Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sweet & Sour Pickles

These pickles turn out softer than I would normally like, but they're full of flavor from the vinegar, sugar and pickling spices. Getting to the canning part takes two days of first soaking in a salt brine, then rinsing and soaking in the pickling brine.

The recipe comes from "Putting Food By," by Jane Greene, Ruth Hertzberg and Beatrice Vaughan. As the name implies, it covers the waterfront where canning and preserving are concerned with 400 pages of recipes and instructions. It's a good reference to own, and the paperback edition is just the right size to stash in a corner of your kitchen.

I made just a fraction of this recipe, in keeping with our current theme of trying several different pickling methods with the (growing) number of cucumbers we have on hand at the moment.

To make 8 pints:

32 cucumbers, about 4 inches long
1 cup salt
4 quarts water
4 cups vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon whole cloves
1/2 tablespoon mustard seed
1/2 tablespoon celery seed
1/2 tablespoon peppercorns

Dissolve the salt and water in a crock or enamelware kettle (I used a food grade plastic bucket). Wash the cucumbers, put them in the container and cover with the salt brine. (My cumbers were a bit larger than the ones called for here. I quartered the cucumbers first.) Cover and let stand 24 hours, then drain.

Cover cucumbers with cold water and let stand 20 minutes, then drain. If rinse water is too salty, repeat. Meanwhile, combine vinegar, sugar and spices in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Boil 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Thoroughly wash the crock or kettle (or bucket). Cut cucumbers in halves or quarters and put into clean crock. Bring syrup back to a boil, then pour it through a strainer over the cucumbers, removing the spices. Cover cucumbers and let stand 24 hours.

Drain syrup off cucumbers, reserve the liquid. Pack cucumbers upright in clean, hot pint jars. In a saucepan, bring syrup back to a boil, then ladle it over the jarred cucumbers, leaving 1/2-inch headroom. Place lids on jars and process the jars in 180-degree (Fahrenheit) water bath for 10 minutes. Remove jars to cool.

The processed pickles will keep for months in the pantry. Refrigerate them after opening.

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