It’s an insanely busy time for us. Our church’s annual Kids’ Day is less than two weeks away now and I’m buried in costumes and decorations and story props. You can’t even see the top of my kitchen table and as it’s the safest place to store all my projects lest they be lost or destroyed by two rambunctious little boys, I doubt my table will be used for eating again until Kids’ Day is past!
I’m trying to prepare for school at the same time, with hopes we can start a week or so after we’ve survived Kids’ Day. (And I’ve located the top of my kitchen table again!;) ) I’m very excited about the new year and trying to organize my thoughts and plans and still purchasing odds and ends we’ll need for school.
But somebody gave me cucumbers! And when somebody gives you cucumbers, you have to make pickles.
If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that you never turn down fresh, homegrown vegetables. Never. Even if it’s stuff you don’t particularly like! Can it! Freeze it! Give it to somebody else you know would love it! But never turn it down!
I didn’t do a garden this year, but somebody gave me some cucumbers earlier in the summer and I tried a little dill pickling for the first time with refrigerator pickles. My mom always canned dill and sweet pickles and I hated it when she did because the whole house smelled just awful for days afterwards. And it didn’t help that I didn’t like her pickles anyway! In those days I hated sweet pickles and I didn’t care much for her dills, either, primarily because she always cut them into spears when I wanted them whole. (I’ve gotten over my pickle-slicing prejudices, by the way.)
Anyway, my refrigerator dills were good. Reeeally good, which made me all the more willing and eager to try some real pickle canning this time around.
So why have I never tried canning pickles before? Good heavens, I don’t know! I guess I thought it was really complicated somehow, but it turned out to be some of the easiest canning I’ve ever tried to do!
All I did was drop dill and garlic and spices in a hot jar, stuff in the pickles, and pour a super-hot water/vinegar/salt brine over top and put on the lid. That’s it! Nothing more to it! Now why in the world did it take me so long to try that?
I didn’t even process the jars. And I know in our age of food-borne illness hysteria, admitting to that is sure to set some people into a panic. But let’s be real here…anything soaking in a boiling sea of vinegar and salt is not going to spoil in any kind of hurry. Years ago people dumped their pickles and brine in crocks and kept them at room temperature for months without any problem at all. And I find it interesting that some of the same websites that insist jars of pickles be processed for safety’s sake also give instructions for old-fashioned pickling in barrels, tubs, crocks, and even garbage cans.
Ever tried to process a 30-gallon garbage can in a hot water canner? I think not.
But I didn’t choose not to process my pickles out of some rebellion against food safety rules! I was just following my recipe, which is a really old recipe that insisted processing the jars will give you soft pickles. And it makes sense… processing foods in a canner or pressure cooker is cooking those foods right inside the jar! And obviously a cooked cucumber will be a lot softer than a raw one.
So now you’re wanting a recipe, right? Sorry, but no. I won’t even be trying my pickles for another three months yet.
Yes, I said three months! Okay, I might cheat on the sliced ones, since I did slice a lot of the larger cucumbers that weren’t going to fit in my jars well. But the whole pickles? No way, Jose! The recipe insisted I’d get the best pickles if I was willing to wait. So wait I shall! And even my sliced pickles won’t be tested any time soon.
My mouth waters just thinking about November when I’ll pop the lid off one of those jars. I don’t know exactly what my pickles will taste like, but I know they’ll be good. And that’s the joy of making use of those hand-me-down vegetables! You can enjoy them long after everyone’s gardens have been tilled under and the only veggies being sold in the stores are the ones shipped from South America or the flavorless variety from a greenhouse somewhere.
Anyway, I know I won’t have time to blog next week. It’ll be crazy. In fact, I didn’t have time to blog this week! But I never want to be too busy to put up some vegetables.
And I never, ever want to be too busy to accept a gift of cucumbers!