Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's canning time again

Late August-early September is prime canning time.  I've already got two dozen jars of honeyed peaches just waiting for me to give them to a hostess or simply eat them myself.  But this year my attention is on trying to perfect my pickling prowess.  Last year at the Berkshire Grown Preserve Swap, I got the most sensationally delicious jar of pickled green tomatoes and gobbled them down in less than a week.  I don't know who made them, but if you're reading this and you brought them to the Swap, many thanks!

I was so done in by those pickled green tomatoes that I wanted to make my own.  So far I've made several batches.  The ones I didn't put through a water bath are marvelous--tart and very crispy.  The ones I did put through a water bath are extremely disappointing.  Much too mushy and no crunch.  I hadn't realized that a large part of enjoying pickled green tomatoes was the bite factor.  If they're mushy, forget about it! 

But I have this fantasy of enjoying crispy pickled green tomatoes all winter long but how to accomplish that?  So I did what we all do these days--went to Google.  Well, who knew that fresh grape leaves apparently keep enough of the crunch in the vegetable even after the water bath.  And lucky me--I just happen to have a beautiful grape arbor with hundreds (or is it thousands) of leaves (not to mention beautiful bunches of grapes that will be ready to eat soonest). 

I can't report on the experiment with the grape leaves yet, but I can share with you the recipes I used for dill pickles, rosemary and sage quick pickles, and pickled garlic (who knew that pickled garlic is as versatile as fresh garlic??).

There are probably thousands of recipes for dill pickles.  I suspect most of them are good.  This is the one I'm using now.

1 c distilled white vinegar
3 c water
1/2 c canning or pickling salt
8-10 medium-size Kirby cukes (ca. 1 lb) scrubbed and left whole (although I sliced them to fit them in the jar)
3 springs fresh dill or 1 1/2 t dill seed
1 red bell pepper, stems and seeds removed, cut into thick strips

In a nonreactive pot, mix together vinegar, water, and salt.  Bring to boil, stirring until salt dissolves.

In the meantime, sterilize jars and lids.  Pack quart-size jars with cucumbers, and add equal amounts of dill and red peppers to each jar.

Pour boiling brine over cukes leaving about 1" fee at top of jar.  Screw lids on and process in hot-water bath for 10-15 minutes to seal.

For flavors to fully develop, store jars in cupboard for about 3 weeks.  Once opened, they can be store in the refrigerator for 6 months.  Sealed they will keep for a year.

Pickled Garlic (from Food in Jars website)

1 lb fresh garlic, peeled
1 c red wine vinegar
1 c water
1 T pickling or canning salt

Prepare 3 half pint jars and lids in hot water bath. 

Combine vinegar, water, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

Pack garlic cloves into prepared jars. Pour hot brine over garlic cloves.

Tap jars gently to remove any trapped air bubbles.  If necessary, add more brine to return the headspace to within 1/2".

Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes (after water returns to boil). 

Make sure all lids are sealed.  Store jars in cool, dark place.  They're ready to eat within 48 hours, and can be kept for up to a year. 

Although this is the time of year when canning and pickling gets the most attention, I have a wonderful recipe for rosemary and sage quick pickles that can be made at any time of year since cucumbers are a year-round staple in grocery stores.  Susan Johnson, my wonderful gardener, gave me this recipe a few years ago.  I treasure it.

Rosemary and Sage Quick Pickles

1 small red or white onion, thinly sliced
2 c sliced cucumber
2-4 sprigs rosemary
4-8 sage leaves
1/3 c cider vinegar
1 T pickling or canning or kosher salt
1 c cold water

Slice cukes into 1/4" rounds.  Tightly pack sliced cucumbers and herbs in a 16-oz clean glass jar until about 3/4 full. 

Combine vinegar and salt in a saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and gently stir until salt dissolves.  Remove from heat.

Add cold water to this mixture and let cool.  Pour cooled liquid in jar to cover cucumbrs and herbs.  Add more cold water if necessary.  Leave room at the top.  Refrigerate for about an hour until chilled.  Delish!

P.S.  I often slice up a red pepper and add to the mix.

I hope to be back at this blog soon with more reports on pickling. 

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