The pickling season is approaching fast!

Here’s really easy way to pickle cucumbers, similar to the way I sometimes pickle them, if I’m not jarring them cold and boiling them or fermenting them naturally (my preferred) – Yea, I know all the measurements etc are in imperial and not metric. Why? Because I use Ball Mason Jars and they only come in quarts, pints or half pints, so best to keep it all in imperial, otherwise it will send you mad!

14-Pickles

Shared and adapted from an article by LEAH ZERBE JULY 14, ORGANIC LIFE –
Ever wondered how to start pickling? The thought might cross your mind during the growing season, a time when gardens and farmer’s markets will be bursting with fresh cucumbers. That’s a stark contrast to what you’ll get if you buy this veggie at the store, where they’re likely coated in wax, which means you have to peel them, and won’t get the healthy fiber and vitamin C housed in the skin. It’s best to grow your own, or stock up at farmers’ markets, and try your hand at pickling.

Note: Use ball Mason preserving jars that are big enough for the cucumbers to fit inside, with a half inch of space between the top of the pickle and the top of the jar. I find the Quart and pint wide mouth jars are the best for this.

Yields 7 to 9 pints of pickles –

For the pickling spice:
3 tablespoons whole mustard seed
14 heads fresh dill
4½ tablespoons dill seed

I like to also add a couple of pinches of whole peppercorns and coriander seeds, and you can throw some chilly flakes in too, thats if you like a bit of a bite to your pickles!!

Mix ingredients together and store in a cool, dry place.

For the pickles:
8 pounds of 3- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers (The Lebanese ones are the best)
2 gallons water
1¼ cups canning or pickling salt (divided)
1½ quarts vinegar (5 percent)
¼ cup sugar 2 quarts water
2 tablespoons whole mixed pickling spice

Equipment:
Large pot with lid, or canner (available commercially)
Canning jars, lids, and screw-bands – Ball Mason jars.
Jar lifter or tongs, to remove jars from boiling water – Ball Mason ones are the best and safest.
Jar (wide mouth jam) funnel, to fill jars easily and cleanly
You’ll also need to come to one of my courses or purchase the Blue Book form Ball Mason – then you can learn safely how to heat-sterilise your jars etc.
1. Wash cucumbers. Cut a 1/16-inch slice off the blossom end of the cuke and discard. Leave ¼ inch of stem attached. Dissolve ¾ cup salt in 2 gallons water. Pour the mix over the cucumbers and let stand for 12 hours. Drain. Combine vinegar, ½ cup salt, sugar, and 2 quarts water. Add the mixed pickling spices, tied in a clean white cloth.

2. Heat this picking solution to boiling. Fill hot, properly sterilized jars with cucumbers. Add 1 teaspoon mustard seed and 1½ heads fresh dill to each jar, and pour in enough boiling pickling solution to cover the cucumbers. There should be a ½ inch of space between the top of the liquid and the top of the jar; add more solution if needed. Remove all air bubbles from the jar by running a clean, nonmetal spatula around the inside of the jar. Wipe the jar rims with a dampened clean paper towel. Seal with hot, properly sterilized lids.

3. Process the jars of cucumbers by placing them in a pot or canner of boiling water: Boil 10 minutes for pints, 15 minutes for quarts. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, you’ll have to add 5 to 10 minutes to your boil time. The canner or pot you use must be deep enough so that at least an inch of boiling water covers the tops of jars during processing. After you remove the hot jars from the canner, don’t retighten the lids or you could damage the seal. Let the jars cool at room temperature for 24 hours, on racks or towels.

4. After a full 24 hours, remove the screw bands and test the seal by pressing the middle—if it pops back up, it’s not sealed correctly and you shouldn’t eat the pickles. (You can try to process the jars in boiling water again to get a correct seal.) Store the jars in a cool, dry place. Canned pickles are safe to eat as long as the seal remains intact; after opening a jar, refrigerate the uneaten portions. You can begin eating the pickles after they’ve been sealed for at least 24 hours, or wait longer to let the seasoning set. Keep a record of when you open each jar, and how the pickles taste, and you’ll learn the optimum time for aging them.

PICKLING TIPS – 

Match The Cucumber To The Recipe –
Whether you’re interested in making whole dills, spears, or slices for sandwiches, choosing the right cucumber is key. “Bread-and-butter pickles are very easy, and can be made by slicing regular Lebanese cucumbers. Dill cucumbers are delicious, but to stay crisp, it’s best to use small ones and cut the ends off,” she adds. Also, only use fresh, firm cucumbers for pickling, not ones that are starting to soften up.I also pre salt them before pickling to give them a real crunch!!

Decide How To Slice Them
If the pickles are going to be used on sandwiches, cut large, thin slices on an angle to make long ovals, instead of small rounds.

Select The Proper Salt
When pickling cucumbers, you must use pickling or canning salt, not iodized or table salt. I use sea salt.

Cheat – Refrigerator Pickles
Here’s the easiest way to make homemade pickles: After you eat all the pickles out of a jar, reuse the juice by slicing leftover cucumbers, onion, beans, cauliflower, or just about any fresh or cooked veggie into it, and putting the jar in the fridge overnight—or even better, for a week or more as they just get better with time!

Also, think Beyond Cucumbers
Pickles and cucumbers are not synonymous. Think outside the box—pickled peach halves and spiced pickled crabapples are great too. also, what about pickling hot peppers, beets, and even beans for more interesting pickling variations.

1910 Pickling courses start again in September in the Southern Highlands and in Sydney – stephen.hogwood@optusnet.com.au

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