jar at a time. 

Alas, you invariably end up with some cucumbers that sit on the vine too long.  And, as those of you who've grown them before know, there is always that one hidden cuc you discover that has been growing for goodness knows how long.  Yikes!  A great option for those cucumbers is my Cinnamon Pickles from a previous post

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This ongoing struggle with my cucumber harvest has probably been the source of my love of them today.  I do not like to waste anything so no matter the size or shape; I had to create!  I'm loving a pantry full of edibles for my table, gifts of love for family and friends and what better then a homemade gift for a host/hostess.... straight from your kitchen!

Today, I'm talking relish!

This was my first attempt and I can't say enough about the ease and results.  One thing that did jump out at me was the color of the results...why wasn't my relish green?  I now know they add blue dye to relish, EEK...no need, just change your expectation...it is so worth the small effort.

I adapted this recipe from Genius Kitchen

Tangy Pickle Relish

makes 6-7 1/2 pint jars

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 lbs cucumbers , peeled and seeds removed
  • 2 -3 sweet onions
  • 1⁄4 cup pickling salt
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dill seeds
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
  • red pepper flakes to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Finely chop cucumbers and onions. I use a food processor and do smaller batches to be sure not too fine.  Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt, stir well. Let stand for 1 hour.
  2. Drain mixture in a colander, rinse under cold water and drain again, pressing out any excess moisture.
  3. In a large pot, bring vinegar, sugar, garlic, dill seed, mustard seed, celery seed, and pepper flakes to a boil.
  4. Add cucumber mixture, bring to a boil again, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. 
  5. Remove from heat, add the turmeric and mix well.
  6. Pour into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Seal with lids and rings. Process in boiling water bath in canner for 10 minutes.

 

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Cinnamon Pickles



Have I said it before?  I love pickles!  This recipe is adapted from a Caswell County, NC neighbor.  I am sure it would rightfully be referred to as, "old timey".

As so often was the case, an old recipe came out of need for preservation or desire not to be wasteful.  This recipe is just that.  You know those cucumbers that stay on the vine just a bit too long?  Either hidden under all the growth, or, more likely with me...I didn't pick it in time.  The seeds are way too developed for your regular pickle recipes...well, here is the answer to your "i don't want to be wasteful" woes.  


I first had these pickles a few years back and fell in love with them immediately.  They're very different. They're crisp and spicy like fall, not from heat but from cinnamon.


The only issue I had with the original recipe was the bright red color which came from red food coloring and red cinnamon heart candy.  If you don't know, you should read up on red food coloring.  An unnecessary additive I choose to stay away from so I didn't use the candy or the food coloring.  The recipe also uses alum (yes, derived from aluminum) and I found some controversial information about it too.  Alum has always been used in pickling to get the crispness. Although controversial, I used it anyway, this time.  It is a tiny amount and I didn't want to alter the character of the pickles...Next time I will try eliminating the alum and see what happens.


The recipe is time consuming but quite easy.  Know that the next few mornings (yes you read that right) you will have a few basic steps.  The important thing to note is starting this today means you won't be actually canning until the 3rd day.  I do love canning but I also know I have to block off the time and kitchen space and I'll bet if you've read this far into this blog you know exactly what I'm saying!


Ingredients:
2 gallons cucumber rings from too big cucs (peel, seed, slice in rings or as I've done half rings)
water
2 C pickling lime
3 C white vinegar
1 teaspoon alum
10 C Sugar
8 sticks cinnamon
1 C cinnamon hearts (if desired)
1 bottle of red food color (if desired)




Soak the cucumber rings, lime, and 8.5 quarts of water for 24 hours. Drain and wash well.  Cover with ice water and soak for 2 hours.  Pour off ice water.













Cover rings with 1 C vinegar, alum, and red food coloring if using and enough water to cover.  Simmer for 2 hours.


Drain and throw away the water.  Heat 2 C vinegar, 2 C water, sugar and cinnamon sticks and candy if using.  Pour the liquid over the rings. For the next 2 mornings, drain the liquid into a pot, bring to a boil and pour back over the cucumber rings.  Keep a lid over the rings to hold heat as long as possible.  On the 3rd day, reheat the liquid and rings together and bring to a boil.

Once you've reached your boil your ready to can these babies!  Put the rings in your hot sterilized jars, cover with liquid to 1/4 " head space.  Put on your sterilized lids and water bath for 20 minutes.  In 8-10 weeks your ready for the unveiling! I didn't miss the red color at all.  When they were first cooking they had a marvelous celery green color I wished had lasted.  The color is much more appetizing to me then the red ever was.  Hope you ENJOY!

