Pack a peck of homemade pickles

  • Friday, July 29, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

Not so long ago, homemade pickles were a standby at every single dinner and supper, from the Mississippi River to the Pacific, particularly in farming areas and small towns.

Sweets, dills, bread-and-butters, pickled cauliflower combos, pickled green beans and pickled tomatoes. Chow chow, too.

Not so much nowadays, maybe, but I can tell you that in all the deliciously happy summers I was growing up, I never ever pulled a chair up to a table for the noontime dinner or (after-the-milking/at the sound of the workday-ending bell) supper in the small farming community and little nearby towns that didn’t all have bowls and dishes of various homemade pickles. On ironed tablecloth-clad tables, no less.

Sadly, that was then, and this is now. And what, you might be wondering, is the big deal about homemade pickles, let alone why should you make some? When, after all, a vast choice abounds in practically any grocery store you’ll ever walk into…

“I have had this recipe for homemade dill pickles for many years,” Woodinville cook Dolores Ohls tells us, “and it is delicious.”

She goes on to say they are great keepers (she just opened a jar made a few years ago, and the pickles are still as tasty as ever), and mentions she ran across the how-to in a 1966 copy of the “Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery.”

But that, too, was then, and this is now. So the Forum has updated the original recipe’s processing time to meet current USDA canning requirements.

AND, this is a real biggie here, if you prefer to skip the time-consuming (and more expensive) boiling-water processing method, you can now pack the pickles into suitable containers and store them in the refrigerator. Yes.

From-scratch dill pickles

30-36 (preferably just-picked) cucumbers, 3 to 4 inches long

3 cups cider vinegar

3 cups water

6 tablespoons salt (use pickling salt, if possible)

Fresh dill

Garlic cloves

Mustard seed

Scrub cucumbers and drain well. Begin preparing brine: In a large saucepan, combine the vinegar, water and salt; set aside momentarily. Put a generous layer of dill in hot, sterilized quart jars; add 1/2 to 1 clove peeled, sliced garlic and 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed. Pack cucumbers tightly in jars. When half-filled with cucumbers, add another layer of dill and complete packing with cucumbers; set aside.

Bring brine to boil, pour into filled jars to within 1/2-inch of the top. Wipe rims, fit on caps and rings, screwing bands tight. Process the quart jars in a boiling-water canner for 15 minutes at 0-1,000 feet; 20 minutes at 1,001-6,000 feet; and 25 minutes above 6,000 feet. Remove from canner; when cool, test lids for seal; if any have failed to seal, refrigerate and use first. Pickles will shrivel some after processing, but will later plump.

OR, pack dill, cucumbers, garlic and mustard seeds into suitable clean, heatproof containers (with tight-fitting lids) as described above, fill with the boiling brine, cap tightly, let cool completely and store in the refrigerator for up to 24 months.

The next Forum will appear in Monday’s Good Life section.

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