So this past Sunday I made pickles. My first time! I’ve never tried it before, mostly cause I don’t actually like pickles. But the handsome fella loves them, and we had a surfeit of squashes, and so pickles seemed to be in order.
I think last week we had something like 22 zucchini, I didn’t exactly count. I gave some away, and we ate some, so it’s hard to say. Regardless, there were about a million, and I saw a recipe on Punk Domestics for zucchini pickles, so! Here’s the recipe.
Pickling, apparently, is rather easy, like most canning. I sliced the zucchini. According to the Ball book (see below) it helps to salt the zucchini and let it drain for a little while. So I did that. In the meantime I made the cucumber pickles. Since I was doing full on processing with the zucchini, I decided to take the “easy” route with the cucumbers. Therefore I did “refrigerator pickles”. Step one of making any pickles is to put together pickling spice. I followed the instructions in the Ball book and made myself a little jar of spice.
I love having little jars of things around the kitchen. The recipe in the Ball book makes enough for many batches of pickles, so this will hang out on the shelf for future variations, which I’m sure I’ll be making as the cucumbers continue to go crazy in the garden.
Next step is to bring two tablespoons of the spice, white vinegar, and water to a boil, along with salt and a bit of sugar. This will be the brining solution. That needs to boil for ten minutes. In the meantime you can slice the cucumbers.
I also filled the jars I would be using with the added bits that go in with the cucumbers:
That’s mustard seed, black peppercorns, garlic cloves, and fennel. It should be dill seed, but I didn’t have any dill seed, since my dill hasn’t gone to seed yet (it’s just about to flower), but I thought maybe I’d give fennel a go instead. Fennel has a very different, and I think stronger, flavor than dill. It’s a little on the sweeter side, you could say. But it will be an interesting experiment.
After the brine was done, I poured it over the cucumbers.
They stayed like that until the liquid reached room temperature. At that point, I put the cucumber slices into the previously sterilized quart jars (with the spices in them), and poured the brine over them, leaving about half an inch of head space (air) at the top. Then the lids went on…
… and the jars went into the fridge. According to the recipe, they’ll be ready in two weeks. These don’t have to be processed, because they’re in the fridge.
Then it was on to the zucchini. The process here was exactly the same. I sliced the zucchini:
Here they are salted and soaking in cold water. Before I used them, I drained and rinsed them. While they soaked, I made the cucumber pickles, sterilized jars, and made the brine for the zucchini, which was a similar recipe.
According to the recipe on the internet I was following, all I needed to do was pour the brine over the zucchini slices in the jars, add some more garlic cloves (and fresh dill from the garden), and put the lids on. When you’re going to process jars, you need to be sure you wipe the rim of the jar before you put the lid on, and push all the bubbles out of the liquid (with a magic bubble remover as I demonstrated in the jam post) or with a chopstick or something. Here they are:
I still can’t figure if you’re supposed to process pickles or not. The Ball book says I should, but the Ball book tends to err on the side of paranoia in regards to food safety. It’s always cautioning against things which it warns will lead to terrible deathly bacteria, and if I listened to everything in there I’d be boiling my milk before I drank it.
At any rate, I figured what with it being my first time, and what with me figuring it would take us a long time to eat the pickled zucchini, it wouldn’t hurt to process the jars. In theory, if you have a proper brine, you shouldn’t need to process the jars (which cooks the contents). The brine should be strong enough to keep out any bacteria. Because the brine is so acidic (being made from vinegar), you don’t need to process the jars in a pressure canner, like you would with regular vegetables (if you were to just can zucchini, for example). The rule of thumb is to water bath can (just put the jars in boiling water) for acidic foods (pickles, tomatoes, fruits) and pressure can for everything else. A note on water bath canning I should have put in my jam post- if you can in a big pot, make sure you elevate the jars from the bottom in some way. I used to use a steamer basket, but if you have a pot with a colander pot (that’s what I call them) that fits inside that would also work well.
So I processed the zucchinis in boiling water for 10 minutes. I got 9 pints and 2 quarts out of 9 fairly sizable zucchini. Not huge, but about 8-10″ each.
Ta-da! They are kind of pink because I used apple cider vinegar for these instead of white vinegar. They all sealed properly, except the one that cracked when it went into the canner. Apparently that one was rather old. That happens sometimes- you want to be sure your jars aren’t too cold when you put them in the canner (which they shouldn’t be, since you’ve just put boiling water in them), and that they’re decent. I’d probably used that one several times, so it’s not terribly surprising that it cracked. It shouldn’t make a difference if it does. The rest of the jars should still seal properly.
So now its just a matter of waiting until they’re ready to eat…