Pickling adds to the very atmosphere of summertime. There must be early morning forays into the dew-wet garden to gather fresh vegetables; the kitchen must exude sharp gusts of vinegar and pickling spices; there must be dark earthenware jars standing on counter tops, shrouded in white muslin and sparking clean canning jars turned upside down in readiness by the kitchen sink; and by September's end, there must be at least several rows of home-pickled vegetables on the open kitchen shelves.
I cannot let summer go by without canning my family's favorite pickles.
My mother was an inspired and indefatigable pickler. Anything might end up in a pickle: watermelon rind, zucchini, green tomatoes, quinces, green beans, okra, clingstone peaches, bell peppers, pumpkin, tiny ears of immature corn, green walnuts, and, of course, cucumbers. At the end of the summer's pickling, there were sweet pickles, sour pickles, dill pickles and candied pickles. There were three-day, nine-day and 14-day pickles. There was no end to the pickling.
Such tangy delicacies are not available in supermarkets, although unusual pickles show up for sale at bazaars and harvest festivals. The only way to have certain pickled specialties is to make them yourself.
For most purposes, pickles are divided into four general classes according to the ingredients and the methods of preparing them. They are: brined or fermented pickles, fresh-pack pickles, relishes and fruit pickles. The recipes here are for the last three types.
The salt used for pickling should be pure salt with no additives, that is, no iodized salt, sodium-reduced salt or salt with anti-moisture ingredients added. Do not use rock salt because it is not food quality.
Vinegar used for pickling may be either cider or distilled vinegar with 4 percent to 6 percent acidity. The strength of commercial vinegar should be marked on the labels; 5 percent acid strength is common.
Cider vinegar is made from apple cider and is the general-purpose pickling vinegar. Its mellow flavor blends well with the ingredients used in pickle-making. Distilled vinegar is made from diluted alcohol and is either white or cider-flavored. The white distilled vinegar has no color and only its own characteristic sharp, acetic flavor. Use with fruits and light-colored vegetables that would be less attractive if combined with amber-colored cider vinegar.
Making pickles is not difficult. The recipes offered here are simple and do not require brining, fermenting or processing in a pressure canner, procedures that might intimidate the inexperienced. Once you have set aside a block of time and assemble the equipment needed for canning pickles (boiling-water bath, canning jars, tongs and lids), the preparation of the pickles is not much more complicated than preparing a vegetable recipe requiring several ingredients.
If you want to prepare the pickles and skip the canning procedure, you must refrigerate the prepared pickles and use them within a reasonable time, as you would an open jar of store-bought pickles.
To sterilize jars and glasses for pickling, wash the jars in hot suds and rinse them in scalding water. Put the jars in a kettle and cover them with hot water. Bring the water to a boil; cover and boil the jars for 15 minutes from the time the steam emerges from the kettle. Turn off the heat and let the jars stand in the hot water. Just before they are to be used, invert the jars onto a clean towel to dry. They should be filled while they are still hot. Sterilize the jar lids for 5 minutes in a pan of boiling water or according to the manufacturer's directions.
For boiling-water processing:
1: Place the rack in the water-bath canner and pour 4 to 5 inches of warm water into the canner. Place the canner on the stove and adjust the heat to keep water hot if using the raw-pack method, boiling or near boiling if using the hot-packed method.
2: Pack the jars one at a time with the prepared pickles, using a canning funnel. Cover the packed pickles with the accompanying hot or near-boiling pickling solution, leaving designated head space.
3: Remove canning funnel. Insert nonmetal spatula to release any trapped air bubbles between jar and pickles. Clean rims and tops of jars to remove any particles of spilled food.
4: Close jars, following manufacturer's direction for the caps and lids you are using. Place jars on the rack in the shallow hot water in the water-bath canner.
5: When all jars are packed, closed and placed inside the water-bath canner, pour enough hot or near-boiling water to bring the level of the water in the canner to a depth of 1 to 2 inches above the tops of the jars. Cover the canner.
6: Turn the heat to high. Begin counting processing time when the water in the canner comes to a full boil. Maintain a hard boil all during the processing.
7: When the processing time is up, turn off heat and remove jars from the canner at once, either by using a jar lifter or by lifting the canner rack. and place upright on a folded pad or cloth or on a cooling rack away from drafts. Complete seals, if the jars are not self-sealing, according to manufacturer's directions.
8: Let jars cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours, then test the seals. If you are nearby, you can hear each self-sealing lid make a pinging sound when it cools and seals.
9: Make certain all jars are sealed: The center of the lid should be slightly depressed or concave, because the vacuum inside the jar pulled the lid down in the center as it cooled. Turn the jars sidewise and rotate them to check for leakage. If there is no leakage and the self-sealing lid cannot be lifted off, the jar is airtight.
Wipe the jars, label them and store them in a cool, dry dark place.
Makes 3 pints
6 cups prepared pumpkin cubes
2 cups vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 (4-inch) sticks cinnamon
1 teaspoon whole allspice
Slice pumpkin, remove seeds and membranes, peel and cut into 1-inch cubes. Steam cubes over boiling water using vegetable-steaming rack or colander, until cubes are just tender. Do not cook pumpkin in water used for steaming. Drain.
Make syrup of vinegar, sugar and spices. Bring to boil. Simmer 20 minutes. Add pumpkin cubes and simmer 5 minutes. Cool and let pumpkin stand in syrup in refrigerator overnight.
