Last night, K and I finally canned our pickling cucumbers, after leaving them in the fridge all week. I think they lost their fresh edge, and won’t be as crispy when we bite into them later on, but it’s been a busy week, and this was the earliest we could get to it (hey, we STILL haven’t canned the green beans, and they’ve been in the fridge for weeks – I’m guessing they won’t be good anymore).
Pickling cucumbers seems like it wouldn’t take as long as canning jam, yet it took us a lot longer. Much of that time was just sitting around waiting though. You still water bath can it (haven’t used our pressure canner yet, and I have to admit I’m a little scared I’m going to blow up my place!) and all you do is pour the boiling pickling mixture over pickles and process the jars. Yet, everything took forever.
We started per usual, washing a number of jars and putting them in the canner to get them up to 180F degrees. The recipe we followed called for 8lbs of pickling cucumbers to make either 3 quarts or 7 pints of pickles. We weighed our pickles and found we had just over 4lbs. Hubby said we should make half the recipe, I insisted we just go ahead and make a normal amount. And who was right in the end? Neither of us. We ended up having enough pickles to fill 2 quart jars and 3 pint jars (with 3 cucumbers left over!) and the recipe we followed didn’t make enough “brine” to fill those five jars, so we had to make a second batch afterwards. Bah.
As we heated up the jars and started sterilizing the lids, I set the following onto boil:
- 1 quart vinegar (plain white vinegar, 5% acidity)
- 1 quart water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup canning salt
All about salt
Salt has been used in preserving (not just pickles, but fish and meat) for thousands of years. Know where the phrase “Not worth his salt” came from? Roman soldiers used to get partially paid in salt!
Canning salt was new to me before this week – I had to look it up earlier in the week to find out how it’s different from regular salt. Canning salt is salt without any additives – unlike plain table salt which is normally iodized. Most table salt has potassium iodide, dextrose (to stabilize the iodide) and some anti-caking agent in it. You could use canning salt for regular table salt, but in humidity it clumps together. Likewise, you could use regular table salt to can pickles, but the iodide will turn the pickle juice cloudy and might make the pickles look dark. They would still be fine to eat though!
When I got the liquid in my pot to simmer I added 3 tablespoons of pickling spices to a spice bag, and then let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes. Well, that’s what the recipe said to do, but my friend Jess said to make sure that the mixture tastes the way you want your pickles to taste, so I left the spice bag in there to simmer for about 30 min.
Once the vinegar mixture is just how you want it, all you need to do is put your pickles (cut up however you want) into the hot jars, add 1 tablespoon of dried dill seed or 1 head of dill per quart, and ladle the mixture over it until the cucumbers are covered.
Dill was another thing I learned a lot about this week. When I first read over the recipe, I read “a head of dill” and thought back to the garden, where one of the people gave up on their plot earlier in the year, but had a lot of dill growing. So, we brought home a dill plant on Sunday night. However, I thought a head of dill meant I needed the leaves, so I stripped the leaves, put them in a plastic ziplock, and dumped the seeded head (don’t ask me why I didn’t make the connection). Then I thought, maybe one plant isn’t enough, so I purchased some fresh dill at the grocery store. Only last night did I find out that what I really needed was that seeded head, and not the rest of the plant! Luckily, K ran out quickly to the store and bought some dill seed, just in time to add to the pickle jars.
So, just so you know – dill weed and dill seed are two different things, and are NOT interchangeable! Dill weed are the leaves of the plant, and dill seed is the fruit of the plant. Dill seed is more of a spice, whereas Dill weed is more an herb. So it caused some consternation in the house last night!
So, after the pickles are in the jar, and the lids and bands are put on, it goes back in the hot water bath for 15 minutes (after it gets back to boiling). And then it’s done! Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And yet, yesterday it took hours to get the boiling water canner up to 180F for the hot jars, and forever to get the vinegar just right. But in the end, this is what we ended up with:
3 pints of pickle chips (Hubby REALLY loves his burgers with pickles), 1 quart of pickle spears, and 1 quart of whole pickles.
I think we’re good for awhile with pickles!