When I was girl, I was fascinated by the big crock of delicious dill pickles my Grandma kept in her basement. I’ve always wanted to make pickles like my grandmother, and when I saw pickling (Kirby) cucumbers in the co-op last week, I scooped them up.
I intended to make crock pickles, but after reading the great recipes in The Art of Preserving by Rick Field, Lisa Atwood, and Rebecca Courchesne, I decided to jar them instead and process them in a water bath. An afternoon’s work netted 6 jars of dill pickles, 6 jars of bread and butter pickles, 6 jars of jalapeno pickles, and 5 jars of sweet relish. I’m thrilled knowing they are down in the cellar.
Pickling and canning are not hard. Pickling involves chopping the vegetables, making a vinegar mixture to pickle them in and sealing them in a water bath for just a few minutes. Some recipes call for soaking the cucumbers in cold water and salt to help crisp them before pickling.
A water bath is best done in a large enamel pot that contains a metal rack to hold the jars. You can get one at the hardware store, where you can also get canning jars in different sizes. You’ll also need a jar lifter for grabbing the jars and lifting them in and out of the hot water.
Pickling is, of course, great for extra veggies from your garden or ones that you can get affordably in bulk from a neighbor, a roadside stand, or from the farmer’s market. In addition to cucumbers, you can pickle beets, green beans, cauliflower, okra and other vegetables.
DILL PICKLES (Makes 6 one-pint jars)
Fill the enamel pan for your water bath with enough water to cover the jars you will be canning. Heat the water to boiling.
Rinse the cucumbers under water while scrubbing them with a vegetable brush. Set aside in a colander.
When the water is hot, take the lids off the jars and dip each jar into the hot water to sterilize. Set sterilized jars on counter.
In a non-reactive pan (glass, enamel or stainless steel), make a pickling mixture of 3 cups water, 3 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity), and 2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the salt.
Into each sterilized jar put: 4 sprigs of fresh dill; 4 peeled garlic cloves, 6 peppercorns (black or mixed), and 1 TBL pickling spices. You can buy pickling spices at the grocery store or make your own. See The Art of Preserving for an easy recipe.
Slice the un-peeled cucumbers and pack them tightly into the jars. Fill the jars with the hot pickling mixture to within 1/2 inch from the top. Wipe the rims clean. Seal tightly.
Lift the sealed jars gently into the hot water bath with the jar lifter. Make sure the water covers the jars. Turn the heat up to boiling and process for 7 minutes. Add one minute of processing time for every 1000 feet you live above sea level.
Remove the jars after processing with the jar holder. Set on a towel on the counter and leave undisturbed for 24 hours while the seals form. You will hear a mild, popping sound when they seal. Store the jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year. You can use them after two weeks.
Peggy O’Mara founded Mothering.com in 1995 and was its editor-in chief until 2012. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four.