On our farm the garden is mostly about our own personal consumption and I'm learning how to deal with the various phases of the bounty. Pickles are the reason I plant cucumbers. The smaller (under 5" long) cuc's are good for dill pickles. As long as the cucumbers aren't bitter (not enough constant water) and not too large (over 2" in diameter) they're always good for B&B's (bread & butters for those not familiar with pickle vernacular). In my humble opinion FRESH picked is always key when it comes to pickles! I don't believe I have ever met a pickle aficionado that wouldn't stick their nose up at soft pickles!
Now, listen up, a few successful canning's and an expert I am, NOT! One of the reasons I am sharing this recipe; it is so darn easy. I promise, if you try this recipe two things will happen. 1) You won't believe how easy it is. 2) You too will feel like an expert
I am the type with BIG ideas and not always enough time, or these days, energy to get er done. So, this recipe really appealed to me. At the end of a long day working , destroying the kitchen with canning equipment spread from one end to the other doesn't appeal to me. Another reason I like this recipe is the ease of dealing with your daily harvest. In most home gardens the yield is a few a day. So, collecting the quantity of pickles needed for most other recipes can be a pain. Since the freshness of the pick contributes to the "crisp" of the bite, if you collect over time you'll have older cucumbers too. I believe the older ones have the potential to risk the crispness factor. Now I know some of you are wondering about those pickles resting on the grocery shelf. Don't think about! I wouldn't even try it. Just buy elsewhere. There are plenty farmers and farmers markets around these days that freshness shouldn't be an issue. When the seasons not right, don't pickle. By the way, have you seen straw bale gardening? Cucumbers are some kind of easy to grow.
When I found this recipe I was stoked. This is my third year using this recipe and I think I've finally perfected it. I adapted it from a recipe I found in Backhome Magazine.
First, you want to wash your cucumbers well and snip the vine end, just a snip. I'm told if left on the cucumber it can create a bacteria in the jar that would ruin the whole batch. I'm not going to guide you through the basics of preparing the canning jars cause it is pretty basic stuff. You want to sterilize each jar and the lids. Any questions check out Ball site.
Using pint or quart size jars ( better for gifting) :
Place in the bottom of the jar
1 clove of garlic
1 healthy sprig of dill
1 dried hot pepper or a shake or 2 of hot pepper flakes (optional)
Next stuff each jar with as many cucumbers as possible. I sometimes use a wooden spoon end to manuever the cuc's to make room. They somehow snuggle up in the space. Leave 1/2" headroom from the top of the jar. If you'd prefer not to leave them whole the spears also work great in this recipe.
1-1.5 Tablespoon of non-iodized salt
1/2 cup cider vinegar
Fill the rest of the jar w/ boiling water, again making sure to leave the 1/2" headroom.
Last but far from least place a fresh grape leaf on top of the jar before you seal it. I know most of you won't have access to such a thing. The old timers say it is the final step to assuring crispness. Maybe a neighbor has some grapes? If they have grape vines, they have leaves a plenty. Maybe it's the very thing needed to bring neighbor to neighbor?
Process in a water bath for 20 minutes.
Make sure the jars seal.
In 6-8 weeks your pickles will be ready for the tasting. Don't dilute the experience with crackers or anything else for that matter. You will not stop at eating one and you'll be running about the house bragging on your yummy treat. No, me, I didn't do that.....
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