Last year was the first year I made pickles, and I really enjoyed the process and, of course, the pickles! I made the first batch and thought, wow these are great! I then decided that I was going to do pickles for Christmas. It would be much easier than going somewhere and picking out presents for everyone, not to mention it would save a whole lot of time and money. Besides, most people I know have enough stuff already!
Everyone likes mustard pickles and Lady Ashburn pickles, so I started looking for recipes. None of my nice cookbooks had what I was looking for. I dug deeper into my cook book library and found some recipes in a couple of unofficial fundraising cook books. The recipes were kind of vague.
I called my grandmother to see if she could help me make sense of these old recipes. She explained her method for putting up pickles. The first step was to peel and remove the seeds from the cucumbers, then chop them up into the size you like. You put them into a large bowl or pot, sprinkle about a ¼ cup of salt on top, cover them with a tea towel and let them sit overnight.
In the morning you drain the pickles then add the rest of the ingredients and cook on a medium-low heat for about 20 minutes or until the pickles are soft. Then you put the pickles into the very clean hot bottles and put the tops on and leave them until the next morning. Then you check the lids of the jars to make sure they all sealed. Now you can store your pickles.
Going on the advice of my grandmother, who had been doing this for longer than I had been alive, I proceeded to make my pickles. Her directions seemed not to follow the directions I had read for canning in my go-to cookbooks. However, all but one of my jars sealed and kept fine. I used that one right away, and I just finished my last jar from last year on Friday.
I enjoyed my experience with pickling so much last year that I bought some books specifically on preservation to read through the winter, so I would be ready for this season. Their guidelines for canning are very strict. They explain that all recipes should be followed exactly and processed in the canner for the stated amount of time to kill all spoilage bacteria. They also say that jars that are processed less than 10 minutes should be sterilized before use.
The canning guidelines are set up for safety reasons and to minimize chance of spoilage. Following proper canning recipes properly will produce a safe, shelf-stable product. By using old techniques you are taking a chance that some of your food may spoil and if consumed can cause food-borne illness. Always refrigerate jars that do not seal and consume the contents within five days.
This year when making my pickles I used the new guidelines and processed my pickles in the water bath canner for 10 minutes. I used jars that had been sterilized in the water bath while I was preparing the pickles, but I still followed the old recipes. My pickles turned out so well last year that I was not going to change them!
I did use my grandmother’s method on a few jars simply because my canner was full, and I had more pickles in the pot. The jars were sterile when I filled them, and those pickles were promptly consumed by friends, family and me.
I will list the recipes I used from my unofficial cookbooks and recommend that you follow the steps outlined in the post on Salsa to process the pickles. I do recommend using jars that have been sterilized and processing for only 10 minutes. Be sure to let jars rest in the canner with the heat turned off and the lid removed for five minutes after processing before removing as removing jars that have not had a chance to rest can spurt hot contents. Be sure to lift jars straight out of the canner. Do not tilt jars as you remove them as this may cause contents to seep beneath the snap lid and prevent a proper seal. Also never process jars that are not designed for home canning especially if they are not affixed with two-piece snap lids.
7-12 large cucumbers, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped
2 lbs onions chopped or button peeled
1 large cauliflower washed well and chopped
½ cup of salt – *do not use regular table salt! Use salt labeled as pickling salt, kosher salt or sea salt. Last year I used kosher; this year I used sea salt.
1 red and 1 green pepper washed and chopped
3-4 cups vinegar
3-4 cups of sugar
3 tbsp flour – *due to celiac disease in my family I do not use flour. I have used both corn starch and arrow root powder in its place with great results.
3-4 tbsp. dry mustard
1 tbsp. turmeric
2 tsp ginger
* I also added 2 tsp. paprika or cayenne and some freshly ground pepper. This would depend whether or not you like these spices. The cayenne pepper was actually a mistake in my second batch because I thought it was paprika. Both patches turned out great and many people that I gifted them to confessed to eating them straight for the jar!
Prepare cucumbers, cauliflower and onions. Cover with salt and let sit overnight.
In the morning drain and add chopped peppers. Place in large pot, add the rest of the ingredients and cook gently for 5-20 minutes. The cooking time depends on how soft you want your pickles to be.
Remove from heat and pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.
Lady Ashburn Pickles
6 large cucumbers, peeled and seeds removed
¼ cup of salt
1 qt. onions cut fine
1 pt. vinegar (2 cups)
1 ½-2 cups sugar
3 tbsp. flour * see note in previous recipe.
1 tbsp. dry mustard
1 tbsp. turmeric
2 tsp. mustard seed
2 tsp. celery seed
Cut cucumbers very fine and place in large pot.
Add salt and let stand overnight.
In the morning drain liquid and add onions, vinegar and sugar.
Combine remaining ingredients and add to pot.
Cook gently on top of the stove for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and bottle immediately in hot sterilized jars.
As you can tell by the old recipes, they lack proper instructions. By following the new canning guidelines and using the proper amount of vinegar to create an acidic environment, you will surely come out with a safe shelf-stable product.
Please follow this link for more information on home canning.
Jennifer Ukrainetz is Kingsbrae Garden’s propagator.