Saturday, July 26, 2008

Helping Feed Family and Friends

This weekend was the official start to canning and preserving! I spent 2 hours in the garden this morning pruning tomatoes, removing dead and moldy foliage, winnowing yellow crookneck squash leaves to let the bees in, and I harvested 3 heads of Sylvesta butterhead lettuce, 6 Red Ace Beets, 11 Olympian cucumbers, and 18 pickling cukes. When all was said and done, I processed 9.25 quarts of pickles and 1 quart of pickled beets. Not bad for 5 hours worth of work! And as I type, I'm hearing the satisfying "pop!...pop-pop!" as my ball jars seal tight.

And the bees!!! I don't ever remember so many bees! While I was out in the garden, there was a steady, loud (yes, it was loud!) buzzing hum as the bees took nectar and pollinated the very many squash, tomatillo, tomato, and cucumber flowers. I think I'll have to tell my husband we should consider an apiary. There were about a 50 bees (or more) in and amongst all my plants this morning.

I sent my kids to the neighbors house with a head of lettuce and 4 cucumbers.

I also gave my kids one peeled, sliced cucumber (5 minutes off the vine) each to snack on. There is nothing quite so charming as my kids tasting the first cukes of the season and saying "mmmmmmm mmmmmmm, thanks, Mama, for growing cucumbers!!" And I have more for dinner....and lettuce!!!!

It looks like I'll need to visit the garden every other day at this point. I have many yellow crookneck squash growing, and about a bazillion pickling cukes. Which means I need to stock up on pickling supplies...

I buy my pickling spices from Penzey's Spices. They have a great selection to choose from. For pickling, because Johnny's plants produce so voluminously, I usually buy 5 lbs of dill seed, 2 pounds of multicolored peppercorns, and a few others while I'm at it. I buy Morton's pickling salt and fresh garlic from the local supermarket.

Here's my pickling recipe, should anyone be curious (I'm told I make some pretty tasty pickles!)

For 8 quarts of pickles:

  • 7 cups water
  • 7 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 9 TBSP pickling salt (can use kosher as a sub)
  • 32 cloves of garlic
  • 2-2/3 cups of dill seed
  • 48-56 2-3" pickling cucumbers
  • 16 TBSP of black or mixed whole peppercorns
  • 2 pot holders
  • Pair of tongs
  • Soup ladle
  • Permanent black marker or Sharpie
  • Fan or a husband with a large palm leaf

I start by cutting the garlic into 1/8 inch (yes, I'm that precise) slices. I use 4 cloves per jar. Feel free to reduce or increase the amount of garlic to your taste. I think I was bottle-fed garlic by my Italian grandmother, because I like LOTS if it! This takes the longest, so it's good to get it out of the way.

Next, I sterilize my jars in roiling hot water for 15 minutes. Remove jars, and add all ingredients to the jars. Per quart jar I add: 4 cloves of sliced garlic, 2 tbsp peppercorns, and 1/3 cup dill seed.

Next, add your pickling cukes. I seem to fit 5-6 per quart jar. If you find a monster pickling cuke or two that you forgot last time you picked, cut these into spears or into hamburger slices for a bit of a twist. Wipe the top rim and the outer ridged areas of the jars with a clean cloth or sponge when you're done.

Next, combine your water, vinegar, and salt (brine) and bring it to a light boil. Keep it covered as you heat it up or you'll experience a lot of evaporation. While this mixture is heating up, add your jar lids and cap tighteners to a pot of water and bring to a boil.

If you can, have 2 other pots half-full of water and bring them to a boil.

It's probably getting hot in your kitchen with all this boiling going on. Have that fan or palm-leaf-holding husband at the ready!!

When the brine is nice and hot, ladle 5-6 scoops into your jars and bring the liquid level to just below where the cap ridges start. Give the top a quick, clean swipe with your cloth or sponge, and then using tongs, first retrieve a flat sealing lid (set it on top of the jar) and then retrieve a cap. With a pot holder on your hand, grab hold of the jar and tighten the cap as much as you can. Repeat these steps until all jars are filled.

Now add all your filled, sealed jars to the half-full pots of boiling water and "water bath" your jars for 15 minutes.

When you take them out, give the cap a firm twist and then set them aside to cool.

About 15 minutes after you set them aside to cool, give all the jar caps another firm twist.

Within an hour or so, you should hear your jars start to pop.

Finish them off by recording the day you jarred them on the lid with a permanent black marker.

I love this part of summer. It's just amazing to me, and so rewarding, to see all the fruits of my efforts, literally, appearing from all the labor I started in February with starting my seedlings. I never get tired of this yearly labor of love. And my kids appreciate the fruits, too. Hopefully, in a another year or two, I'll have them helping me! I'm considering giving them their own little 4' by 4' section of my raised beds next season so they can experiment, weed, and feel the reward of their own efforts. Next generation of gardeners, here they come!!

1 comment:

Gustavo Bourdieu said...

Thanks for recipe, I use fan , not palm leaf in UP Michigan.
Thanks again