Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I will admit I take the easy way out with my pickles.  I suppose if I'm going to the trouble to can and pickle my cucumbers, I should have my own pickling mixture and do it from absolute scratch.  But I don't.  And I don't really care to.  Canning is such a time consuming activity that I will cut corners where need be.  It is so rewarding though to walk into the basement and see rows of pickles, salsa, etc and know that you grew the food, made the food, and canned the food.  Call me Grandma, but I like the feeling of accomplishment and the "living off the land" vibe I get from the whole process. This is my second year doing pickles and salsa, and I'm hoping to do tomato sauce this year as well.  I usually freeze my sweet corn but am throwing around the idea of canning it too this year, just to save on freezer space. 

Anyway, this lady is a lifesaver.  Meet Mrs. Wages.

Mix this bag with 7 and 1/3 cups water and 3 and 1/3 cups white vinegar, bring to a boil, and you've got yourself some pickling mixture.  Easy as that.  Which is very nice, becuase the rest of the process takes some time.

Mmmmm, makes the house smell all sorts of pickle-y.  First step in the canning process is the fill your stockpot up with water and get it to boil. I usually add some salt to it, throw the lid on, and let it sit for a half hour or more to get up to a rolling boil.  This is a BIG pot if you can't tell by the comparison picture!

While the water heats up, I get out my sanitized jars and lids, and start cutting my cucumbers into pickle spears and slices for sandwiches...I do both kids.  Your jars need to be clean and have no chips in the rim of the glass or they won't seal for you, which means your pickles will rot if you leave them out.  The ones that don't seal will stay in the fridge for quite a few weeks but can't be left unrefridgerated.  Fill your jars up with as many as will fit, and make sure to leave a little room at the top so the pickles will be submerged in pickling liquid when the lid is shut.

I bought a simple canning kit which was like $15 or so, and it has come in pretty handy.  It came with some rubber tongs to grab the jars in and out of the boiling water as well as a large bottomed funnel to get the pickling juice into the jars like so...

Fill to the top and secure youe lid.  When the jars are tightly sealed, you need to submerge them with a wire basket into the boiling water.  NEVER put the jars in the bottom of the pot right onto the burner.  They will crack and break immediately on direct heat.  Believe me, I know.  I lost a good portion of salsa last year due to this mistake.  Seems very obvious looking back but for a first time canner, I had no idea.  Lower the basket into the boiling water and make sure the jars are fully submerged and getting boiled from all directions, as well as not touching each other on the sides, as that can cause breakage too. 

Put your lid on and let the water boil for 25 minutes before removing the jars with your rubber tongs and setting them on a towel to cool.  You will continue to hear the jar lids popping as you go about your business because they actually don't seal until they are cooling.  I was pretty pumped that all of mine popped this year, so we had none that needed to be eaten right away....pickles are better if you give them a week to themselves to hang out and party in the juice. 

Since you can only do so many jars at once and they take a half hour per batch, there is a lot of down time once you're actually in the canning process.  So I was switching loads of dishes and loads of laundry, etc while each batch would boil.  In the end, I had 16 jars of pickles sitting on the shelves of the basement, after about 3 hours of work.  Not a bad little Saturday...

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