Pickling Party

dill picklesI had a small pickling party this weekend and canned 23 jars of dill pickles, which made us all very happy.  I had hoped to thoroughly photodocument the whole process but even with three people it was tricky to make pickles and take pictures at the same time…  I hope I can at least give you the general idea of how to make pickles.

Step one is to gather a large pile of cucumbers.  Many came from my mom’s garden where the five cucumber plants are completely taking over.  Others came from our CSA and from the garden at Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard where Stephanie is the gardening coordinator.  Once you have gathered the cucumbers, start chopping them into pieces (slices, spears, chunks, whatever)

Lindsey cuttinc cucumbersStep two is to make a boiling brine mixture.  We used a basic recipe from Keeping the Harvest – 3 cups of apple cider vinegar, 3 cups of water, and 1/3 cup of salt.  They recommend adding a garlic clove to every jar but we were feeling saucy so we added two or three or sometimes five.  We also added a pinch of fresh dill to every jar and half of a grape leaf from our wild grapes.  Grape leaves are supposed to make the pickles crisper and I had good luck last year.  Oh, and we also added a few spices to the brine – mustard in one batch, a “pickling spice blend” involving cardamom and cinnamon to another, and some fresh coriander to a third.

Step three is to combine the ingredients.  Start with hot, sterilized jars – we ran ours through the dishwasher and pulled them out to use while still hot.  Stuff each jar with cucumbers (and garlic and dill and grape leaves) and get ready to add the brine.  Ladle boiling brine into each jar, wipe the mouth of the jar, and apply the lid (which should also be hot and sterilized – we pulled ours out of a pot of boiling water).  Tighten down the lids and put them in the canner.

canning picklesStep four is canning.  You can skip the canning if you plan to keep your pickles in the fridge and eat them fairly quickly but if you want them to keep for months, you need to can them.  Since pickles are pretty acidic, they are less likely to harbor bacteria than low acid foods like green beans.  This means you can can them using the boiling water method, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – boil the cans in a big pot for 10-20 minutes (depending on jar size and altitude).  This sterilizes the content of the jar and also pushes most of the air out, creating a vaccuum seal.  If we were dealing with low acid foods like green beans we would have used a pressure canner, which increases the pressure as well as the temperature to make it as inhospitable to bacteria as possible.

Stephanie with garlicThat’s it!  Making pickles definitely takes some work but it’s a lot of fun when you make it a party.  Stephanie is always a blast to hang out with and being a dill pickle addict, she kept the energy high.  Lindsey had just moved to Bloomington on Friday and was excited to stock her pantry with her own pickles.  She is also already planning to recreate the Sunday Night Dinner Club she was involved with in Chicago and in Portland.  People getting together to cook fabulous meals for each other on a weekly basis?  Sounds great to me!  Perhaps I’ll find some more grunt labor, er, I mean partygoers for my food preservation projects…

  del.icio.us this!

No Response so far »

Comment RSS · TrackBack URI

Speak your piece