Monday, August 11, 2014

Pickle Verdict: WIN!

I'm really impressed with the Bread & Butter pickle recipe that I wrote about last week. Everyone who has tried them raves about how great they taste... and those zucchini pickles? Fabulous! The flavor of the zucchini still comes through, and they're a tiny bit milder since I skipped the onions & garlic. The only criticism I have of the zucchini test batch is that they're really squeaky when chewed! How funny is that? The cukes aren't noisy, so I'm not sure why these turned out that way.

Another thing I really like about this recipe is that my test batches were made as refrigerator pickles and not canned, but both the zucchini and cucumber batches picked up the flavor and were ready to eat in about a week. So, if you're not really into canning a whole batch (the recipe calls for 6 pounds of cucumbers!) it's worth making a little batch of brine and going the fridge route.

The original recipe is from The Big Book of Preserving The Harvest, by Carol Costenbader. The recipe I'm sharing today varies slightly from that, based on adjustments I made after trying the test batch.

6 pounds cucumbers, sliced 1/8th inch thick
1 large white onion, quartered and sliced 1/8th inch thick
4 cloves garlic, also sliced 1/8th inch thick
1/3 cup salt
Ice cubes

In a Very Large bowl (or two Large bowls), combine the sliced cukes, onion, garlic and salt. Mix well, and cover with ice cubes. Let stand for 3 hours. (In case you're wondering why: This step draws out some of the moisture from the cucumbers, as well as reducing any bitterness they may have. It also mellows the bite of the onion and garlic.)

For the brine:

4 cups white vinegar
3 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 1/2 Tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 1/2 Tablespoons brown mustard seeds

In an 8 quart saucepan, combine the brine ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. While this mixture is coming up to temperature, drain and rinse the cucumbers, onion and garlic. Let them drip dry for a little bit, to get out any extra water.

Once the brine comes to a boil, add the drained veggies and reduce the heat. Simmer this together for 5 minutes. After the time is up, pack your pickles into sterilized pint jars and top off with brine, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Put on the lids and bands per the manuafacturer's directions. Oh, and the original recipe says it yields 7 pints... I got 7 pints (which I canned) and a quart (fridge). Your mileage may vary...

If you want to can your pints, it's a 10 minute waterbath at sea-level; be sure to adjust for altitude if needed. Otherwise, let them cool on the counter for an hour and then put them in your refrigerator. I let mine rest in the chill box for a week, to let all of the flavors meld. Since this is a new recipe for me, I have no idea how long they will last as refrigerator pickles- but I can tell you we'll eat all of them long before they can spoil. They're *that* good.

For the zucchini- I just subbed that in for the cucumbers, and because I wasn't sure about how the texture was going to turn out, I skipped the onion and garlic. Now that I know they'll hold up, I'll try another batch according to my adjusted recipe.

What's your favorite pickle recipe? Come share it over on Facebook!

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