Every year without fail I put up at least one batch of dill pickles. I occasionally will make jelly or can tomatoes. I have been known to make dilly beans as well. But the pickles I do each year.
And each year when I make my pickles, I tell people – either by word of mouth or via my blog – just how darned EASY it is to put up pickles, and why-oh-why don’t more people do it. I’m actually quite, well, smug about it. Look at me. I make homemade pickles. Ma Ingalls (of Little House on the Prairie fame) and I and could be BFFs. We could sit around and quilt and talk about pickling recipes and how much butter we were going to churn this week.
This year I went one step further and actually grew my fresh dill. I began making noise about going to the Farm Store to buy pickling cucumbers since my dill was ready to pick. It didn’t happen, however, because I went instead to the hospital. Choices, choices….
By time I got out of the hospital, my dill was starting to look sad. So despite the fact that I didn’t feel that great, and despite the fact that my body was still working its way back to normal (a process that’s taking longer than I expected), a week ago I went to the Farm Store and bought four pounds of pickling cucumbers. When I got home, I washed them, put them in a big bowl of ice water, and placed them in the fridge to chill overnight. In the meantime, I went out to my garden and picked my long sprigs of dill, and put them in a vase of water to stay fresh until the next day when I would do my pickling.
So, the next day, I began the process of putting up the pickles. The process involves sterilizing the jars and lids, carefully washing and cutting the cucumbers, putting the spices (including mustard seeds, garlic, and red pepper flakes) in the sterilized jars, preparing the pickling brine, bringing my massive canning pot full of water to a rolling boil, filling the jars with the cut cucumbers, making sure the rims of the jars are clean, closing the jars, and placing the jars in the boiling water.
Perhaps it was because I wasn’t feeling tip top, but at some point during this process it occurred to me that pickling isn’t actually all that darn easy. It isn’t, of course, rocket science, but it is time consuming and somewhat tedious. Nevertheless, for reasons I don’t quite understand myself, I LOVE doing it. I generally don’t eat a single pickle; instead, I give them all to my brother Dave or my nephew Erik. But it is really something I enjoy doing.
I had just gotten the jars of cucumbers into the pot of boiling water to begin the process that results in the sealing of the jars. I began wiping the stove and the countertops with a rag. I turned around to place the rag in the sink, and suddenly saw my vase full of dill.
“What’s the matter?” asked Bill, who happened to be taking a break from building the playhouse-that-will-never-be-finished.
“I forgot to put the dill in my dill pickles,” I said.
“Can you add the dill now?” Bill asked.
Nope, you really can’t, because by this point it’s basically a chemical process that involves the heat creating a vacuum so that the jars can be sealed.
So I finished the processing and will be offering dill-less dill pickles this season. All that remains is for me to come up with a quirky name. Any suggestions? How about Killer Dave’s No Dill Dill Pickles?
I thought I might be able to get away with it. Kaiya spotted my jars of pickles the other day and asked if she could have one. I handed one to her. She ate it, but didn’t seem thrilled.
“These taste like sweet pickles,” she said, “and I like dill pickles.”
Well don’t we all.
I had a few little cucumbers left and didn’t want to throw them away. Instead, I made a small batch of my Aunt Leona’s refrigerator pickles, or what she called her Frozen Cuke Salad.
2 qt. sliced cukes
2 T. salt
Mix and refrigerate 2 hours. Drain and rinse.
Make syrup: Bring to boil..
½ c. vinegar
1-1/2 c. sugar
Onion to taste
Green and red pepper to taste
Cool syrup slightly and pour over cukes. Refrigerate another 24 hours. Put in containers and freeze.
Leona’s Note: We prefer to keep in frig and eat.
Nana’s Notes: Me too!