Next day: Drain syrup off pumpkin cubes into saucepan. Bring to boil. Pour boiling syrup over pumpkin and again let mixture stand overnight in refrigerator.
Third day: Place pumpkin with syrup in saucepan. Bring to boil. Pack into hot, sterilized pint jars. Cover with boiling syrup,
leaving 1/4 -inch head space. Adjust lids. Process in boiling-water bath 5 minutes.
Makes 5 pints
12 cups ground zucchini (about 16 zucchini)
4 cups ground onion
5 tablespoons pickling salt
4 to 6 cups sugar
3 cups cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 sweet bell peppers, chopped (use 1 green and 1 red for color)
Put scrubbed and trimmed zucchini through coarse blade of food grinder. Measure 12 cups of ground zucchini. Combine it in large ceramic or glass bowl with onions and salt. Cover and chill mixture overnight.
Next morning: Drain zucchini mixture in colander. Rinse under running cold water. Drain thoroughly.
Combine 4 to 6 cups sugar with vinegar, dry mustard, celery seed, pepper and turmeric in kettle. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add sweet bell peppers and zucchini mixture and simmer, stirring frequently, 30 minutes.
Pack into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 -inch head space. Adjust lids. Process in boiling-water bath 15 minutes.
Makes 3 to 4 quarts
12 large green or sweet red bell peppers or combination
2 tablespoons salt
4 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 to 1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons mustard seed
2 tablespoons celery seed
1 quart cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
Slice tops from stem ends of peppers. Remove seeds and membranes. Place tops and whole peppers into large crock and cover with cold water. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt and let stand overnight.
Next day: Mix together well in large bowl the cabbage, remaining 1 tablespoon salt, sugar to taste, mustard and celery seeds.
Drain peppers well. Fill their cavities with cabbage mixture. Replace tops of peppers. Tie or sew them into place with white cotton string. Place stuffed peppers in large, deep crockery jar. Cover with vinegar sweetened with remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Place plate on top, weighing it down with suitable object to keep peppers under the vinegar. Cover jar with aluminum foil or lid and refrigerate 2 weeks before eating.
Note: Green tomatoes may be used instead of bell peppers, and large, sweet yellow banana peppers may be used as well. Cut off tops and scoop out centers. Fill with cabbage mixture, as directed.
To can stuffed "mangoes," sterilize 3 or 4 wide-mouth quart jars. Lift peppers out of vinegar and sugar solution and into hot sterilized jars. Heat solution to boiling and pour over the peppers. Leave 1/2 -inch head space. Adjust caps. Process 15 minutes in boiling-water bath.
Makes about 6 pints
8 pounds fresh table-ripe peaches
1 cup chopped raisins
1 cup chopped onions
1 large clove garlic, minced
3 pounds brown sugar
2 quarts vinegar
1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup mustard seed
2 tablespoons salt
1 cup crystallized ginger, finely minced
Scald, peel and pit peaches. Chop into small pieces. Place in preserving kettle along with raisins, onions, garlic, brown sugar, vinegar, chili powder, mustard seed, salt and ginger. Bring mixture to boil while stirring. Cook slowly until chutney is brown and thick, about 2 hours.
Pour into sterilized half-pint jars. Leave 1/2 -inch head space. Adjust lids. Process in boiling-water bath 10 minutes.
Watermelon Rind Pickles
Makes about 5 pints
2 1/2 quarts of 1-inch cubed watermelon
7 cups sugar
2 cups cider vinegar
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon
Trim green skin and red flesh from thick watermelon rind and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place in large saucepan. Cover with boiling water. Boil rind until tender but not soft, about 10 minutes. Drain in colander. Place in crockery bowl.
Combine sugar, vinegar, cloves and cinnamon sticks in saucepan. (Or tie spices in square of cheesecloth and remove before canning.) Bring mixture to boil, stirring well to dissolve sugar. Pour hot syrup over watermelon rind in bowl and let stand overnight at room temperature.
Next morning: Drain syrup from rind into saucepan. Bring to boil. Again, pour hot syrup over watermelon rind and let stand overnight.
Third day: Slice unpeeled oranges and lemon into small pieces, removing seeds. Add to watermelon rind and syrup in large saucepan. Heat together to boiling. Pack in hot sterilized jars. Cover with boiling hot syrup. Leave 1/2 -inch head space. Adjust
lids. Process in boiling-water bath 5 minutes.
Green Tomato Relish
Makes 8 pints
4 quarts firm green tomatoes
10 medium onions, peeled
6 sweet red, green and yellow peppers, seeds and membranes removed
6 tablespoons salt, not iodized
6 cups sugar
4 cups vinegar
4 teaspoons celery seed
2 teaspoons whole allspice
4 teaspoons mustard seed
Wash and core tomatoes, but do not peel. Put through coarse blade of food chopper. Prepare and grind onions and peppers. Combine ground vegetables. Mix with salt. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain off any liquid.
Place ground vegetables into large kettle along with sugar and ++ vinegar. Tie celery seed, allspice and mustard seed in cheesecloth bag and add to vegetables. Mix together. Heat to boiling. Remove spice bag.
Pack boiling-hot relish into hot canning jars, leaving 1/4 -inch head space. Adjust lids. Process 15 minutes in boiling-water bath.