Wednesday, July 31, 2013

canning and preserving: refrigerator pickles

Two years ago, when we first started canning, pickles were at the top of my list for things to try. I really only like homemade pickles, having been spoiled by my grandma's pickles growing up. So I was anxious to try to can them myself. We made dill slices, bread and butter rounds, and sweet relish. And they were TERRIBLE.

Taste wise? Fine. Safe? Perfectly. It was the texture that was horrid - total mush. I remember being so excited when we could open the first jar, and being so utterly disappointed that we wasted so much time and an entire case of cucumbers on what turned out to be totally inedible crap.

We know now that our problem was a combination of using the wrong cucumbers (waxy English ones as opposed to pickling ones) and not using pickle crisp

But before I go head first into full canning of pickles for long-term preservation, I wanted to try my hand at refrigerator pickles. Plus, thanks to my sweet husband, I had some adorable throwback Ball pint jars to use.

I used Ball's recipe for dill slices, but cut my cucumbers in spears, since I don't eat pickles on sandwiches. 

I believe the cucumbers we were able to get from my grandparents' garden were close enough cousins to pickling cucumbers that we could take a chance with them. (The shine is from water and the overhead light in our kitchen, not wax.)

After cooking down some white vinegar (with an acidity of at least 5%), water, sugar, pickling spice and canning salt, you soak the cucumbers in the mixture for a half hour.  

While they are soaking, you prepare the jars with the other spice mixture and some garlic cloves, plus the pickle crisper. This recipe doesn't call for pickle crisper, but I'm not taking chances this time around, and it won't hurt anything. So in it went.

The jars are packed with cucumber spears, making sure to leave at least a half an inch head space. I had just enough cucumbers to fill the 5 pints the recipe intended.

After filling the jars with the appropriate amount of leftover brine, use a lid and band to close the jar, and stick them in the refrigerator to sit for at least 2 weeks. (I might have to start a pickle countdown.) They will stay good for 3 months in the fridge. Hopefully they will taste good enough to want to keep them all!

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