Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Pickle Project v2.0

Cucumbers ready for slicing, 2012.
It's cucumber season again and around my house that means it's time to make sweet pickles.  I first made them with my mother's help in 2010 and they were delicious.  This year, I started the process by myself, knowing that my mother would arrive shortly to help me with the heavy lifting.  I bought the cucumbers at the Atwater farmer's market.  I always look for my favorite variety of cucumber for making pickles--Japanese Shorts, but since they weren't available at any of the markets this year, I decided to go with the smallest, firmest pickling cucumbers I could find.
10 lbs= 2 gallons of cucumbers, 2012.

I should issue the disclaimer that my training as a Master Food Preserver has taught me that this process is not recommended by the USDA.  I am speaking purely as a private citizen when I say that although I am obviously following this recipe, you may wish to follow a USDA tested recipe instead.  A similar version may be found on page 127 of the book So Easy To Preserve by The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension or in this excellent pdf file on canning pickles from Iowa State University Cooperative Extension.  They're both pretty similar to my mom's recipe and they have very good directions for first-time pickle-makers.

The trickiest thing about this recipe is the timing.  You need to make sure you're around long enough to deal with each part of the process at the crucial moment.  I bought cucumbers at the farmer's market on Sunday and started the process.  Oddly enough, my mother's recipe insists that the day you start is NOT Day 1.  So although I started on Sunday, Monday was officially Day 1 of the process.

I thought for version 2.0 I would report on the process in stages, but you can find the original recipe in its entirety here.

Days 1 through 7 are pretty easy.

  • Buy, wash, and cut approximately 10 pounds of pickling cucumbers into 3/4 inch slices.  You should end up with about about 2 gallons, which is what the recipe requires. 
  • Make a simple brine of water and non-iodized salt (proportions are crucial) and pour heated brine over pickles.  
  • Cover top of cucumbers with a plate to keep them submerged in salted water (brine).
  • Let stand for one week-- stirring each day to prevent scum from forming.  If scum does form in spite of your best efforts (or neglectful ways), skim the scum off the top.
I'm on Day 3 now and so far so good.  More excitement to come on Sunday.