Sep 1, 2011

Canning Pickles

After assessing all of the damage in the garden, I’m relieved that at least it’s the end of the season.   We have a lot of debris to clean up, but I’m so glad we don’t have any downed trees like so many in our neighborhood.   Last night I picked the last of my cucumbers off the decimated vines (they were close to the end anyways), and I decided it was time to get canning.  I wanted to make pickles that we could enjoy in the fall and winter (and not just for a few weeks like the previous refrigerator kind).  Canning is pretty easy, and it’s even easier with the proper equipment.  Jar tongs make a world of difference.

This was actually my second time canning pickles this summer.  I followed the recipe from one of my favorite books Jam It Pickle It Cure It.  There are also a lot of canning recipes and instructions online.  Basically it’s just a lot of boiling water.  We don’t have a canning pot or rack insert, and the first time I didn’t even have jar tongs.  Instead I just used my big stock pot with a pasta insert - it easily pulled the hot jars out of the water and kept the jars off the bottom of the pot (instead of a rack).  I would recommend picking up a pair of jar tongs though - my mom gave me canning tools and they were really helpful.

Overall pickle canning is a few simple steps: boil the jars in water to sterilize them (or for those lucky enough to have a sterilize cycle on the dishwasher, that works too), boil the water and vinegar to pour over the cucumbers and spices, put it all together in the jars, seal the jars and boil them for 10 minutes in the big pot again.  It’s a little time consuming because that much water takes forever to heat up (and then reheat), but I did other things while I waited.

Overall I found it fun enough to do twice and I definitely had a great sense of "we're living off the land!" satisfaction by canning something from the garden.  My stockpot held 4 quart size jars at a time, so we now have 8 jars of pickles to enjoy in the coming months (I love pickles).  In addition to our dried herbs and stores of frozen zucchini, green beans, hot peppers, and salsa I think we have successfully extended our first garden.

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