Pickles!

I don't know about you but I love pickles.  Sweet, sour, spicy, chips, spears and those almost embarrassing whole ones...hey, I'm referring to the mere size...some so big we might wonder if one person could finish them..  Actually, I love anything "pickled" but today I am writing about the cucumber sort.  I have a recipe to share with you!  Pickles, pickled by the jar!  Yep, that's right...8-10 cucumbers, depending on the size and you can have yourself a jar of fabulous pickles waiting in your larder for the day your taste buds water for the garlicky, salt and vinegar cure of that firm crisp pickle!  You know the kind?  The kind addictions are made of.  Once the  the vinegar begins to manipulate the sides of your mouth there is no turning back.  Just one, are you kidding?

On our farm the garden is mostly about our own personal consumption and I'm learning how to deal with the various phases of the bounty.  Pickles are the reason I plant cucumbers.   The smaller (under 5" long)  cuc's are good for dill pickles. As long as the cucumbers aren't bitter (not enough constant water) and not too large (over 2" in diameter) they're always good for B&B's (bread & butters for those not familiar with pickle vernacular).  In my humble opinion FRESH picked is always key when it comes to pickles!  I don't believe I have ever met a pickle aficionado that wouldn't stick their nose up at soft pickles!

Now, listen up, a few successful canning's and an expert I am, NOT!  One of the reasons I am sharing this recipe; it is so darn easy.  I promise, if you try this recipe two things will happen.  1) You won't believe how easy it is.  2) You too will feel like an expert

I am the type with BIG ideas and not always enough time, or these days, energy to get er done. So, this recipe really appealed to me.  At the end of a long day working , destroying the kitchen with canning equipment spread from one end to the other doesn't appeal to me.  Another reason I like this recipe is the ease of dealing with your daily harvest.  In most home gardens the yield  is a few a day. So, collecting the quantity of pickles needed for most other recipes can be a pain.  Since the freshness of the pick contributes to the "

crisp

" of the bite, if you collect over time you'll have older cucumbers too. I believe the older ones have the potential to risk the crispness factor.  Now I know some of you are wondering about those pickles resting on the grocery shelf.  Don't think about!  I wouldn't even try it.  Just buy elsewhere.  There are plenty farmers and farmers markets around these days that freshness shouldn't be an issue. When the seasons not right, don't pickle. By the way, have you seen

straw bale gardening

?  Cucumbers are some kind of easy to grow.  

 When I found this recipe  I was stoked.  This is my third year using this recipe and I think I've finally perfected it.  I adapted it from a recipe I found in

Backhome

Magazine.

First, you want to wash your cucumbers well and snip the vine end, just a snip.  I'm told if left on the cucumber it can create a bacteria in the jar that would ruin the whole batch.  I'm not going to guide you through the basics of preparing the canning jars cause it is pretty basic stuff.  You want to sterilize each jar and the lids.  Any questions check out

Ball

site.

Using pint or quart size jars ( better for gifting) :

Place in the bottom of the jar

1 clove of garlic

1 healthy sprig of dill

1 dried hot pepper or a shake or 2 of hot pepper flakes (optional)

Next stuff each jar with as many cucumbers as possible.  I sometimes use a wooden spoon end to manuever the cuc's to make room.  They somehow snuggle up in the space.  Leave 1/2" headroom from the top of the jar.  If you'd prefer not to leave them whole the spears also work great in this recipe.

Add:

1-1.5 Tablespoon of non-iodized salt

1/2 cup white vinegar

Fill the rest of the jar w/ boiling water, again making sure to leave the 1/2" headroom.

Last but far from least place a fresh grape leaf on top of the jar before you seal it.  I know most of you won't have access to such a thing.  The old timers say it is the final step to assuring crispness.  Maybe a neighbor has some  grapes?  If they have grape vines, they have leaves a plenty.  Maybe it's the very thing needed to bring neighbor to neighbor?

Process in a water bath for 20 minutes.

Make sure the jars seal.

In 6-8 weeks your pickles will be ready for the tasting.  Don't dilute the experience with crackers or anything else for that matter.  You will not stop at eating one and you'll be running about the house bragging on your yummy treat.  No, me, I didn't do that.....

What comes at the end of a Blog?  Unresolved photo placement!