Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pickle Madness

It's NINETY THREE DEGREES outside! Let's boil some pickles!

Pickle Day came early this year. Last year it was the first weekend in August, and in that post I expounded on the finer points of pickle making, but this is my second (or is it third?) go-round, so I am an X Spurt. Ah yes, I consult my blog, and this is my third try at pickles.

This time I decide to try dill first, simply because we still have sweet pickles left from last year, but we are out of dill. And here are the challenges I faced. I do this, dear blog-follower, simply so you can learn from my mistakes:

1. To achieve maximum yield from each cucumber, slice from the blossom end first. This lets you hold the stem with your fingers as you slice to the bitter end. Very smart. And yes, random samples from more than a dozen cucumbers prove the the stem end will be more bitter, if the cucumber, does in fact, harbor any bitterness towards... whatever.

2. You will always lose one jar due to some mystery flaw or mistake.

3. Always prepare more jars than you calculate you will need.

4. Always prepare more rings and lids than you did jars.

5. Something else, unanticipated, will still go wrong.

I introduced a new procedure into my plan. To avoid inundating the house with steam, I prepared my jars and rings in the dishwasher. Sheer bliss! This is not the first time I have used the dishwasher since it's ill fated inaugural run. Its the second. The first time was our Memorial Day Picnic. We generated enough dishes that night that I talked Tim into using the renegade machine. He rolled back the rug, grabbed a pile of towels and prepared for the worst.

He and Vivian watched the dishwasher closely for the entire 63 minute cycle.

Which was actually beneficial, since in my careful planning for pickle canning, I needed to know exactly when the dishwasher cycle would finish. And it worked out well. The dishwasher behaved herself (both times). The only water I had to boil was for sterilizing the caps and I got the brine good and hot. The canning bath was all set up outside in the turkey fryer, which Tim was in charge of. And all was going well until I ran out of brine.

Now the Mrs. Gages pickle mix packet said use 17-20 pounds of cucumbers (I had 7), and it would make 10 to 12 quarts. So I figured I had enough cukes for about, about 6-7 quarts. And that's how many jars I prepared. I stuffed 7 and a half quarts, and ran out of brine. Actually, I saw I was running out, and I added a cup of water/vinegar mixture before I even got there. Then, I had to top off the head room with more vinegar. And I still had cucumbers left. Color me confused!

Then one quart jar broke in the canning bath. Tim acted quickly, skimmed the floating slices off of the water and returned them to the kitchen. When I sent the second batch of stuffed jars out for Tim to cook, I had leftovers. Whattodo-whattodo?

I remembered in my box of canning supplies I had a Ball dill spice mixture that had instructions for refrigerating, not "canning" the pickles. I ran to the basement and retrieved this packet (I was sort of wondering what these spices would taste like anyway) and whipped up the water and vinegar mixture and added the spices.

These are all the supplies you need to make Ball's refrigerator dills. You boil the brine mixture, pour it over your cucumber slices, and wait for it to cool enough to stuff the jars. Perfect solution to my quandary! And they're good too. I gave Tim a still hot slice as I was packing the two jars. Let me warn you.... hot pickles pack quite a vinegar punch! He agreed they were good through a fit of coughing as the vinegar hit his sinuses. We are now stocked up with dill pickles for another year, Tim helped in the kitchen, the dishwasher behaved, and we are doing our rain dance because tomorrow is a 60% chance of rain!


  1. Thanks for the info!

    It is better to learn from other people's mistakes! ~ Boyfriend

  2. Mmmmm. Pickles ! :)

    Glad to hear Tim is being a good boy and watching the dishwasher. I do the same thing for the same reason whenever Melissa decides to turn on the hot water at the new place, and I can't blame anyone else because I did the plumbin' !

  3. Never tried pickling - I must give it a go. On the other hand, my neighbour makes it and always gives me loads of bottles! In my house, I'm the dishwasher (no machine) so it might prove tricky!