I was woken up yesterday morning to go to the Alemany farmer’s market to get cucumbers for pickling. Don’t get me wrong, I like making pickles. That is, pickles for other people to eat. Pickles are really fun and easy to make, it’s quite surprising that more people don’t do it. It is rather easy to buy a jar from the store, but it’s not the same as eating or serving something you made yourself. Trust me, people are always very impressed when you tell them you make your own pickles.
Since we were both interested in making pickles and at least one of us was likely to eat them, we made the short trip to pick up some pickling cucumbers. It must be the right time of year for cucumbers, since many stalls had the short, bumpy, chubby things available. I like to get the shorter ones as they fit into jars better. We happened to get about 4 pounds at $1/lb, but as we made our way through our market I saw one or two vendors selling at $0.75/lb.
We brought them home, scrubbed them well under running water and while one of us sliced and packed the cucumbers into quarters, the other investigated what type of pickles to transform them into. (Side note: remove the blossom end – the end that is not the stem – as it contains an enzyme that causes the cucumbers to get soft). We did the fresh pack style of pickling as opposed to fermented or pre-brined as it’s the quickest and easiest to make.
For making pickles, I prefer to use the wide mouth canning jars because they are straight-sided and you can easily pack more veggies into a single jar. You can easily buy these for under $1 per jar. They come in packs of 12 and I usually find them at hardware stores like Ace Hardware or Lowe’s. I’ve seen them at my local Target and at supermarkets as well. These are good buys since the jars are extremely durable can be re-used practically forever.
We were able to fill about 3 quart and one pint-sized jar so we decided to make several types as opposed to just one, in case we didn’t like a particular recipe. We made one jar each of dill pickles, hot pickles, sweet pickles, and bread and butter pickles. We used recipes from the old staple, the Ball canning and preserving guide. I think I picked it up at Lowe’s for $6-$7 a few years back. There are quite a few preserving, pickling, and canning books out there that have good recipes. The Colorado State University extension that has information and recipes for pickles, which can be found here.
Due to the variety we were making and the small quantity, we opted not to go through the canning process and simply stick the jars in the refrigerator after we poured in the hot vinegar brine into the jars. Important – label and date! So you remember what it is and when it was made; you won’t remember 3 months later. Try not to eat them all within the first week – it takes a bit of time for the flavors to develop; it’ll get better as it sits.
They’re supposed to be good for 2-3 months as-is in the refrigerator. Obviously, if it starts to smell weird or stuff starts growing in there or if it gets slimy – gross! Throw it away! As an additional word of caution, it’s essential that you don’t mess with the proportions of salt, vinegar, and sugar if you plan to keep these pickles for an extended period of time. In order to keep the bad germs at bay, these natural preservatives are needed at the right quantities to make a uninhabitable envrionment for these nasties to thrive.