When we first got into canning, the very first thing Adam wanted to make was pickles. So when we came across a big basket full of cucumbers at St. Lawrence Market last weekend (5.5lbs for $7, not too bad), we decided to take the plunge.
It’s a long process – step 2 begins 12-18 hours after step 1, so you need to have things timed properly. This weekend we decided we’d make it work on Sunday – and did step 1 as soon as we woke up (late) on Sunday morning, and still found ourselves finishing the process after 11 p.m… Next time I think we should aim for a Saturday.
Anyway – the process really isn’t very difficult, and besides my major flub that I think I corrected decently well, I think we did an ok job. We’re going to leave it a few weeks (or as long as we can stand) before we open them, but here’s the process:
- Wash cucumbers and cut off any stems.
- Layer with ice in a huge bowl (we did a smaller batch than the recipe called for – 5.5lbs instead of 8… I have no idea how we would’ve had room for 8lbs!).
- Pour a mixture of water and pickling salt over the cucumbers to cover.
- Stick in the fridge for 12-18 hours, with something over the bowl to weigh the cucumbers down. We used 1L mason jars and an inverted plate.
- Prepare a spice bag of pickling spices (which you can make yourself or just buy prepared) by tying some up in a square of cheese cloth.
- Boil water, vinegar*, sugar, pickling salt, and the pickling spice bag for about 15 minutes
- Take the cucumbers out of the fridge and rinse well.
- Pack the jars full of cucumbers, leaving at least a 1/2″ room on the top.
- Put spices into the jars – mustard seeds, dill, and garlic (which is optional in the recipe, but I went ahead and added extra… you can never have enough garlic!)
- Ladle the pickle juice into the jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace.
- Seal the jars and boil for 15 minutes.
And then you have – PICKLES!
* … And here I admit my fears for this batch, along with my extreme stupidity:
First of all, I’m worried that our water is too hard. Toronto water is “moderately hard”, and apparently you need fairly soft water for a good pickle. So… we’ll just have to see what happens.
Secondly… about my * above. When I first made the pickle juice, I was too focused on converting everything from the 8lb batch to the 5.5lb batch (not an easy conversion!), and somehow I managed to leave out the most important ingredient: vinegar. Oh yes, I’m that stupid. Luckily I figured it out pretty quickly – reopened the jars, poured the water back in to the pot (straining to keep the spices in the jars) and added the vinegar. At that point I was tired and grumpy – so we didn’t let it boil the full 15 minutes with the vinegar, so… it’ll just have to be good enough. I really hope that didn’t totally muck it up.
And finally… it didn’t say so in my canning cookbook, but I’ve read a few places that you should let pickles sit for 24 hours to 2 weeks before you open them to let the flavours meld a bit. I wanna open them NOW! Anyone have any tips for me on that one? Ah well, we can probably wait to open them until next week.
Update: We’ve opened three jars total now, and man are they tasty! The first only a week or so after canning – very very strong, but still yummy. Each jar has progressively gotten better the longer we’ve waited to open them, so hopefully jar 4 will be the best yet. We’re definitely not done with making pickles! So worth it!