Around my house, we love pickles. Actually, we love anything pickled. Okra, green beans, the standard cucumbers: they don’t stand a chance if they’re in a salty brine. What I don’t love is the mystery ingredients of many store-bought pickles (including yellow food dye — which is a known allergen and banned from foods in Europe). On top of that, the high cost of pickled food at the farmer’s market is a little hard to swallow.
For the last few summers, I’ve been making pickles from a recipe passed down to me from my mother. I love the recipe for its inexpensive ingredients and the fact that it’s a healthy snack my 7-year-old loves to eat.
It’s also my “go to” because I don’t really know how to pickle or can. When I look it up and see all the instructions to boil lids and disinfect jars – my eyes cross and I get overwhelmed. (Pickling is #1 on my summer “to do” list as something I want to learn. I fancy myself a pretty good cook and a reasonably smart individual. Surely I can learn.)
Aside from finding some awesome recipes, I’d better set myself on doing pickling safely. Recently, a woman in Ashe County contracted botulism from one bite of a home-canned carrot. It turns out she didn’t execute her canning technique exactly correct, which left the opportunity for bacteria to grow inside the jar.
This story doesn’t exactly make me feel confident about my canning potential, but people have canned for hundreds of years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in five U.S. households can their own food, and 65% of them can vegetables.
The CDC has an extensive collection of canning technique instructions and safety precautions. Basically, according to what I read, canning correctly comes down to properly washing your jars and lids, and properly submerging jars in boiling water. If pressure canning, the contents of the jar must be heated to 240 degrees Fahrenheit to eliminate the risk of foodborne bacteria.
Aside from the pleasure of knowing what my family is eating and having a neat activity to do with my kids, canning can also save money once you have the proper tools and enough jars. I found one blogger that estimated to can grape jelly, it cost her 94 cents a quart. Other websites indicate that unless you’re canning items that are free or cheap for you (i.e. vegetables from your garden or the neighbors down the street), you may not save any money at all.
To me, what you’re gaining is the satisfaction of knowing what you’re eating. You may even spend some quality time with your family while you’re at it. Just take the proper safety steps so you don’t spend time in the hospital. Below is my mom’s pickle recipe. Happy canning!
Cut cucumbers in half. Soak overnight in plain water in fridge (or in bowl of ice water) to get crisp.
24 hours later, combine and boil:
1 1/4 cup white vinegar
2 qt water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
Let brine cool.
In quart jars, put 3-4 stalks of fresh dill, 3 or 4 pieces of fresh garlic, and a few hot peppers, if you like. Stuff cucumbers into jars as tight as you can, then pour cooled brine over everything. Cover with lids and put in refrigerator. Pickles are usually ready in about 3 days.