Last year I reported on my first attempt at making pickles in The Maiden Voyage of the Pickle Maker. This year, now being an experienced pro (insert snicker here), I invited my daughter, J, along for the ride.
A couple of weeks ago we found some humongous cucumbers in my cucumber bed. I swear it had only been two days since I was out there to find nothing remarkable and then, this:
Unfortunately, after harvesting those behemoths, both J and I came down with strep. Friday, the 4th, we were both finally up to dealing with pickle making.
J arrived about 11 am sans children (thanks to Dad for keeping the kids home!). We had planned ahead and had “everything” we needed. Jessica wanted to make “stackers” out of the big cucumbers. Over the course of the two weeks of illness, though, several other cucumbers were harvested. So, after looking at the supply, we decided pickle relish was also on the menu. That meant going to the store for additional ingredients. After that, we were hungry, so we made a nice pasta salad for lunch. (Rotini, cucumber, tomato, avocado, italian dressing – it was yummy!)
Pasta Salad for lunch
Finally, hours later, we started working on the project we had come together to do. It was really nice having an extra pair of hands and someone to chat with while working.
I scrubbed the cucumbers, J sliced them. Stackers are cut length-wise and the slices are as wide as the cucumber and as tall as the jar.
“Stackers” are cut length-wise and as tall as the jar
Someday I’d like to figure out why these extra-large cucumbers were yellow instead of green.
J didn’t know that if you lick the cut end of a cucumber, you can tell if it is sweet or bitter, so she learned something new from her mother (at this age, that’s a bonus!). If you put a bitter cucumber in your jar, the whole jar will turn bitter, so this is an important step. J, having just eaten half-dozen mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, felt that was not a good mix with cucumber licking, so I was the designated Bitterness Tester. As such, this was what I saw for the first hour of work:
Cucumber roulette – is it sweet or bitter?
J would slice off the end of a cucumber and present it to me for licking. I only came across one that was truly bitter. (Let me tell you, it was enough to make me dance – definitely not a happy dance!). A couple of others were questionable, so we just didn’t risk it with those.
The pickle relish was 6 cups coarsely chopped cucumbers (we like chunkier relish), 2 cups chopped red pepper, 2 cups chopped onion.
As with last year’s effort, we used Mrs. Wages pickle mix (the Kosher Dill mix this time). I know there are purists that will say I’m cheating by not doing it the traditional way with pickling lime and purchasing a bunch of different spices and seasonings. In my book, though, getting the job done counts more than meeting someone else’s version of “the right way.”
Once everything was in the jars, the pickling juice was poured in, rims cleaned, heated lids and rings attached, and the jars were processed for 15 minutes.
Ta-Da! The final product was 4 pints of stackers and 6 pints of pickle relish.
10 lovely jars!
Note that after the 24 hour setting period, I remove the rings from my jars. There are folks that will vehemently oppose this action and others that fully support it. I was taught to remove the rings. If the rings are left on and the jar seals fail, having the ring on will allow the seeping product to reseal the jar, with contaminants in it.
We had enough chopped cucumber to make another batch of pickle relish but not of any other ingredients (in particular, another package of Mrs. Wages was nowhere to be found) so we are doing an experiment — freezing the remainder. We’ll see if it’s usable once thawed.
It was a fun and productive day!