Making Your Own Dill Pickles

I have been a pickle making fool this year.  And I am sure there are some of you that are probably thinking that you could never preserve pickles.  Maybe, you’re even slightly intimidated by the thought.  But I’m here to tell you there is nothing to fear.  I decided to create this post in the simplest terms to show you how easy it is to make your own homemade dill pickles.  I figure these pictures and short instructions might help take away any apprehensions you might have. 

For those of you who have never canned before, you will need a canner or very large pot that you can immerse your jars in when it comes time to put them in the water-bath.  We will get to all of that in a minute.

This recipe is nice because you can make 1 quart of pickles or 6 quarts of pickles at a time (or however many your canner will accommodate).  The recipe is from my Better Homes and Garden (Red & White Checked) Cookbook. Page 147 in my book.

The ingredients needed for this recipe are per quart; not per batch.

5-6 cucumbers (the recipe suggests 4” long)

2 Tbsp. dill seed

1 tsp. mustard seed

1 3/4 c. water

3/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. pickling salt

* I added one clove of peeled garlic to the jar of some of my pickles.  It gives them a mild garlic dill taste.

So, are you ready?  Here we go!

1.) Rinse cucumbers and then soak them in very cold water.  *It should be noted that a lot of recipes call for pickling cucumbers only.  I’ve used several varieties in my canning adventures and haven’t had any trouble doing so,  but there is a first time for everything.  It is also best if you use smaller cucumbers (in diameter) because they are less bitter and seedy.

2.) Wash the jars and screw bands that you intend to use in hot soapy water; rinse thoroughly and then place them upside down on a clean dish towel.  Put (new) lids in very hot water and set aside. Don’t cheap out and reuse old lids because you will risk them not sealing properly when you put them in the water-bath.

3.) Prepare the seasoning by measuring out the mustard seed and dill seed for each quart individually; then place it in each jar.

4.) After placing the spices in each jar, measure out the ingredients (salt, vinegar and water) for the brine and place it into a large stock pot.  This brine will later be brought to a full boil.

5.)  Remove cucumbers from the cold water and dry them off.  Slice each cucumber in half – length wise, or quarter each one length wise if they are a little larger in diameter.  I put all of the odd sized pieces in one jar and can them too.

6.)  Fill a canner with enough water to cover the lid of each jar you intend to process.  Start heating the water on high heat.

7.)  Loosely pack each jar with the sliced cucumbers leaving at least a 1/2 inch of headspace at the top.

8.) ,Bring brine to full boil.

9.)  Ladle the boiled brine into each jar and cover the cucumbers, again leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top.

10.)  Wipe the edge of each jar rim with a hot clean cloth and secure the lid and band.

11.)  When all of the jars are ready, lower them into the canner. 

12.)  When the water in the (covered) canner starts to boil rapidly, boil the jars for 15 minutes.

13.)  Once the boiling is complete, move the jars of pickles to a cutting board or something that will withstand hot temperatures.  I suggest using canning tongs that are designed for lifting the jars out of the canner.  These jars will be extremely hot so be careful.

14.)  Allow jars to cool at room temperature.  The lids will start popping when the seal is made.  This is a good thing!  To make sure each jar has properly sealed check them by feeling for an indentation in the center of the lid.  If the lid is firm then the jar is sealed.  If there is any play in the lid when it is pushed on then the jar is not sealed properly and it will not be safe to store on the shelf.

The pickles should set in the jar for 1 week before you open and eat them.  These pickles are crunchy and have a nice (not overpowering) dill flavor.  That’s probably why I’ve made three batches so far.

Have you ever canned before?  Are you comfortable or intimidated by it?  Or, is Vlasic your friend?

Sweet Corn and the Deep Freeze

If you live in climates where fresh fruits and vegetables are practically unheard of during the winter months than you might appreciate this post.  You know what I’m talking about, it’s that time of year when the only things that you’ll find  green are misletoe or Christmas trees.  *Disclaimer – if you can’t associate with this type of winter season than send me your address I’m coming to visit!

To help myself feel as if I have some, even if it’s just a little, control over the situation I typically think ahead.  I pick fresh berries and freeze them, make an abundance of sweet jams and jellies, and if the conditions are right – I load the freezer up with some veggies too. 

Our neighbors always plant a Goliath of a garden which they share with their family, friends, and neighbors.  This year, thanks to their generosity, they offered us sweet corn to freeze and to eat fresh. 

Have you ever froze corn?  It’s not hard.  You just have to blanch it before freezing it. I usually pull out my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cook Book to refresh my memory on blanching times before I freeze anything.  In the case of freezing sweet corn, here is what to do. First, put a big pot of water on the stove and set the heat on high temperature to bring the water to a full boil.  Then husk and wash the corn. Once the water is boiling  drop the corn into the pot one ear at a time.  The size of the ears of corn depends on your blanching time. For example, the cookbook recommends 7 minutes for small sized ears, 9 minutes for mediums sized ears, and 11 minutes for larger sized ears. Start timing your blanching process the minute you drop the corn into your pot.  *If you live 5000 feet above sea level add another minute to your blanching time.

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Once the corn is blanched plunge it into ice water to stop the cooking process.  When the corn has cooled enough so you can handle it cut the kernels off of each cob and package it in freezer bags or containers. I use freezer bags and press them flat so they take up less space in the freezer. 

I know there will be many a winter night that this home grown corn will taste great smothered in butter and salt and pepper.

Canning, Photography and Wine…

Ready to can peaches

 

I have canned a few things over the years.  Most of my canning was done when my mom was around.  She tried to teach me the art of canning, and I’m glad she did.  When a friend offered us a box of fresh, homegrown peaches I eagerly accepted.  For the last few years I’ve had the urge to can peaches and put them away for the cold winter months we have here in upstate New York but never got around to it.   

Saturday morning was the day.  Armed with all of my ingredients, a few cookbooks for comparison, and lot’s of time I set out to do some canning.  

Now, the other part of this adventure involved using my new camera.  I love to blog, and one of the areas where I think my blogging could use a little improvement is my photos.  If you seriously stop and think about taking a good photo, not just snapping the button, there are a lot of factors to consider.  Lighting, background, shadows, blurs, angles, etc.  I swear sometimes it takes me as long to take a good photo as it does to prepare my recipe.   

To assist me in that area I bought a new camera a few weeks ago.  My old one was a Kodak digital (over ten years old), my new one is a Sony Cyber-shot.  It’s a point and shoot with a lot of options to choose from including manual operation (to a certain degree).  I have spent countless hours exploring the features, and practicing with this thing.  I’m still not comfortable with it, but then again I’m not always the most patient person.  

To make a very long story short, the peaches canned beautifully except next time I need to pack the jars more fully to avoid air space.  I have enough jars to put away for those cold anticipated days I mentioned earlier – yea!  The photo’s – well here they are too.  Each picture was challenging.  The biggest challenge was the lighting issue.  It took some work to get a true color representation of the peaches, jars, wine and bottle.   

Jars of canned peaches

 

Cropped image

 

Peaches galore!

 

Americana Vineyards Crystal Lake

Oh, you’re probably wondering what the wine has to do with canning peaches.  It was a reward for a very productive day in the kitchen, and working with the camera.