By Kitsey E. Burns – kburns@civitasmedia
Who doesn’t like a pickle? Ok, well, I’m sure there are some who don’t, but that’s OK, more for us! Summertime is in full swing and my cucumber vines are producing like crazy. I’m pretty excited about it because I love to can pickles. This year I am growing a regular green pickling cucumber as well as a white cucumber. Both of these varieties look great in jars.
My biggest problem is making sure to check the vines thoroughly every day, otherwise I end up with a cucumber the size of a zucchini and too large to can. I have had quite a few that were almost too big, but I hated to waste them so I sliced them into spears to can.
So far this year I have made several different kinds of pickles and at the rate my vines are producing, I’ll probably make a few more kinds before summer is over. I have made a few batches of a spicy dill pickle, grape leaf pickles and I tried a Sriracha pickle as well.
I prefer salty, sour and spicy pickles. I’m not a sweet pickle fan, but my dad does like bread and butter pickles so I will probably make a batch of those for him. The spicy dill pickle is really simple to make and the recipe is actual for a small batch so it’s great if you just have a few cucumbers from your own garden or the local farmers market. You can always increase the recipe to make a larger batch.
This year I’m also attempting to make some pickles the really old-fashioned way — in a stone crock. My mamma bought this crock at an auction a number of years ago and it has been sitting in our basement ever since. Last year, at my friend’s suggestion, I made a jar of fermented pickles. They were very different, but delicious, and fermented foods are supposed to be very good for you. I’m hoping my pickles fermented in the crock will turnout well.
Grape leaf pickles are my personal favorite, but that wasn’t always the case. I remember as a child we always canned green beans, tomatoes, stuffed peppers and pickles every summer. We normally just made dill pickles or sweet pickles, but one year Mamma wanted to make grape leaf pickles. Everything my mamma ever cooked or prepared was normally delicious, but something didn’t go well with the pickles and they were terrible. It was a family joke for a long time. A few years after that, I tried some grape leaf pickles that my cousin had made and they were delicious. Now they are one of my favorites.
Grape leaf pickles do tend to be on the salty side and not everyone likes them. My dad and fiancé both dislike them, but my great Uncle Ken and I love them so I made a special batch this year. I was particularly proud of the labels I made for my jars. I found a picture of my mamma and me when we were canning pickles a few years ago and printed that out to use as the label for the jars.
Speaking of labels, if you like to can and give your canned goods away as gifts, there are tons of free label templates you can find online to make your canned gifts look really nice. Add ribbons or other extras to make them even more special. Most people realize the time and effort it takes to can and it’s not something a lot of people do anymore so most will consider a home-canned gift a very special treat.
If you have a good pickle recipe, I’d love to try it, email me at email@example.com or call me at 336-518-3049.
Small Batch Spicy Garlic Dill Pickles (recipe adapted from www.thekitchn.com)
• 2 pounds pickling cucumbers (sliced or cut into spears)
• 1 1/2 cups vinegar
• 1 1/2 cups water
• 2 tablespoons pickling salt
• 6 garlic cloves, peeled (2 per jar)
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper per jar (3/4 teaspoons total)
• 1 teaspoon dill seed per jar (3 teaspoons total) (I have also used dill weed and added some additional fresh dill from garden and it works great.)
• 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns per jar (1 1/2 teaspoons total)
Directions: In a large saucepot, combine vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a simmer. Arrange jars on counter and dole out the spices to each. Pack the cucumber slices firmly into the jars. Pour the brine into the jar, leaving approximately ½ inch headspace. Makes three pints. Tap jars gently on countertop to dislodge any trapped air bubbles. Apply lids and let jars cool. When they’ve returned to room temperature, place jars in refrigerator. Let them sit for at least 48 hours before eating. (This recipe is intended to be for refrigerator pickles, but I prefer to heat my lids and waterbath my jars so I can store them in my canning closet. I almost always double or triple this recipe to make larger batches at a time.)
Kitsey E. Burns is a reporter for The Yadkin Ripple where she shares her musings on food, life and love. She can be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.