Canning, Cooking

Cheerful sweet pickles

If we get snowed in this winter, one thing we will not have a shortage of is pickles. I’ve made so many pickles this summer I feel like I might turn into a pickle. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I have canned grape leaf pickles, spicy garlic dill pickles, fermented pickles and hot sriracha pickles. I’ve also done a few experimental pickling projects this summer.

A few weeks ago my friend Josh asked if I’d ever made pickled okra. I hadn’t and he gave me some to try. I recently read a really great article on okra from Our State magazine, the article mentioned eating okra raw. Now, I know okra is one of those love or hate foods for most. I like it fried and in gumbo, but eating it raw, I’m just not sure I’m that brave.

I’m actually not even sure I’m brave enough to eat it pickled, but Josh was so I gave it a shot. Josh so enjoyed my spicy sriracha pickles that I thought I would try pickling the okra with the same recipe. He said it is delicious and he’s already eaten almost an entire jar of them. I have to agree with his wife, however, who refers to whole okra as “alien fingers.” They did look rather intimidating and alien in the jar with the red sriracha brine.

Another pickling experiment I have been wanting to try for a while is a recipe called cheerful sweet pickles which I found in an old canning cookbook. Part of what intrigued me about the recipe is that you make it using those cucumbers which ripen under the vines before you see them and end up getting as large as footballs. I had several of these the other week and really didn’t want to waste them. The other intriguing part of this recipe is that it calls for Maraschino cherries.

The process for the pickles takes three days. On the first day, the large cucumbers are seeded, chopped into cubes, covered in salt and left to sit overnight. The next day, the cucumbers are covered in a brine of sugar, vinegar with cinnamon sticks and cloves. On the third day, Maraschino cherries and some red food coloring are added.

Sweet pickles are not usually my favorite, but these look so lovely I just couldn’t resist making some. The cookbook I used said they are great served with pork or roast or chopped and added to cream cheese to make a spread for sandwiches.

Here is the recipe:

Cheerful Sweet Pickles
• 9 cucumbers, yellow
• 1⁄2 cup salt
• 3 1⁄2 quarts water
• 1 pint vinegar
• 1 teaspoon whole cloves
•4 ounces maraschino cherries and juice
•2 teaspoons red food coloring

Directions: Peel, seed and cut cucumbers into cubes. Sprinkle cucumbers with salt and cover with water. Let stand overnight. In the morning heat to boiling and then drain. Loosely tie spices in cheesecloth and combine with sugar and vinegar. Heat to boiling. Pour over drained cucumbers and let stand overnight. The next morning heat to boiling and then simmer until cucumbers are tender – being careful not to overcook. Add cherries with juice and red food coloring. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and seal at once. Process in boiling water bath (212 degrees) for five minutes.

Canning, Cooking

In a real pickle

Homemade Grape Leaf Pickles

Who doesn’t like a pickle? Ok, well, I’m sure there are some who don’t, but that’s OK, more for us!

Summertime is in full swing and my cucumber vines are producing like crazy. I’m pretty excited about it because I love to can pickles.

This year I am growing a regular green pickling cucumber as well as a white cucumber. Both of these varieties look great in jars.

My biggest problem is making sure to check the vines thoroughly every day, otherwise I end up with a cucumber the size of a zucchini and too large to can. I have had quite a few that were almost too big, but I hated to waste them so I sliced them into spears to can.

So far this year I have made several different kinds of pickles and at the rate my vines are producing, I’ll probably make a few more kinds before summer is over. I have made a few batches of a spicy dill pickle, grape leaf pickles and I tried a Sriracha pickle as well.

I prefer salty, sour and spicy pickles. I’m not a sweet pickle fan, but my Dad does like bread and butter pickles so I will probably make a batch of those for him. The spicy dill pickle is really simple to make and the recipe is actual for a small batch so it’s great if you just have a few cucumbers from your own garden or the local farmers market. You can always increase the recipe to make a larger batch.

This year I’m also attempting to make some pickles the really old fashioned way — in a stone crock. My Mamma bought this crock at an auction a number of years ago and it has been sitting in our basement every since. Last year, at my friend’s suggestion, I made a jar of fermented pickles. They were very different, but delicious and fermented foods are supposed to be very good for you. I’m hoping my pickles fermented in the crock will turnout well.

Grape leaf pickles are my personal favorite, but that wasn’t always the case. I remember as a child we always canned green beans, tomatoes, stuffed peppers and pickles every summer. We normally just made dill pickles or sweet pickles, but one year Mamma wanted to make grape leaf pickles. Everything my Mamma ever cooked or prepared was normally delicious, but something didn’t go well with the pickles and they were terrible. It was a family joke for a long time. A few years after that, I tried some grape leaf pickles that my cousin had made and they were delicious. Now they are one of my favorites.

I couldn’t find a recipe online that I liked for the grape leaf pickles so I dug out all of our cookbooks from area churches to find one. The recipe is super simple. Put two grape leafs and a few grapes in jar then pack with cucumbers (I did some jars of whole and some sliced.) Make a brine with 10 cups water, 2 cups vinegar and 1 cup pickling salt. Heat to near boiling. Pour hot brine over pickles in jars Gentle shake jars to remove air bubbles. Top with heated lids (bring lids to boil in a small pan of hot water) and then add rim to jar. Put jars in a near boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Carefully remove jars from water (you can buy a special tool to lift jars out with) and place on a rack to cool. You will hear the lids make a popping noise when they seal. I would let the pickles pickle for at least three to four months before eating.

Grape leaf pickles do tend to be on the salty side and not everyone likes them. My dad and fiancé

Spicy Garlic Dill Pickles

both dislike them, but my great Uncle Ken and I love them so I made a special batch this year. I was particularly proud of the labels I made for my jars. I found a picture of my Mamma and me when we were canning pickles a few years ago and printed that out to use as the label for the jars.

Speaking of labels, if you like to can and give your canned goods away as gifts, there are tons of free label templates you can find online to make your canned gifts look really nice. Add ribbons or other extras to make them even more special. Most people realize the time and effort it takes to can and it’s not something a lot of people do anymore so most will consider a home canned gift a very special treat.