This time of year the farm kitchen gets pretty busy with preserving veggies. When the garden really gets rolling I usually find myself pickling at least once a week if not every 4 days. I usually pick beans and pickling cucumbers everyday or every other day from the garden. I store them unwashed in a bag in the fridge until I have enough to justify hauling everything out to can. Veggies will always keep longer and better in the fridge if they are not washed! You don’t need a garden to can or preserve either if you hit up farmers markets or fruit stands you can buy bulk produce when it’s in season 🙂
Today I was canning dill pickles, I did 6 jars with a hot brine and processed them and I did another 7 jars with a cold brine that did not get processed. (Processing refers to the jars being put in a hot water bath and boiled.) I have to give a shout out to my amazing Aunt as the cold brine is her recipe, I grew up eating her dill pickles which were so good they never made it to the dinner table!
The first thing I do is gather my jars and lids and put them in the dishwasher for a quick hot wash with no soap to sterilize them. Next I gather my ingredients, which for me means heading to the garden to get my onions, fresh dill and dill seed. I have been picking cucumbers for the past week and I also bought a couple bags from the Hutterite’s. We had a wicked hail storm blow through a couple days ago and it destroyed my cucumber vines so I know I they will not produce any more. The garlic is also store bought as I have yet to find success in growing my own. If you have any tips please drop me a comment or email!! The garlic I peel and squish each clove a little in order to help release the flavour. Onions are cut in thick slices, a medium onion I quarter. The dill and dill seed I wash and set aside. I put all my cucumbers into ice cold water and wash, I give them a gentle scrub to get the dirt and prickles off as well as any remaining flowers. I read somewhere they stay crisper if you do not cut the flower ends off. After they are washed the go into another ice water bath and stay there until they are placed into a jar. At some point while you are prepping your ingredients you want to get your canning pot on the stove full of water on high and get it warming up. You don’t want to be waiting around for your water to boil after you have your jars filled and ready.
Today I used brine that I had left over from pickling beans and carrots that just needed to be reheated. I use the same basic brine recipe for my dills, beans and carrots the only difference is what spices I end up putting in the jars. When making your brine from scratch you just combine all the ingredients into a pot on medium heat, stiring occasionally until everything is dissolved and then bring to a boil before filling jars. The brine recipe below fills about 7 jars so I usually end up doubling it.
8 1/2 Cup Water
2 1/4 Cup White Vinegar
1/2 Cup Pickling Salt (not regular salt)
3 Tbsp Sugar
The cold brine that I do not process I mix per jar. I’m sure others do it differently but for me it works. I add the salt, sugar and vinegar to each jar and then I leave them sit, swirling occasionally until everything is dissolved. Once all the salt and sugar is dissolved then I add the spices. You can process this brine if you would like. I find there is a difference between the processed and unprocessed jars. The ones that went into a water bath tend to be just a tad sweater and not as crispy. Pickles should be stored in a cool, dry and dark place especially when they haven’t been processed.
Cold Brine / Per Jar
1 Tbsp Pickling Salt
1 tsp Sugar
1/2 Cup White Vinegar
* After adding the spices and cucumbers to the jar you fill with sterile water (Botlled or boiled and then cooled) till just below the top of the jar, you want as little air inside the jar as possible once sealed.
Inside my jars I use lots of garlic (I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as too much garlic), onion, mustard seed, celery seed, dill seed, fresh dill and of course the cucumbers. If you are picking from your garden and have some really big cucumbers don’t be shy to slice them and then add to the jar!
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp or “bunch” dill seed
2-4 fresh pieces of dill
3 cloves garlic
1 thick slice onion
* Once all the spices are in stuff as many pickles as you can into the jar. I find holding the jar on its side helps and I always start with my biggest cucumber and work out from there, sneaking the little ones in where I can.
If I am adding hot brine I will add everything but the brine to the jar and when I cannot fit another cucumber in and all the jars are stuffed I will ladle the hot brine in. If doing the cold brine I add all my spices and cucumbers to the jar after my salt has dissolved in the vinegar and then I fill with sterile water. I always boil my lids to make sure they are hot going on, I think this helps them seal. I also wipe the lid of the jar before putting the lid on as well. Once I set a lid on I hold it there with on finger while I out the screw top on making sure it stays in place the whole time.
When I have the lids on the jars that I won’t be processing I set them aside, they can go straight to the cold storage room as long as you remember to check on them everyday. You want to make sure they seal in the first couple days. They are slower to seal then the jars that go through the water bath though, so don’t be surprised if they don’t “pop” down right away.
In my canning pot I can fit 7 jars. Today I did 6 so I got them filled with the lids screwed on tight and then I placed them in the water bath. I strongly encourage using a canning pot with a rack and canning tongs, they make the whole process so much easier and help save your jars from bumping into each other and breaking in the boiling water. You want just enough water to cover the tops of your jars without over flowing! Lift the rack out of the water with tongs and set your jars on it. Lower back into the water and put the lid on the pot. It will take a couple minutes for the water to get back up to a boil again and once it is boiling start your timer for 10 minutes. Once those 10 minutes are up remove your jars with the canning tongs and set them on a cutting board to cool. Have fun listening to the lids pop down over the next couple hours! Once your jars are cool place them in your cold storage room.
I like to label my jars so I know the date canned and wether or not they were processed. If using different recipes note that down as well so you know your favourite! I like to wait at least 3 months before digging in and enjoying the yummy fruits of my labor 🙂