This year’s canning has once again expanded by a single vegetable. The first year I taught myself to preserve veggies in jars, I started with a simple green bean pickle. The second fall’s canning included a batch of spicy cauliflower pickles. 2011 has brought five pounds (so far) of dilled cucumber pickles, along with the usual batch of beans. For some reason, I’ve always been afraid to make a batch of these standbys. Canning wasn’t something I ever watched my mom or my grandma do each year, so every new batch of preserves begins with a spoonful of trepidation.
After putting up five jars of stubby Hutterite cukes, I’m not sure why I was so scared of these. The process was just as simple as my standard bean pickles, and the results, tested early this weekend, were sour, crispy and farm-picked fresh. I can’t wait to see how the flavours evolve over the winter and am thinking of filling another ten jars this weekend.
5 pounds of pickling cucumbers, washed but left whole
5 tablespoons of pickling salt
10 big heads of dill, gone to seed
15 cloves of garlic, peeled but whole
5 tsp whole black peppercorns
The night before you’re going to pickle the cucumbers, toss them in a big bowl of ice water and leave them in the fridge overnight. This should help them stay crispier after being canned.
The day of the canning, start by sterlizing 5 wide mouth mason jars. I boil mine for 10 minutes in my giant canning pot, but you can use a dishwasher with a sterlization setting.
While the jars are bubbling away, immerse the sealing lids into a pan of hot, but not boiling water.
Get all your ingredients ready to go so you can quickly stuff the jars while they are still hot.
Pull the jars out of the canner, pour out all the water and line them up, ready to stuff. They’ll be very, very hot, so you’ll want to use heavy potholders or silicone oven mitts to hold onto them.
For each jar, put in 1 tbsp of salt, 2 heads of dill, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp of peppercorns and then stuff with the cucumbers. You want to pack the cukes in as tightly as possible to stop them from floating in the liquid.
Once the jar is stuff, fill halfway with vinegar, them the second half with water, leaving an inch of headspace at the top of the jar.
Remove a lid from the hot water, screw on the band tightly and set aside while you fill the remaining jars.
Once all five jars have been filled, lower them carefully into a canner full of boiling water. Make sure the water covers the tops of the jars by at least an inch.
When the water has returned to a boil, start the timer and process the jars for 10 minutes, plus additional time depending on your altitude. I let my jars boil for 20 minutes, them pull the jars out and let them cool overnight on a doubled-over teatowel.
If the jars have sealed correctly, once they’re cool, the lids of the jars should be sucked in towards the pickles, and shouldn’t make a popping sound if pressed in their centres. If you have any jars that haven’t properly sealed, you can keep them in the fridge and eat them over the next few weeks. Otherwise, solidly sealed jars should keep for ages in a cool, dark space.
For more detailed canning information, I find the Bernardin site is an invaluable resource.
Note: You’ll notice I don’t boil my brine before adding it to the jars. This is how I’ve done my pickled beans for three years running, and I find they stay extremely crisp and have had no problems with pickles going bad. The important part seems to be the amount of salt and the 1:1 ratio of vinegar to water in each jar. If you feel more comfortable using a hot brine, by all means, go ahead.