Monday, July 9, 2012


Every year I am confronted by excess produce. Sometimes we have tomatoes, or peaches or apples. This year, the farmer's market had the most beautiful young cucumbers and they spoke to me. They said, "Pickle me." So I did. I have a couple of one gallon glass jars. One is stuffed with pickling cucumbers and grape leaves. The other one just got stuffed with sliced cabbage for some sourkraut.

I also have a counter full of peaches wanting to become cobbler or ice cream. My apple tree makes a large number of apples in the spring/summer. My plan was to make vinegar, but my recipes say that summer apples don't have a high enough sugar content for vinegar. I have found that sugar content is definitely related to sun light. When the sky is clear- peaches are sweet. Apples are sweet. This year has been remarkably clear and the peaches are delicious. Maybe some peach vinegar.

So why the pickles and vinegar. Well, I can only have so much sweet stuff before my health crashes. I need some of that other stuff to balance out the system. Vegetables and fruits can be preserved in so many ways and pickles are very easy to do. Just some salt, a dash of vinegar, and raw veggies- pickles. Ok, there is that time period where they sit on the counter and ferment. But it doesn't take long. Ok, it takes about two weeks, but in glacial time that is nothing.

Now you ask, "What will you do with a gallon of pickles?". I hope you did ask that. I will give some to my friends and relatives. But mostly I will eat them. It is amazing how quickly I can go through a jar of really crunchy pickles. The last batch had 4 large cucumbers and is down to one. The second batch is still on the counter fermenting. I love to nibble cold pickles with my sandwiches. And my daughter has put in a request for a few, too.

I also eat fresh cucumbers in my salads. But the pickle process goes back in time and makes me feel as one with the history of food.

We hear so much today about excess salt in our diets. But it wasn't always that way. The methods of preserving meat and vegetables with salt was critical to the survival of people. The salty foods were then used to provide all the "salt" in a cooked dish. People didn't really have the luxury of "salt" at the table. Salt was too precious to use in that way. When the foods were made into meals, the preserving salt was part of the salt of the dish. And the water from the pickles was used again for more pickles or for other dishes like salad dressings or soups. The salt in the water was precious, too.

In our current economy, we don't need to make our own pickles. The store is full of pickles. And salt is cheap. But the process and the history calls to me and I must go. I want to continue to make these lovely items for my table. I want to learn to preserve my produce in all kinds of different ways. I also have a desire to make some sweet pickle relish from some of the fermented pickles. I want to make some that doesn't have corn syrup in it.  I don't digest corn syrup well and can't find any pickle relish with no corn syrup. For me, making relish with my own pickles seems like a good solution. I also make my own jams and jellies with no corn syrup added. I like having control over my food content and canning at home provides me with some very nice products- just the way I like them.

So- here is the pickle recipe:
Kosher Not Dill Pickles
About 2 pounds of small, very fresh cucumbers (not more than a day from the vine)
12 young grape leaves
4 cloves of garlic
Brine solution (3/4 cup kosher salt, 1 gallon water, 1 cup white vinegar)

Bring the water to a boil and add salt. Stir until dissolved. Turn off heat and let it cool. Add vinegar. This is the brine solution.
Wash the cucumbers well. Make sure there are no damaged areas. Wash the grape leaves. In a one gallon jar, put 4 grape leaves in the bottom, then two garlic cloves on the grape leaves. Fit one row of cucumbers into the jar on their ends (standing  up) until they are snug and stand by themselves. Now layer with 4 grape leaves, two garlic cloves and another layer of cucumbers. Final layer is grape leaves. Fill the jar with the brine to 3/4 inch from the top. Place a weight on the grape leaves to hold the cucumbers under the brine. Cover the top with a cloth and rubber band. Let sit on the counter in 70 degree F weather (no sunlight) for a week. Skim the scum off the surface daily after the first week. The scum is a yeast product from the fermentation. It helps but needs to be removed daily for about two weeks. At the three week mark, the pickles are done and go into the refrigerator to be eating right from the jar. They will last two months. But you can process them to last longer without refrigeration.
Hot process- Sterilize 4 one quart jars. Distribute the cold pickles into the hot jars. Toss the grape leaves. Boil the brine solution with the garlic cloves. Put one cooked garlic into each jar. Add one new, small, washed grape leaf to each jar. Pour the boiling brine over the pickles leaving 1/2 inch at the top. Apply lids and caps. Process in hot water bath for 15 minutes. Cool on a rack before storing. Refrigerate after opening.