“So what do you want to grow in the garden Doodlebug?”
Hmm…OK. So we grew cucumbers. Last year we had no success at all. But this year, since the garden is just a couple of yards outside our back door instead of 20 miles away, we have lots of cucumbers on our vine. So, on to my pickle making odessy.
First, ask on Facebook for recipes. I needed one for dills and one for sweets, as I have some picky pickle eaters in my house. I was assured it was very easy and I could do it. My friend at work makes a recipe that takes a couple of weeks, cooking then adding new brine, then adding sugar, all kinds of stuff. That’s above my pay grade, so I’ll stick to something easier. Then I had a nice conversation with my friend Marsha. She’s Dutch Iowan (how’s that for a new people group?) and man, those people know how to can! She talked my through the whole thing. I think I can do this.
Second, gather your supplies. My cukes were growing bigger by the minute, so I didn’t have time to garage sale for cheap, vintage canning supplies. I headed to Kroger with my coupon and came home with pint jars, a “Canning Discovery Kit,” fresh dill, and some Fruit Fresh for the peaches I wanted to freeze. I already had the non-iodized salt. I was ready.
Next, pick your cukes. Who knew they were so prickly! Even when they get large, the little spiky things kind of hurt. We really didn’t have a huge number, but after I sliced them, I decided I had enough for about three pint jars. This seems like alot of trouble for three jars of pickles.
Scale the recipe. My friend Stacy gave me her recipe that an Amish lady had given her. Apparently, her cucumber vines are more abundant than mine, because the recipe called for 7 pounds of cucumbers. I got out my postal scale and figured out I only had about 1 1/2 pounds. Now I have to do math in addition to cook. Nice.
Finally, get started. And really, this is the easy part. Wash and heat the jars, make the brine, slice the cukes, fill the jars, boil them, cool them, and clean up the mess. I did discover the turmeric I put in the brine will stain formica counter tops a lovely shade of yellow. After twelve hours cooling, all three jars had a nice seal, but I never heard that “thonk” sound supposedly meaning the jars sealed properly. I hope that’s still OK… Next time, I think I’ll put more cukes in the jar. They must not have been properly “packed,” as there’s still some space in the jars now.
The three little pints of pickles are stored safely in the pantry to rest for two to six weeks. I’m not sure what they’re doing in that time, but while we wait, we’re reading and watching The Magic School Bus In a Pickle book and VHS from the library. If you don’t know the answer to a science question, ask Ms. Frizzle. And since we have at least two weeks to wait and since Andy Griffith, that icon of Southern life, just passed away, we got on Netflix and watched what is my favorite episode of the show (I read somewhere it was one of his favorites too), The Pickle Story. Aunt Bee’s “kerosene cucumbers” are replaced by Andy and Barney with store pickles, then almost entered in the county fair. The trouble the boys go to to eat those pickles (eight quarts!) and prevent a fixed pickle contest is hilarious. If you’re making pickles yourself this summer, you should really get Season 2 DVD from the library or on Netflix and watch it. While you have the DVD, go ahead and watch Barney and the Choir, my other favorite episode. After all, you’ve got at least two weeks to wait ’til you can try your pickles…