Canning

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  A spicy sweet dilly flavor fills my kitchen this week, letting visitors know that pickles are afoot in this house.

pickles

pickle caption

 Lucie’s collection includes 15 recipes for pickles. Fifteen. It’s like the Bubba Gump version of pickles. Dill pickles, split pickles, sweet pickles. . . .

Because I am a recovering perfectionist I didn't try to tackle all of them this year.  I stuck with my staple recipes (dill and relish) and branched out with a couple of new ones. In summation:

Nine Day Pickles: This was the most intimidating recipe but turned out to be the most fun. First there was the floating of the egg. Then each day after that was just a little bit of work that I multi-tasked while making breakfast or washing dishes. No big deal. The result was a strong sweet pickle that will go well with meat or, if you’re fancy, on a charcuterie board.  And by the way, an ounce of celery seed is a LOT.

Pickle Relish: This sweet relish is my main bribing tool for a select group of sausage-loving friends. I know that it sounds weird because relish isn’t one of those things that you dream about, but this is some serious stuff. Sorry folks, no recipe at this time. You must be in my inner circle.

Lazy Wife Pickles: These were weird. Yes, they were easy to make, but the recipe calls for a cup (a full cup!) of ground mustard. It never fully dissolved. The powder just hung suspended in the liquid; I am guessing it should really be mustard seed instead. Next time.

'Pickle Roundup
Dill Pickles: Ah, the dill pickle. I used to buy seasoning kits but simple is best: salt, dill, maybe a clove a garlic, and diluted vinegar. And Aunt Helen’s tip to boil the packed jars in a water bath just until the cucumbers change color, about 7 minutes, guarantees a crisp crunch. But don’t sue me for that because it doesn’t follow the safety rules of Cook Your Food Until It Is Entirely Mushy, Tasteless, and Sterile. It’s just an idea you might try if you’re dangerous. Like me after this week.

Aunt Helen's Dill Pickles

1 pt. cider vinegar
1 cup canning salt
2 1/4 qt. water
2 stalks dill

Bring vinegar, salt, and water to a boil. Pour over pickles that are packed in a jar with dill. Seal with hot lids. Process in water bath just until they turn lighter.

This is really more like a chutney, a sweet chunky relish that can accompany meat or be poured over  cream cheese and served with crackers as an appetizer. Unlike true jam it contains no pectin and although it’s thick, it's not meant to set up like jam.

This recipe grabbed my attention the first time I read through Lucie's recipes, but finding 3 hours to string together while it cooked was a challenge. When I spent a fall afternoon cooking my husband’s birthday dinner, it turned out to be the perfect time to try out the Tomato Jam.

I could watch it while working on other things-- otherwise I’d put it on the stove, take a nap, and scorch the whole thing. And we had tomatoes left over from canning-- not enough for another batch of quart jars, but too many to eat fresh—so everything sort of fell into place.

The toughest part of this recipe was figuring out how to tie up the spices. I thought I had cheesecloth but couldn't find it (of course, I stumbled over it a week later). Your kitchen MacGyver tip of the day: Teabags. Tear them open, dump out the tea, and tie with a bit of string you find in your junk drawer.

Besides that, it was super simple to make. When the jam was finished cooking I didn’t have time to can it up right away due to the birthday feast. Glenn stole some from the pot for his chicken tandoori, with tabbouleh and baba ganouj on the side. He claimed this accidental addition to the meal pulled it all together, and since then it’s been a staple condiment in our kitchen.

Tomato Jam
by Irene McFadden, friend of Lucie's

Ingredients

5 lbs. ripe tomatoes
5 cups brown sugar
2 ½ cups cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. whole cloves
1 Tbsp. whole allspice
1 Tbsp. stick cinnamon
3 cups seedless raisins, chopped (I use organic Sunview raisins-- it really makes a difference in taste)

Blanch, peel, and chop tomatoes into 1” chunks. Tie spices in cheesecloth. Place all ingredients except raisins into a large saucepan and boil slowly for 2 hours. Add raisins and boil 1 hour longer. Remove spices, pour into hot jars, screw on lids, and hot water bath for 10 minutes to seal.

Ever wonder how they made those giant barrels of pickles back in the day? Here's a recipe just for you.

This would definitely be a day-long project for more than one person-- imagine harvesting and washing that many cucumbers. And the ingredients are a little vague, so this is one of those "go by feel" recipes. The last line especially made me laugh. Just roll with it.
Dill Pickles
by Sarah & Walter

Put washed cucumbers in layers in barrel with dill and grape leaves. Make 3 layers, putting 5 pounds salt on the bottom, center, and on top, 15 pound in all.
Mix 1.5 pounds mixed spices the same way. Add 2 gallons vinegar and fill barrel with cold water and put top on. Let work. Roll occasionally.