Posted on | August 12, 2009 | 151 Comments
So it turns out a bushel of little Kirby cucumbers makes something like 40 quarts of pickles. It makes considerably less than 40 quarts when the person doing the pickling has planned said pickling for the hottest Sunday of the year and the air conditioning is on the fritz.
I have missed my Bread and Butter pickles so much. The last batch I made was the summer of 2003. That year, my 50-foot fence row in the garden put out enough cukes to make 64 quarts of Bread and Butter, 24 quarts of garlic dills, 24 quarts of spicy dills, 24 pints of relish, over $250 worth of cukes to sell at market, an entire giant crock of half-sours that went bad and got dumped in the compost, bags of them given to friends and neighbors, and who knows how many left to bloat and rot on the vine. Can you say prolific?
Since we moved into this house, I have not managed to harvest a single cucumber from my gardens. Blight, mildew, vine borers, beetles, and now this year we can add a family of piggish woodchucks to the litany of problems keeping me from making pickles with my own blamdam cucumbers. It’s just not in the cards here (yet), so I ordered a bushel of organic pickling cukes from Sandy at Elizabeth Telling Farm for $30. I just refuse to go through another year without my own pickles and the sound of Tyler groaning with happiness every time he makes a sandwich.
Oh, how he’s going to hate my rationing.
My mom made Bread and Butter pickles when I was little. I can’t recall if she did it every year, or just a few times, but I do remember spreading mustard on two slices of bread, slapping thick slices of bologna on the bread, then covering that with a slick layer of super-thin-but-crisp, sweet pickles. Oh, sense-memory. Dang. These jars will be ready in a few weeks, I must put bologna on the shopping list.
But, as I mentioned before, it was blazing hot on Sunday, and the idea of canning that whole bushel made me want to pack up my things (my laptop, my iPhone and a few beers) and move into the freezer in the basement. So I got my step-dad’s half-sour recipe and made up a bucket that will be ready to taste-test tomorrow.
TO! MOR! ROW! (squeee)
Of course, that still left about eleventyseven cucumbers to deal with, so I also made up a four-quart container of dill chips using Martha Stewart’s Dill-Pickle Chips recipe because it looked quick and painless and did not involve boiling ten gallons of water on the stove top.
These will be ready to sample on Sunday.
I think these are going to be incredibly crunchy pickles. Five days later and I’m eating some of the cukes I left out for nibbling with hummus, and jiminey they’re SO crispy and I never even put them in the fridge.
OK. How about some recipes?
I have no idea where I got this one…
Bread and Butter Pickles (yield approx 6 quarts)
4 quarts sliced pickling cukes
2 chopped green peppers
1/3 cup canning or other coarse salt
1 1/2 tsp tumeric
2 tbsp mustard seed
1 1/2 tsp celery seed
6 chopped medium onions (I use sweet onions)
3 whole cloves garlic
5 cups sugar
3 cups white vinegar
In large bowl, mix together cukes, peppers, onions and garlic. Toss with salt and cover with crushed or cracked ice. Let stand for 3 hours (in fridge if it fits, but my bowl won’t, so I just leave it on the counter and that’s worked fine).
Drain and pack in jars while you bring the vinegar, sugar and spices to a boil in a large pan. This time, I cut my cukes on the thick side for some unknown reason, and they didn’t pack into the jars as well. You can see some of the jars in the photo above have a huge amount of pickleless brine at the bottom. Oh, well. Pour the hot brine over the pickles in the jars. Run a butter knife around the inside edge of the jar to work out any air bubbles. You’ll probably have to top off the brine. Wipe the rims, top with lids and rings. Process in water bath 15 minutes. Let them sit for a few weeks before you sit down one hot night with the jar between your knees and a beer in hand. Trust me, the flavor gets better with age.
Place 3-4 grape leaves in the bottom of a 6-8 quart food grade plastic container or crock, and then top with 24-30 small, washed, whole pickling cukes.
add 1 stalk celery (optional)
1 bunch dill
1 tbsp pickling spices (I didn’t have the pre-made, so just used mustard seed, dill seed and celery seed
3-4 whole cloves garlic
3 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tsp alum if you don’t have any grape leaves.
If you like ‘em spicy like I do, then add 1 tsp (or more to taste) hot red pepper flakes (homemade if you have).
Bring a teakettle of water to boil and pour it on top of everything in the container until just covered. Place a plate on top of the pickles to weigh them down and keep them submerged in the brine. Cover with a clean dish cloth and leave on the counter 5-6 days. Taste. If they’re good, start eating and put the rest in the fridge. You can cut them up into spears and pack in jars with the brine.
I doubt mine will last long enough for all of that.