Wednesday, July 28

Pickles - 4 Whole Jars!!!

This season, for the first time, we made pickles. This is not just great because we grew our own cucumbers and learned how to can them, but it was the first time we have canned anything. Ever.

We enjoyed the entire process and we will keep going with this food preservation. However, as with all new things, the first time doing something does not always go smoothly.

First, let me just say, that it is not a good idea to have an 18 month old in the kitchen when you are canning things. Besides the obvious safety hazards of boiling water and hot stoves and jars, it is hard to concentrate on something when there is a kid yelling at you.

Also fitting into this category ar the following:

Make sure you have all the ingredients you need on hand before you start
Don't be in a hurry or try to rush things
Do not let the baby play with the magnetic lid "wand"
Know your measurement conversions
Don't swear

I have been collecting cucumbers from the garden and we got quite a few built up in preparation for pickle making. The You Can Can book had a great beginner recipe for basic pickles and we set to work slicing and mixing and boiling and stirring. I was kind of unorganized so things were not in reach which caused some stress. I did not have enough white vinegar to can all the cucumbers even though I thought I had plenty. We only ended up with 4 large jars of what I hope will be fairly good tasting pickles. And the whole kitchen smelled like vinegar for the rest of the day.

It wasn't all day though. The sight of that huge stainless steel pot on my stove with jars being sterilized was just perfect. I really wanted to do this and we were finally canning. There is just something about seeing those jars, all filled and lined up on the counter, only if it was just 4 of them. If all else fails and the world ends tomorrow, at least we will have pickles.

I listened for the "pop" and all 4 did not disappoint.

I do not know why we have put off starting to can for so long. At our old house it was just for the lack of a decent garden and since we were just dealing with day to day stress. Not getting robbed or attacked was high on the list since we lived in a not-so-great area. Totally off topic here, but some of the nicest houses are in some undesirable areas. Old colonials with original hardwood flooring, original marble bathroom floor tile, all original wood trim. But crime is a constant worry and you just cannot feel comfortable in your own home. We were lucky to find our country farm house and 2 acres at the right time and I am grateful for it every day.

We have been here for 5 years and for 4 years we have had a garden. It gets bigger every year, we learn things from every crop and we correct mistakes and try new things. This year is the largest garden we have ever had and is more than enough to feed two and 1/4 people. It just feels like the next natural step to can and preserve it. Yes, I was scared of it, and I still am a little. What if I do not do things right and it doesn't turn out? What if I just end up with a moldy jar of something because things didn't seal right? What if I do something really wrong and we get sick?

I remember helping clean out my husbands gardenparents' house and throwing away hundreds upon hundreds of jars of canned items. All obviously spoiled and rotten. They had been canning and storing their whole lives which was a good thing, but they went to the extreme. Their depression-era mentality and a slight fear of some coming disaster lead them to stockpile everything. There were cans and jars dated from the 70's. I think this may have put me off canning a little in that I can see how you can get carried away with it. The point is that you actually have to EAT what you CAN. If you can a ton of beans and hate beans, then you will have beans from the 70's in your basement too.

So, we have started and I think we are going to keep it up. The more we can, the more organized I will become and I will get a system in place. Next step - tomatoes!


  1. Next time you might want to fill the jars a little fuller with the vinegar mixture. There should only be a headspace of between 1/4-1/2 inch. Anything not covered by the "juice" might taste funny. Canning is fun after you get on to it. I have just recently gotten jelly right. Tomatoes are easy to can. Just stick in boiling water and then ice water to crack the skin, take the skin off and chop up, then water bath can. Some people take out the seeds and puree the tomatoes. You can also freeze tomatoes. I just chop them up skin and all and throw in a bag and put in the freezer. This is especially nice if you dont have a lot of tomatoes coming off all at one time.

  2. Thank you for the great tips Denise! I will be sure to fill up the jars a little more next time. And I will have a TON of tomatoes - I have 37 plants.