Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pickles


Home-made Pickles
I like pickles. Dill pickles mostly, but for some reason I’ve craved pickles this last year. Sometimes I can substitute green olives, and sometimes I’d rather have olives than pickles, but if I go too long without eating a pickle, I get really hungry for them.

I’ve liked pickles my entire life, it seems. I also like hot peppers, often at the same time as the pickles. The mixture is a great flavor.
Okay, this isn't about hot peppers, but it's a cool picture

My Mom used to can pickles. She made all sorts. She made dill, of course, but she sliced some, turned some into spears, did some of them whole. She also tried sweet pickles, but she wasn’t much of a fan of her own sweet pickles. I think Mom’s favorite pickles were bread and butter pickles. She made some of those also, in a large, clay pot with a lid. This crock was designed specifically for letting bread and butter pickles ferment, or whatever they do while they sit in the corner of the kitchen on the floor for a month. Those came out pretty well, actually.
The crock looked a little like this, with a lid
We grew our own cucumbers back in those days. I suspect she bought the rest of the ingredients. She might have grown the dill or got some from one of her Aunts (I’m thinking of the time we lived in Michigan and Dad was in Viet Nam).

There was one batch of pickles she made that just weren’t crisp, not at all. You’d spear them with a fork to get them out of the jar and they’d bend like a noodle. The flavor was amazing, though. She made those while we lived in Washington State (just before Dad’s tour in Viet Nam). She also made some Dilly Beans. We had a surplus of green beans and she grew tired of canning the regular kind of green beans (we had a LOT of green beans). Somewhere she found a recipe for Dilly Beans, which are green beans turned into dill pickles, sort of. Now those were crisp, and had a sharp dill flavor. They were great, and they didn’t last long.
When Darling and I went to Africa last spring I missed pickles a lot. Pastor Muhoza Lewi, an incredible man, was our interpreter, but he didn’t have a clue what a pickle was. During one meal Pastor Don felt so bad for me that he had the restaurant bring me pickle relish. It was all they had, and it helped a little. During one of the few times with internet access I sent a text mail to my team where I work and mentioned that I really wanted a pickle. I came back to six jars on my desk.
Those were gone in two weeks. (Well, they were little jars.)
When I first moved to Texas, a few decades ago, I got married and we bought a house. I put in a big garden, and hauled some dirt in for the garden beds and I grew cauliflower, broccoli, corn, tomatoes, beans and cucumbers. I didn’t get the crop I expected, but I wasn’t used to the local environment either. Still, I had enough cucumbers to pickle a few.
I sliced, and mixed and boiled and packed and sealed and the pickles were pretty good. There weren’t many of them, so they went fast, but they were tasty. They were also sort of limp, but that doesn’t affect the taste.
That was my only garden and my only batch of home-made pickles.
But last Saturday I made some more pickles. Darling got me some cucumbers (four giant ones) and bought me the ingredients according to a recipe I found on-line for refrigerator dills.
Dill Pickles
5-1/2 cups water
3 cups white distilled vinegar
1/4 tsp ground tumeric
5 Tbsp pickling salt (or non-iodized salt)
black peppercorn
mustard seeds
red pepper flakes
fresh dill heads
whole garlic cloves
cucumbers, sliced, speared, whole (make sure to remove the blossom end of the cucumbers)

I sliced and mixed and boiled and packed the cucumbers in a single large container. I see now why most people pack the pickles, by the way – if you don’t, they tend to float to the top of the liquid. They won’t get full flavor that way! But we work with what we have.

We can’t eat these pickles for four weeks. I left strict orders with everyone in the house that these are not to be touched until the time is right.
I did take one small spear from the jar yesterday, and it was good. Only one week toward the four-week time limit and they were already pretty good. A little too much vinegar taste, but I think the spices have to move in over the next few weeks.
Now the nice thing is that I have lots of ingredients right now, except for the cucumbers, and I might be able to get some of those on sale shortly. I might make a few smaller jars to tuck into the back of the fridge. Otherwise, I don’t know what to do with all the fresh dill that Darling got for me.
I could look into making dilly beans…




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