Saturday, July 14, 2012

Canning your own food is very rewarding, saves money and the taste is so much better

My husband is a pickle fanatic . . . he has to have a pickle everyday with his lunch and if I happen to forget to put one in his lunch box I hear ALL about it.  And when we go out to eat, I have to protect my pickle from his pickle swiping fingers.

So, last year we grew cucumbers in our garden with the specifically for the purposes of making them into pickles.  They were good but not as crisp as commercial pickles.

My refridgerator pickles stay crunchy but I’m also not processing them in hot water.

This year we are, again, growing cucumbers . . . and we’re getting loads of them.  I wanted to find a recipe for crisp canned pickles.  I found one and with this process the pickles do look less cooked . . . i.e. smooshy . . .  and more like they will have a crunch to them.

This method utilizes a "low temperature process" method . . . the jars stay in the water bath at a lower temperature for a longer time.

To start off with make sure you use fresh, crisp cucumbers.  Don’t can soft or overripe vegetables or you will end up with soft, limp pickles.   Dark green, warty cucumbers are the best and will have fewer seeds.

You’ll need a Quick Process Pickling mix . . .  I use Mrs. Wages Kosher Dill  . . . and clear vinegar.

I generally can pickles in pint jars . . . I prefer wide mouth, but that’s up to you.  Figure it will take about 3 or 4 pickling cucumbers to fill a pint jar. 

Wash the cucumbers in cold water.  Then slice them . . . I cut the small pickles in halves but you can cut them into spears, if you wish.  Makes sure the pickles are a length that leaves at least a half an inch of head space in the jar.

Before you pack the jars you will need to make sure the jars are clean and sanitized.  If you’re dishwasher has a high temperature wash then that is sufficient.  If not submerge the jars in a large pot of water . . . I use my canning pot . . .  and bring it to a boil.  Put the lids in another pot and boil them for several minutes and leave them in the hot water.

Fill the canner about 1/2 full of water and start it heating (with the lid on).

 Follow the directions on the pickle mix . . . basically combine the mix with vinegar (and water if the recipe calls for it).  Bring to a near boil

Pack the raw cucumbers into the jars and pour the simmering pickle mix liquid over them. Fill them to within ¼-inch of the top, seat the lid and hand-tighten the ring around them.   I also shove in a clove of garlic and a sliced jalapeno for extra spice.

Put them in the canner and keep them covered with at least 1 inch of water. Keep the water boiling until you are ready to process. Then, here's the key to crisp pickles: Cucumber pickles should be processed for at 180-185°F, which is obviously below boiling (212 F), but hot enough to kill bacteria. 

Check with a thermometer to be certain that the water temperature remains above 180° during the entire processing time. But keep the temperature below 185° to avoid breaking down the pectin, which will cause softening of the pickle.

Heat them for 30 minutes.

Then carefully remove the jars from the water and allow them to cool in a draft-free area.  I know it’s tempting but don’t touch the jars while they’re cooling and try not to bump or jostle them.  Just let them sit quietly. 

After 24 hours you can remove the rings and make sure your jars have sealed.  But any jars where the lid hasn’t sucked down into the fridge and eat them first.  You can check by pressing your finger into the center of the lid . . . if it pops then it’s not properly sealed.

You can eat the pickles anytime but they’re better if you wait at least 2 weeks.  It’s torture but it’s worth it!

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