It's Pickle Day.
This year I thought this day would never come because I had such a hard time growing cucumbers. But they finally did grow. And I finally had enough for a good batch of pickles. The cucumbers will keep fine in the hydrator until you have enough built up. I don't plan pickle day until I have almost a hydrator full. Five or six pounds.
I like to blog pickle day because I do go back and study to get myself in the right frame of mind and form my plan. Canning is not something you want to improvise. And you don't want to get done and think "oh no did I....."
Previous Pickle Blogs:
I sometimes skip a pickle year. We are beginning to become predictable as to how many pickles we use. About 6 pints of dill and 3 or 4 pints of sweet per year. You don't want to make much more than that. I will sometimes make a quart of refrigerator pickle spears using another spice but that is for late season cucumbers, not the main plan.
With canning you have to make good use of space and materials. The cucumbers can be sliced ahead of time. I scrubbed the cucumbers last night and put them in a big bag. When I am ready to slice I mix up a pan of ice water and pickling lime. The slices can wait a few hours while you get everything else set.
Stove top space is where you run into trouble. It is actually not easy to do water bath canning on a glass electric stove top. It is not easy to get that much water to a rolling boil in a short time period. This is why we like to use the turkey fryer out in the drive way. I was going to make the pickles yesterday on the stove top because it was raining and I needed an indoor project but my husband wanted to wait until this morning and use the fryer. You may wonder why that's important since you already have three pots of hot going on the stove.
Well the reason is - you already have three pots of hot going on the stove!
We're already running the air conditioner. We don't need one more pot of boiling water. The other thing is... well there are two things... The basket that comes with the fryer is much easier to deal with than your typical water bath canner insert. The canner inserts don't work well for pints and even a quart jar will tip especially if you don't have a full load. Secondly, you get almost unlimited depth of water. There is no problem covering the jars with several inches of water. You can use the fire ring for your standard canner, but the fryer pot is better in most cases. Plus it has a spigot to drain the water.
I start hours before jotting my notes and assembling my tools. Of course you need a jar funnel and a lifter and a ladle. I also need a couple of baking dishes and dish gloves. Another essential is a Ball Blue Book to flip through to refresh yourself on processing times and head room etc.
This time I wanted to make some spears so I chose a few cucumbers for that and after trimming the stem off, checked the size to make sure they won't be too long.
I use the Ball flex batch spices. Sterilize the jars and rings, heat the lids, and get the pickle solution hot. Then it comes to jar stuffing. Stuffing pickles is a learned skill. More will fit in! Once the pickles are cooked they can rearrange themselves and show you that there really was more space. This is where variation in slice size comes in handy. You don't want your jars to cool too much while you are stuffing. That's the easiest way to lose a jar. If you let the jar cool then plunge it into a rolling boil you can crack a jar, especially if it already has an imperfection you missed To avoid this, I use the baking dish, pull a jar out of the hot water, pour the hot water into the dish and set the jar in that. Pull a second jar out, but leave the water back in the sterilization pot. Bring two jars to the sink to stuff.
You can handle a hot jar with a dish glove.
Get the slices stuffed in and then take the baking pan back to the stove. Pour in the brine using the baking dish to catch any spills. Put on your lid and rings and then you can set your filled jar back in the hot sterilization water to wait.
The fryer basket will hold 7 pints. I don't remember if it holds 6 or 7 quarts.
I only use quart jars for tomatoes.
So while I have been stuffing jars, the turkey fryer water has been brought up to a good rolling boil and I process pickles for 20 minutes because we are more than 1500 feet above sea level.
This basket really is so much better than those rickety wire canner baskets
When the jars are out of the water bath, I put them into a baking pan lined with a towel and bring them indoors to cool slowly.
When I was weighing out cucumbers, I used the instructions on the spice jar to figure I needed about six pounds. Apparently I sliced them too carefully, because I ended up with way too many leftover slices. While the first seven pints were in the water bath I turned the heat back up on the jar water and mixed up a second spice solution. I only had four more pint jars available so I did a short batch of four pints. I still had a few slices and spears left and of course brine. So I grabbed a quart jar and a few more cucumbers from the garden. I sliced the new ones into spears and shoved the whole batch of new and old slices into the quart jar, filled it with leftover brine and stuck it in the fridge. It will be ready to eat in two weeks.
And that concludes Pickle Day 2021. I, ooops, made 10 jars of slices not 6.
Plus my justforfun spears which I should have made more of,
We still have 6 jars left from last year.
We need to up our pickle consumption just a bit.
Next year we will need to make bread and butter pickles