Monday, September 7, 2009

Old School, Back-to-School, Bread and Butter Pickles

This weekend, I made a batch of Bread and Butter Pickles with the abundance of cucumbers from the CSA. Seth and I had made some last year, which turned out delightful. I figured I'd try it solo this year.

Most cookbooks today don't have a section on canning. That's a shame. Canning is a great way to enjoy produce from the garden or farm
stand long after its season (that is, if it lasts that long). My grandmother's well-used copy of The Joy of Cooking (1946, I believe) is a great resource for old recipes, especially those for preserves, pickles and other canned foods (it also has the best recipe for chocolate brownies EVER).
The only problem I have working with this book concerns measurements and cooking times. Most measurements are given in weight --- which is okay if the weights are small, since I have a small scale. However, when a recipe calls for a gallon of cucumbers or a peck of green tomatoes, I'm not always too sure about what I'm doing. Luckily, there are several measurement conversion websites that can make this an easier task.
Cooking times also vary due to the fact that our ovens and stoves simply get hotter than those back in the 40s (which is weird because the brownies always take LONGER than the books says). So, be prepared to watch your work closely.
There's also the fact that I don't really want to pickle a freaking gallon of cucumbers . . . . That said, I here provide readers with a modified version of the book's recipe for Bread and Butter Pickles (yields 2 24-oz. jars) using the water bath method:

* two large mason jars, about 24 oz. each
* a very large pot with high sides, preferably with a removable, internal rack for the jars to stand on, which will also allow the boiling water to circulate around the jars
* a canning jar wrench or sturdy tongs (and pot holders or oven mitts) for lifting the jars in and out of the water bath (this is tricky and potentially HOT and messy, so the right tools are necessary)
* a large crock to brine the vegetables in
* another large pot to make the syrup in and cook the vegetables in

Vegetable Ingredients:
* 6 c. fresh, firm cucumbers, sliced very thin
* 6 oz. green pepper(about 1), sliced thin
* 6 oz. onion, thinly sliced (small, pearl onions are ideal, but I only had red onion on hand -- about 1 onion should do it)

Layer these in the crock and cover with ice and about 1/8 cup of sea salt, cover with a tight (preferably, weighted) lid and refrigerate for 3 hours. Drain.

Ingredients for the syrup:
* 1 3/4 c. of apple cider vinegar
* 1 3/4 c. of sugar
* 1/2 tsp. tumeric
* 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
* 3/4 tsp. mustard seed
*1/2 tsp. celery seed

Heat this mixture in the pot and keep hot (not necessarily boiling) until the vegetables are ready to pour in.

After adding the vegetables, cook until the vegetables seem to soften a little and take on some color.
Scald, but do not boil the mixture. Stir as minimally and as gently as possible. Add to prepared jars and seal at once.

Preparing the Jars (I used Ball Jars with treated lids that do not require wax)

* Boil enough water in the very large pot to at least mostly cover the jars.
* fill jars with water and place in the water bath for at least 15 minutes.
* just when you are about to start thinking about pouring the pickles into the jars, pour some hot water onto the lids -- do not boil them.
* working quickly, remove a jar, empty the water, and fill it with hot pickles. Seal immediately.

Sealing the Jars
* once the pickles have been poured into the jars, you need to return them to the water bath for about 30 minutes. Make sure the lids are on tight when you put them in the cupboard.

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