Sunday, 5 August 2018

In a pickle

One of the things I missed most when I moved to the UK as a kid was the lack of dill pickles. The lack of good food generally, come to think of it. Sure, the chocolate was better and you get a lovely cup of tea, but the food was almost uniformly lousy, the pizza were appalling and you couldn't even get a nice crisp dill pickle to liven up your sandwich.

The North Wales culinary landscape was pretty miserable in 1985.

Things are much improved. However, I still find the dill pickles a bit hit and miss. Too sweet a lot of the time, or too floppy, or just a bit 'meh'. So I'm making my own.

As I'm not sure how they will turn out, I'm starting with two different recipes.

My new friend-of-a-friend-via-Facebook, the very ace Lisa D, suggested this particular recipe. She's an ex-pat Canadian with excellent taste in many things (i.e. we agree with each other) so that's my first attempt.

Refrigerator pickles aren't proper preserves; they are only good for 2-3 weeks. I'm not sure how many pickles I'll need in that short a time, so I'm only trying one jar for this one. What I have in the cupboard is a much smaller jar than the recipe uses so I've halved the amount of vinegar. I'm using a generous sprig of fresh dill, a peeled clove of garlic (because I like it) and a teaspoon of sea salt. I've sliced the pickles about pound-coin thickness because I prefer them thicker than her wafer thin style.

It takes about 3 minutes to do, and is an absolute doddle.  If these are good I'm going to be delighted.

I liked the idea of longer-lasting pickles too, so I'm doing a more traditional recipe with the majority of jars.

Unlike the massive farms these people seem to have, producing kilo after kilo of cucumbers that require industrial scales of production, I have one plant that escaped the slugs. Downsizing needed.
I swapped the unit of measurement from 1 cup to 1/4 of a cup, and kept proportions the same. so: 1/4 cup table salt, 1 1/4 cups of water, 2 3/4 cups of white wine vinegar, simmered for 10 minutes to dissolve the salt. I put a large sprig of fresh dill, peeled garlic and one fresh chilli pepper (also from the garden) in each jar before stuffing them as full of cucumber as possible.
Because my cucumbers aren't a specific "for pickling" cultivar, they do have more seeds than is usual for dill pickle.  I'm doing some jars with slices and some with spears that I've trimmed the seeds from to see if that keeps them crunchier.
I also read on a number of recipe sites that the blossom end of the cucumber contains enzymes that make it go floppy, so I followed that advice too and trimmed the ends off.

To allow the pickles to last long term, I put all the jars on a folded tea towel in my big stock pot, covered them with boiling water and simmered for 15 minutes. The Internet assures me that will work just as well as a pressurised canner (and obviously the Internet is always factual - ha!) so that's what I did.
Don't worry, I did add more water

When I lifted the jars out (carefully) I could see one wasn't sealed properly so we'll not store that one and eat it soon. The other 4 looked much better, bulging because of the heat, contracting to a vacuum seal as they cooled. They are the duller green I associate with pickles, and I'm very much looking forward to trying them! A shame I have to wait about a month before opening them - I promise I'll update you.

Having been away for 12 days, I had rather a glut of produce to deal with.  I have now washed, trimmed, blanched and frozen over 4kg of French beans, swapped 2 dozen quail eggs for courgette to make fritters, and enjoyed salads of tiny tomatoes with red onion.

I know I say it a lot, but I really do love my garden.

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