We were away for a couple of days and when we got home I found our pickling cucumbers had gotten a little on the bloated side- I think they were just left on the vine too long. Luckily I've made pickles with these 'pregnant' cukes in the past and they are still super yummy, especially this sweet variety. You can use any cucumber but smaller varieties with fewer seeds work best. I like to add a dried hot pepper for some extra spice, fresh peppers also are great for some heat.
I talked a bit about canning here, but basically you need a big pot with enough water to submerge your jars. It isn't difficult but it does make the kitchen very warm and obviously is a little more challenging with a toddler around. I find canning pickles and jellies very relaxing, but then again I used to check out books on the topic in college and just daydream about cupboards lined with jars. Yeah, I was really wild in college!
Sweet Pickles: makes 4.5 pints / adapted from 'The Joy of Pickles' by Linda Ziedrich (a wonderful book!)
- about 3lbs pickling cucumbers, ends discarded and cut into 3/16" slices
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 c salt (suitable for pickling)
- whole dried or fresh hot pepper such as jalapeno or cayenne, 1 per jar
- 4 tsp mustard seeds
- whole peppercorns (1/2 tsp per jar)
- 2 c white wine vinegar (cider vinegar is also great)
- 2 c water
- 1/2 c sugar
Layer the sliced cucumber and onions in a large bowl and toss with salt. Cover with ice cubes and let sit at room temperature for 1.5 to 4 hours.
Bring the giant canning pot of water to a boil.
Drain everything in a colander and return to the bowl. Toss with mustard seeds. Place 1/2 tsp of peppercorns in each jar (I like to use a combination of pints and half pints which make great hostess gifts).
Pack cucumber and onion mixture into the jars and add one hot pepper to each (wiggle it down the outside of the jar- it also looks pretty!).
Heat the vinegar, water, and sugar in a medium sauce pan to a boil, stirring occasionally. Ladle the hot liquid into each jar leaving 1/2" head space. Wipe the rims of each jar and cover with the two piece lids.
Process the jars for ten minutes in the boiling water.
Remove jars from hot water using jar lifting tongs. Set to cool and store for at least three weeks before eating.
I decided to make a few jars without the spicy pepper this time so that Little Smith could enjoy a few- he actually likes pickles. These are also wonderful using zucchini which is a bonus since we are overrun by those this year. I'm also excited to make dill spears- I never met a pickle that I didn't like!