Posts tagged ‘dill pickles’

Pickle, pickle, pickle starts with “P”!

This is a time of year about which I feel very mixed. The weather is really quite lovely, most of the “work” in the garden is done and the harvest is abundant. But that’s the thing, the harvest is here. As in, it’s the end of summer folks.

However, with the end of summer comes one of my favorite summer activities. Canning. The preservation of the harvest for colder and darker times. A bit of winter “sunshine.”

Growing  up, my mom did quite a bit of canning. There were always quarts of peaches and pears which we devoured with dinner. I never liked pickled beets until I was an adult (I know, crazy, right?), but my mom canned oodles of them. In the winter she pressure canned freshwater salmon. Yum. I remember watching this happen, but can’t say I have any recollection of really helping. But kids do tend to learn by osmosis and I seem to have a part of my brain which retained at least some of the information, or interest, in any case.

I started canning as an “adult” in 2007. I can’t say exactly what inspired it, but the idea called to me loud and clear – now is the time to learn this. With my own mom over 1,500 miles away, I turned to two other mom’s here in the Midwest. With my husband’s mom I learned to can applesauce, pickles, salsa, and tomatoes, and with a friend and her mom I learned to pickle beets (yes, I LOVE them now). This inter-generational learning is of such value and with many of my generation’s grandmothers now gone, much of the passing on will fall on the shoulders of those women – now in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s – who were lucky to learn these skills. Some of them may be mothers, others may be working for their local extension service and others still volunteering in community centers. However it is being passed on, there seems to be a whole new wave of interest among young people eager to learn.

Now, you’ll notice I’ve only mentioned mothers, but I want you men out there to know you are more than welcome into the kitchen to test your hand at the water bath. To be fair, it was pretty much just womens work for a very long time.  However, canning is an incredible way for everyone to learn about buying from farmers or picking your own, realizing the realities of how long fresh fruits and veggies really last and how to safely handle and prepare foods for a longer shelf life.

The canning I have learned thus far has been hot water bath canning, which can only be used for acidic foods, such as tomatoes, jams and pickles. Vegetables and anything with meat must be pressure canned, which gets the food to a high enough temperature to prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism. Canning is a lot of fun, but food safety is to be taken seriously, as the results can be fatal if it is not done properly. Most of the time, if you follow recipes which have been tested for safety, this is easy to avoid. Unfortunately, this means that, while many of the techniques we learned from grandma are still be applicable, some of her recipes may not be. If you’re not sure what kind of canning you need to do, this webpage offers some basics on how to decide.

For the last three summers, I have been doing almost all my canning with a good friend and we continue to expand our repertoire and skills each season. First on the agenda this year – dill pickles, of the cucumber kind to be exact (the term “pickle” can refer to any number of things which are made with a brine, often involving vinegar). We tried our hand at pickles last year, but weren’t quite satisfied with the “crunch factor” so this year we did a few things different including fresher, smaller cukes and a larger ice bath. Crossing our fingers.

After pickles, we did salsa (37 pints to be exact)! It’s a great recipe we’ve been using for three years now and it never fails to please. Next week, when my mom is in town, we’ll try our hand at peaches. And somewhere in the next month we’ll squeeze in beets, applesauce and hopefully some pepper jam.

In case you’re looking to do some canning yourself, here is the salsa recipe we use, courtesy of Ana Micka:

Ingredients

  • 10 cups tomatoes (peeled, cored and chopped)
  • 1 cup green pepper
  • 2 cups onions
  • ½ cup hot peppers (mixture of banana and jalapeno peppers with seeds removed)
  • ½ cup celery
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • Lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Start boiling water in the canner.
  2. Sterilize mason-type jars and lids (pint sized best for salsa)
  3. Add tomatoes to large, stainless steel pot and cook for 30 minutes, until tomatoes are very soft and the large chunks are gone.
  4. Remove excess liquid from the pot, then add additional ingredients.
  5. Continue to cook at a low boil for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Fill sterilized canning jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Add 2 tablespoon of lemon juice to each jar and process in a hot water bath for 35 minutes.

Makes 5 pints

MY NOTES: Great flavor, excellent texture too. The big thing I will say is more about safely canning salsa than this recipe. When you are using a recipe you know has been tested, DO NOT change the ratios of the ingredients. Basically, its tomatoes to everything else. You can increase the overall amount, but the volumes need to remain the same ratio to keep the pH at a safe level. And don’t forget the lemon juice!!

August 24, 2011 at 12:07 am 3 comments


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