Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pickles- Sweet and Dill

Yesterday the heat index was 120!  As awful as that was, it also means that we are at the height of summer, and overproducing gardens.  Since I live in the woods and don't have enough light, I rely on my generous friends (and the farmers market) for fresh veggies. 
Recently my friend Matthew gave me 7 lb of cucumbers from his garden.  The logical thing to do:  make pickles.  My husband is partial to Claussen’s dill pickles, and I prefer Claussen’s bread n’ butter sweet pickles.  I’ve been told that pickling is an ordeal, but Claussen style are not.  They have to be refrigerated, and don’t have the shelf life of the weird neon ones, but they’re very tasty.  I did a lot of reading recipes online, and a little listening to veteran picklers.  Based on all that research, here’s what I did:

Sweet Pickles:
My "untidy" sweet pickles
2 cups apple cider vinegar ($1.47 per 32oz, $1.47/2 servings = $.74)
¼ cup kosher salt ($2.75 per 48 oz, $2.75 / 23.6 ¼ cups = $.12)
2 cups sugar ($3.25 per 5 lb, $3.25/ 5lb = $.65 x .875 lb = $.57)
½ tsp turmeric ($4.99 per lb, $4.99 x .01 lb = $.05)
1 tsp whole yellow mustard seed ($4.99 per lb, $4.99 x .01 lb = $.05)
2 lb cucumbers (free, check your farmers market for a good price if you don’t know someone with a bountiful garden)
2 small or medium Vidalia onions ($1.99)
3 quart mason jars (preferably wide mouth) ($13.49 per doz., $13.49/4 = $3.37)
In a small saucepan, combine the cider, salt, sugar, turmeric, and mustard.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently to avoid burning the sugar, and boil covered for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice the cucumbers and onions (I made semi circles of the onions and long-way slices of cucumbers).  Distribute the cucumbers and onions evenly between the mason jars.  When your syrup is ready, distribute it evenly over the cucumbers and onions.  Fill the mason jars the rest of the way with water, screw on the lids, and shake gently.  Place all three jars in the refrigerator, and let them sit for 24 hours. 
For some reason, I didn’t expect to like these.  Don’t laugh, but they just looked so… untidy.  Thankfully, they were delicious.  They were crisp and sweet, and just punchy enough, and everyone loved them!
Try It:
$6.89 for 3 quarts, or $2.29 per 16 oz (reusable) jar, or $.14/oz
Buy It:
$3.99 for a 20 oz jar, or $.19/oz.
Try It, they were really easy, cheap, and tasty.  
Fermented Dill Pickles:
5 lb pickling cucumbers (free, check your farmers market for a good price if you don’t know someone with a bountiful garden)
¾ cups kosher salt (as I understand it, any non iodized salt will do) ($2.75 per 48 oz, $2.75 / 23.6 ¼ cups = $.12 x 3 = $.36) (NOTE: I recommend ½ this amount of salt)
¾ oz fresh dill ($1.99)
1 bulb garlic ($.50)
2 tsp black peppercorns ($2.49 per 2.37 oz, estimated 10 servings per bottle = $.25)
4 quart mason jars (preferably wide mouth) ($13.49 per doz, $13.49/3 = $4.49)
In a large pot, place your four mason jars and rings (set tops to the side).  Fill with water so that the jars are all fully submerged.  Bring the water to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. 
Meanwhile, slice your cucumbers into wedges (or your preferred shape), and peel the garlic.  When your jars are done, take them out of the water with tongs (I used regular kitchen tongs that I put in the boiling water with the jars for a bit).  Distribute the peppercorns, dill, and garlic evenly between the mason jars.  Then fill them with your cucumbers. 
Use 1 gallon of your jar water and bring it to a boil with the salt.  In the remaining jar water, simmer your lids.  Pour the salt water over the cucumbers within a ¼ inch from the top of the jar.  Pull the lids out of the simmering water and place them on the jars using tongs.  Screw the lid rings on leaving a good amount of play in the lid so that gases can escape during the fermentation process.
Leave them on the counter for 4 days.  If they are to your liking, put them in the fridge.  If you want them to be stronger, leave them out for up to a total of 10 days. 
These had a good flavor and texture, but they were so salty I could barely get one down.  With a rinse and some fresh water, I think I can save them, but overall, I wasn’t impressed.  I would recommend cutting the salt in half if you try this one.
Try It:
$7.59 for 4 quarts, or $1.89 per 16 oz jar, or $.12/oz
Buy It:
$3.99 per 20 oz jar, or $.19/oz.
Sadly, I have to say Buy It.  The recipe could be good, but I don’t have the love of dill pickles to try countless batches tweeking it

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