Sunday, August 16, 2009

36 Things: Make Pickles

I don't know if now having two items knocked off my 36 Things I Want To Do Before I Turn 37 list counts exactly as momentum, but they make a damn good start.

I've been wanting to make pickles for a while. Crown Bar, a fabulous pub we like to go to near our house, serves homemade pickles with their organic, grass-fed beef burgers. Or at least they used to; the last few times we've been in they have been out of pickles. This made me think that maybe they have stopped making the delicious pickles, and I started to panic, how will I get my perfect pickle fix?

I guess I just have to make them myself. Our friends Randy and Shari have a big garden and I asked them to grow some pickling cucumbers this year and promised that I would make pickles in return. Shari gave us a big bag of cucumbers today and I ran to Fred Meyers to get jars and tongs and salt and away I went.

Quite a few friends of mine have been jarring jams and jellies lately, but no pickles. I've seen a few recipes that sort of marinate the cucumbers in brine, but aren't actually jarred and I thought I would rather do it the right way and then they will last a long time.

It's a pretty easy process, and I am now slightly embarrassed that I never tried any canning before, but there are so many recipes and so many different instructions that I was starting to get intimidated until I watched a couple videos on YouTube (the series from the woman below are excellent) and realized how amazingly easy it was going to be. The worst that could happen was some broken glass, or a scalded hand, (or some botulism) and I could live with that.

This biggest pain is sanitizing everything, but it is super easy now that we have a nice dishwasher that can sanitize. Also, it seemed to take up a lot of containers and bowls. Nothing out of control, though.

It was quite enjoyable to pack the ingredients into the jars and pour the boiling vinegar mixture through a funnel; I felt like a mad scientist.

It took 3 hours to make 12 small jars (including the sanitation in the dishwasher) and about $18 in start up costs, not including the cucumbers themselves but including the jars, pickling salt, vinegar, jar tongs, jalapenos, fresh dill, and garlic. You have to replace the thin metal lids every time you reuse a jar. The box of pickling salt will probably last me the rest of my life.

Also, I think investing in the $35 pan that comes with the rack to put the jars in while you are boiling them will be a great asset. I read that in a pinch you can just put towels under the jars in the boiling water to keep them from knocking into each other, but it was a pain to keep the towels in place and the jars knocked around anyways. It would have been much, much faster if I could have processed more than 3 jars at one time.

The next time I make pickles, it is going to go quicker and I won't be as worried.

I can't wait to taste these babies, but the recipe said I need to wait a week before tasting. It didn't explain why, however. I might cheat and open one jar sooner.


  1. I should try this. When I was a kid my mom use to make her own pickles (kim chee too). She'd make a brine in this huge crock, drop in the cucumbers, place a plate over top, weigh it all down with a foil wrapped stone, drape a dish rag over the top, and stick the whole thing in a corner of our basement. It was my job to go down there and spoon the goo off the top until the cucumbers were sufficiently pickled. Your way sounds way more pleasant.

  2. yeah,um, I think there is a reason I have never been drawn to kim chee....

  3. Next time you can borrow our canner. It goes quicker if you have more than one pot. We'll be making relish this week hopefully and would love to swap a jar with you. We'll do dill pickles as well but probably not until next week.