Saturday, July 24, 2010


Canning pickles can be very intimidating.  They did it to me for many years.  I would can thirty quarts of pickles and by the next spring I was dumping them all out on the compost pile.  They were mushy and soft and yucky!  That was until just three short years ago.  I found out it wasn’t my fault!  It was the processing that was turning them to mush.  I had tried the oven method, didn’t work for me.  Then everyone says they have to be in a boiling hot water bath for 15 minutes.  This one really made them soggy.  The method I use now is foolproof!  No more soggy mushy limp pickles!  And I have not dumped out a jar for three  years! 
PLEASE read thru all the directions before you begin.  The brine does need to be made ahead of time so it can cool to room temperature so it is best to make that before you even get your cucumbers.
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Start out with the freshest cucumbers you can get.  They should for sure be canned the same day they are picked.
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Put them in a sink of cold water and wash them.  Some people use a vegetable brush but I’ve found a washcloth under cold water works just as well.  And I know my sprayer doesn’t match my faucet, its a long story.
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You will want to remove all these funky looking stems.  My girls used to fight over getting the pickles with the cute little stems left on.
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Also make sure this fuzzy end gets cleaned off too.
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I like to sort them in the sink as I wash them up.  The big ones on the right are saved for making salads.  The center ones usually need to be quartered lengthwise and the babies on the left are the perfect size!
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You can see the baby ones are usually under 3 inches while the medium ones are up to 5 or 6 inches.  Sorry this was the only ruler I could find.  I wonder if Bill won the sheriff election that year.
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Now we are going to backtrack a little.  Your canning jars need to be clean!  As in squeaky clean.  I like to use the hottest setting in the dishwasher and wash a whole load at a time.

THE BRINE:  Brine is the solution that you pour over the pickles.  This recipe is for a Russian dill, which is our favorite.  It is a sweet dill but not sweet as in a bread and butter pickle. 
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You will need:  sugar, apple cider vinegar, water and salt. 
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Now I know you are all saying “Hey you need to use canning salt” but I disagree with that.  You can use canning salt but I prefer the coarse ground celtic sea salt.  I’ve used it for years in all my canning and it works great.  But you can use the canning salt, just do not use regular table salt or you will have issues.
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Now this recipe makes about 10 quarts of pickles and you need a large kettle to brew it in.  I will also include the scaled down version which only makes two quarts.  Start out with a gallon of apple cider vinegar and a gallon of water.  I like to buy the distilled reverse osmosis water for pickles because our water goes through a water softener and isn’t the best for canning.
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Dump in 16 cups of sugar, which is about 6 pounds.  And 1 1/4 cups of salt. 
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Cook this over some medium high heat and stir until all the sugar and salt is dissolved.
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Then let it just come to a boil and turn off the heat.  I remove from the heat, take off the lid and let it cool to room temperature.

OK this is where the fun starts.  You’ve made your brine and it is cooled, the jars are washed, and the cucumbers are clean.
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Get yourself some dill, onions, garlic cloves and some dried red peppers.  The onions will be cut into quarters or halves if they are really small.  Mine are little because they came out of my garden and they aren’t very big yet.  The garlic needs to be peeled.  Are you overwhelmed yet?  Hang in there, these pickles are so worth it!
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So in the bottom of each quart jar, put a piece of onion, a clove of garlic and a red pepper. If you like your pickles with a little more kick add another red pepper to the top of the jar.  I like to do seven jars at a time because that’s how many fit in my canner.  But it also depends on how many pickles you have to can.
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Add a sprig of dill to each jar.
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The 4-6 inch ones are better sliced and put into the jar first.  Then the baby ones fit nicely on top.  Or if you have all baby ones just start packing them in whole, standing the bottom ones on end.
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Fill the jars with brine up to the lower part of the rim, which is usually one inch from the top of the jar.  Any leftover brine should be kept refrigerated.
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Make sure you wipe the top of the rim to remove any dirt or whatever else might be there.  Then place the lid on and screw the ring on tight.

OK now we are to the part where you throw out all knowledge of the proper way to hot water bath pickles.  Stay with me here and I promise this will give you crunchy delicious pickles!
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Place the jars into a hot water bather.  I like to do this in the garage on the gas stove because my stove will not work with these canners. 
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Fill the canner with enough water so that it is one inch over the lids.  Cover and turn on the heat!
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Put a thermometer into the water and watch closely!  When it reaches 180 degrees, set a timer for 30 minutes.  Stay close by because you do not want the temp to go above 185 degrees.  You must maintain this temp (180-185) for 30 minutes.  This is just below boiling.  DO NOT let the water boil, that’s what makes your pickles soft.  And yes it is dark outside, this was about 9:30 at night.
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After 30 minutes, remove the jars from the water and let them cool.  And no matter how tempting it is, do not press on the center of the lid to make it pop.  It will do this on its own when all the air is removed.
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These need to cool to room temperature.  And try not to let any drafts blow on the jars.  Now I’m off to bed and these can set until morning.
Ahhhh, perfect!  They all sealed!  Oh Happy Day!

Here’s the brine recipe which makes 10 quarts:
1 gallon apple cider vinegar
1 gallon water
16 cups sugar (approx 6 lbs)
1 1/4 cups canning salt
Or the scaled down version which makes 2 quarts:
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons canning salt

NOTE:  One bushel of cucumbers (2-4 inch size) makes approximately 40 quarts of pickles.

The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.  My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.  Psalm 145:20-21

Monday, July 19, 2010


Berries are one of the easiest things to freeze.  I like to freeze them individually on cookie sheets.  That way I can take out just how many I need, whether it is four cups for a pie or just a handful for a smoothie.
First you need to sort through the berries, picking out any twigs, leaves, bugs,  whatever is hiding in there.
Then lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Put into the freezer for a couple of hours or until the berries are froze solid.
After they are frozen remove from freezer and  run a spatula under them to loosen them from the tray.

 Then just pour them into freezer containers.  I like to use these quart size ones.  They are available at any department store and come five in a package for under $3.  And they are reusable every year!
 All berries freeze well this way.  I do my strawberries, blueberries and raspberries the same way.

And these containers fit well into the door space of my freezer so they are easy to grab when you want all three kinds of berries for a  berry smoothie!

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.  By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.  
Hebrews 11:7