Making Homemade Pickles
By: Julie Day
Recently I found myself in quite a pickle! My cucumber vines were at their peak, and nearly every day I would come inside with a handful. But I was leaving town for about a week, and since overripe cucumbers will cause the vine to stop producing, I decided to harvest ALL of them, big and small, to buy some time until I got back.
Talk about a cucumber-palooza! After lugging the heavy basket inside and eyeing it on the kitchen counter for a while, it soon became apparent that my afternoon was NOT going to be spent drinking lemonade and leisurely packing. Nope, there was only one thing to be done – after a quick trip to the store and a rummaging through my shed, I was going to be making pickles!
I’m no canning expert, so I don’t dare try to explain the process in too much detail. But pickles are pretty easy! The process involves:
- Mixing and heating the pickling mix (which you can make from scratch or buy in a ready-mix packet).
- Sterilizing and heating the jars.
- Slicing the cucumbers into spears and packing them in the hot jars.
- Pouring the hot liquid over them, and sealing the jars.
- Processing the jars in a boiling water canner.
If you don’t want to mess with canning, you can just put the jars in the fridge and enjoy them over the next few weeks.
I say they’re easy, but apparently I didn’t pay enough attention when I used to stand on a chair and help my grandmother. I don’t yet have the process down pat, so in addition to the instructions that came with my pickling spices, I kept my Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving open on the counter as a lifeline. Everything went off without a hitch, although I must say the kitchen was a mess.
As with everything else, growing and preserving food is a skill that grows with practice – in time, pickles will be old hat, and I’ll be making up my own recipes and lining up battalions of jars. In the meantime, I’ve got a modest lineup of homemade kosher dills ready to spice up the winter, and an empty garden basket ready for the next batch!