Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When Life Gives You Cucumbers...

I love the term 'putting up' in terms of food. Whether it is freezing, canning, or drying, I love that I am able to store some of the ample fresh food available now for later, when there isn't as much to choose from. Plus, it is fun to do! I have been having the best time learning how to can veggies and fruits with my friends. Last year, Shannon taught me to can tomatoes. After a long season of gardening and just trying to keep up with the produce that just kept coming, we knew we need to find time to preserve some of the bounty for winter. Sometime in September of last year, Shannon and I spent a long evening skinning and stuffing tomatoes into a jar, then boiling the jars until they sealed. Each time I pulled a can of tomatoes from the pantry during the winter, I was grateful for her generosity..

So, when Natalie brought me boxes of leftover cucumbers a couple of weeks ago, (thanks, Nat!) I knew what I had to do. Make pickles! My friend Casey had spent a lot of time making pickles with her grandmother, and had always loved that time they spent together. So, who better to learn from? We made a pickling spice combination from bay leaves, cinnamon, allspice berries, mustard seed, chili pepper flakes, and cardamom, which we boiled with salt, vinegar and water. Then we cut the cukes into spears, covered them with the boiling mixture and added herbs and garlic. We even experimented with using grape leaves to keep the pickles crisp. In the end we wound up with over 40 jars of bread and butter pickles, dills and some (cross your fingers) experimental combinations.

Canning is a great community project. There are a lot of details, (sterilizing jars, prepping brines and veggies, timing the sealing) so it is very helpful to have a partner to help manage all of the different components. Use the bounty of this season as an excuse to hang out with your favorite people. When you open those jars sometime down the road, you'll remember an eventful and fun day working together.

1 comment:

  1. I love canning! My favorites are salsa and dilly beans (pickled green beans). Check out the Harvest forum on gardenweb for some good recipes (search for the thread "Your greatest hit recipes for Leesa" for lots of favorites). A recipe from there, Annie's salsa, was published in last month's R Home magazine.

    The nice thing about the Harvest forum is that there are lots of people who know what's safe and what's not, so it's a good resource if you want to ask about a particular recipe. Some of the canning recipes found on non-canning sites will give you botulism; even Martha Stewart and the NYT have occasionally published canning recipes that wouldn't meet modern safety standards. Don't forget to acidify your tomatoes, 1 T bottled lemon juice per pint.