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It only seems appropriate that I follow up Ice Cream Week with a series on pickles…. they go together so well, after all! Or at least so the old joke goes; I wouldn’t know, having never tried them together myself. And no, by the way, I am not pregnant. Just in case you are curious.
And before I go any further, I should probably make it plain that when I say “pickles” I mean “dill pickles”. I cannot stand bread-and-butter pickles, so if anybody wants to read about them on my blog, they will have to do a guest post for me because those things are not going to pass through my kitchen. Just sayin.
Last year was my first attempt at making pickles, and I didn’t blog about it because I was very unsure of myself and the whole process. One year later, I’m convinced: making pickles is easy as pie. Easier, actually, because you know how tricky pie crust can be at times. AND homemade pickles are much better than store-bought, guaranteed, hands down, no question. I made probably 4 or 5 jars last year, and we enjoyed each and every one tremendously, and I was very sad when I had to resort once again to Vlasic and Mt. Olive.
This year, I was able to get a great deal on pickling cucumbers at the farmer’s market and I had to deal with them immediately, but I didn’t have enough canning jars for all of them, so I branched out and made refrigerator and freezer pickles as well. You get the benefit of my excess pickling adventure because now I can compare the 3 methods in light of my QECH philosophy and help you decide which way to go.
First, though, let’s talk about pickling in general. Each of the 3 methods has some things in common: No matter which method you choose, pickles are made by soaking sliced or whole cucumbers in a brine seasoned with dill and garlic.
I chose the Fresh Pack (canning) method first, followed by Refrigerator andFreezer. There’s also the fermented kind, which is called a few different names depending on where you’re reading about it, but I haven’t been brave enough to try it yet (although I believe it’s probably the healthiest of methods).
The ingredients for basic dill pickles – whether you can, refrigerate or freeze them – are basically the same.
You will need pickling cucumbers, which are currently widely available in my area at farmer’s markets. Typical cucumbers are too large, and have too many seeds, which you don’t really want in your pickles. Pickling cucumbers are small, and should be dark and firm. If they are light colored and feel soft anywhere, they’re too ripe and won’t result in crispy pickles. Ideally, they should also have lots of warts.
Vinegar is part of the brine used to soak the cucumbers. Plain old regular 5% vinegar does the trick.
Regular table salt is not going to cut it for pickles, because of the iodine and anti-caking agents, which will do funny things to your pickles. Most experts recommend purchasing salt made especially for pickling – called, ironically, pickling salt – but I just can’t bear to spend extra money on an ingredient with only one use if another multi-tasking ingredient will do. The experts are divided, but plenty of people say that sea salt is just as good as pickling salt, so that is what I use, and I’ve been happy with the results. (Side note: you should be using sea salt instead of regular old table salt anyway.)
You will need some fresh dill weed for the best flavor. I actually bought 3 little dill plants at my farmer’s market the day I made my pickles, which was just perfect timing. If the dill is starting to flower, so much the better!
Garlic cloves add so much essential flavor to pickles, you really can’t make them without it. Just plain old garlic cloves will work well.
I like to add black peppercorns to my pickles, too, but not everyone does, so this ingredient is optional.
Sugar is essential to the refrigerator and freezer methods, unfortunately. It’s just part of the preservation process. I used my regular raw sugar that I use for everything, and it worked well.
Come back tomorrow to learn all about fresh-pack canned pickles!
Have you ever made pickles? What method/ingredients do you use?
Read all the posts in this series:
Find more inspiring and informative posts at Make Your Own Monday, Motivational Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, The Bulletin Board, Better Mom Monday, Natural Living Monday, Trivium Tuesday, Titus 2sday, Teach Me Tuesday, Hip Homeschool Hop, Titus 2 Tuesday, Delicious Dishes, Open Call Tuesday, Tiny Tip Tuesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Works For Me Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesday, Allergy-Free Wednesday, The Mommy Club, Encourage One Another, Thought Provoking Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Homemaking Link Up, Keep it Real Thursday, Frugal Thursday Rewind, Your Green Resource, Homeschooling on the Cheap, Thrifty Thursday, Fellowship Friday, Fight Back Friday, I'm Lovin' It, Weekend Bloggy Reading, Weekend Whatever, Snacktime Saturday