I love you, a bushel & a peck- uh, pickle.

I was clearly born in the wrong era; I love making things from scratch & growing/canning/jarring my own stuff. I’ve even been trying to get back into sewing again, which is awesome. I think I’m going to try to start making some aprons… by hand. I don’t have a machine & honestly, my time at F.I.T. taking Fashion Design (plus that one time I saw a girl literally sew her two fingers together on one of those industrial sweatshop machines) just taught me I do better with a needle & thread. Although, come to think of it, I don’t know if many women back in the day had nose rings & semi-mohawks… eh. Maybe I wasn’t entirely born in the wrong era.

When it comes to the canning, I’m really excited to get started on some serious business. Yes, it’s time consuming. Yes, it does take more time than buying pickles from the store. Yes, you have to go buy the jars, then sanitize them, then thoroughly cook the product you’re filling them with, then process them, etc. But I really don’t want to hear the “I don’t have time for that!” line. Please remember this, women of today: your ancestors & female counterparts 100 years ago had way more to do in one day than you do. You have someone to watch your children, presumably, as you go to work. Or, your kids attend school while you’re at work, or maybe you don’t have an outside job, and you’re a housewife. You might still consider a .99¢ hamburger in a sack a dinner (or a microwaveable meal, or a boxed dinner from the prepared foods aisle in the supermarket), and maybe lament over the  lengthy process of driving through the aptly named ‘drive-thru’ or the oh-so-long drive to the store to get said item. Then you come home, perhaps yell at your children to do their homework/bathe/go to bed. Then, once they’re there, you might have a glass of wine and watch some DVR’d TV shows, or surf the internet for a while before you go to bed. That would’ve been considered an easy life to my great-grandmothers, or great-great grandmothers. None of them had fast food drive thru’s down the block or babysitters for their children; although if you listen to my grandmother, she’ll tell you she was the built-in babysitter, being the oldest of 7. One of my great-grandmothers scrubbed floors while pregnant, with two buckets- one with the soapy water, the other for when she was sick. The other one cooked & baked from scratch every night, long after her kids were grown & she had grand-kids. My mother has fond memories of going to that grandparents’ apartment in the Bronx as a child & smelling the German food cooking from the hallway. These were not women who had microwaves or McDonald’s nearby to feed their broods when hungry. And the women before them? They had even less convenience, and so on. So when you tell me you “don’t have time”… I want you to think about that. You have more time than you think.

(Okay, so, that’s not to say everything old is good, & everything new/convenient is bad… take a peek at these ads, for one little example… but that’s a WHOLE ‘nother post in and of itself!)

So yeah, I’m excited to start preserving & jarring my own food, and pickles have been on top of my to-do list from day one. Me? I’m not such a big pickle person. However, Jay loves pickles. So in my kitchen adventures, I find ways to incorporate them for him; whether through a quick 24-hour pickle recipe or fried pickles. Yeah, just for him (not really; almost everyone I know are big pickle people, so it’s for all of them, really). I do have a special waterbath pickle recipe put aside for when my canning kit gets here, but since it’s not here yet (HURRY UP DAMN YOU), I found another really quick & easy pickle recipe. This is a different kind of refrigerator pickle, one that lasts QUITE a bit longer than the one week my last one did. I gave one jar to my dad (part of his Father’s Day gift) & kept one for us. A big, massive, huge thanks to one of my new favorite websites, The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking, for these instructions. She also gives an explanation of “fridge pickles”:

Fridge pickles are a type of fresh pickle, but they’re stored in the fridge and not waterbath canned for shelf-storage. The other major branch of pickling involves fermenting (also called brining). Fermented pickles are usually stored in the fridge after they’ve reached the desired level of sourness at a cool-ish room temp of 70-ish degrees F. (Think LES full-sour versus a half-sour. They’re the same pickle, but one is fermented longer.)

The coolest thing about this “recipe” is that it’s fluid; it changes & is flexible enough where you don’t really have to go crazy. You can reuse a jar and a lid that you have in your house from tomato sauce or salsa (you really should be saving your glass jars, they’re awesome for tons of things from storage to this kinda stuff) or use a new one. You can adjust the brine to suit how much your making, and same with the amount of vegetables you have. You can use whatever kind of spices you want, too. And add whatever you like- peppers, cauliflower, onions, garlic, carrots, etc. Seriously, you can pickle anything this way.

I used one 24-ounce glass jar that once housed Barilla’s Basilico tomato sauce, and one smaller Classico jar that was about 16-ounces. The “recipe” says it’s for 1 quart or 2 pints which is 32 ounces, but I had 40 ounces of jar to fill. Because of this, I upped the measurements of the ingredients in the brine to 1 ½ cups of white vinegar, 1 ½ cups of filtered water and 1 ½ tablespoons of non-iodized salt. I also upped the spice measurements a bit too, the make up for the 6 extra ounces (I used pickling spice, dill seed, some dried dill, peppercorns, & some cloves of fresh garlic). Like I said, you could pickle anything with this method- beets, zucchini, whatever your little heart desires.

Pickles on day one.

REFRIGERATOR PICKLES (or whatever else you feel like pickling!)

Ingredients:

FOR ONE QUART OR TWO PINTS (32 oz):
  • 1 cup any kind of vinegar
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher or non-iodized salt
  • ¼-½ teaspoons each of desired spices (fennel, cumin, picking spice, dill seed, mustard seed, etc)
  • Cucumbers, or whatever you’re pickling (I did about a pound and a half of Kirby’s, cut into spears & added a clove of garlic to each jar plus a dash of hot pepper flakes to my dad’s jar… as far as the amount of vegetables you’ll need, she says:

Wash and cut up your vegetables and pack them into a clean jar. Use whatever veg you’ll eat (or put into a martini): cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, onions, garlic, etc. Weight of your starting produce will vary depending on what you’re pickling. Eyeball it at the market, and if you end up with too little veg, just use a smaller jar (or make more brine to account for extra space in the jar).)

Directions:

1. Boil the vinegar, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, put your dry spices in the dry jars, and then pack your veggies in the jars. If you prefer a less raw taste, you can blanch them first or even cook them in the brine.
2. Pour your just-boiled brine over the veggies in the jars. Wipe the mouths clean and seal.
3. DON’T SEAL TIGHTLY:

Don’t screw on the lid on as tightly as you possibly can or the lid might pop off when you go to open them in a couple weeks. Vinegar breaking down the veggies inside a jar causes a little release of gas, and leaving the lid loose will let that escape. [I know what you’re wondering and the answer is no. If your pickles have been stored in the fridge, it’s not possible for botulism spores to activate.]

4. Put them in the back of your fridge and forget about them for at least a week. “Two weeks is better, three is the best” according to her. They keep indefinitely, but if you’ve got some sitting around more than 6 months, I’d ditch ’em.

Day one (with my handwritten instructions visible, haha).

..

Same day, just a few hours later, after getting pretty ribbons tied on & labeled!
. …

This is an excellent way of making pickles if you don’t have a canning kit, or are afraid to get into the “real stuff.” They’re a bit more involved than the 24-hour kind but yet they’re still easy & don’t require any equipment. Plus, they’re just gorgeous. Oh, and probably delicious too. Although since they aren’t done yet, the jury, a.k.a. Jay, is still out on whether or not they’re as good as Bubbie’s pickles.

On another note, speaking of gorgeous… remember my salsa fresca? Well it went really quickly (actually almost overnight it vanished), so one night last week I made another little batch (in an 8-ounce Classico pesto jar, instead of using a full-size 16 oz jar on a little salsa), this time I made it HOT. I cut the cilantro & onions up smaller, added more tomato, and I added 2 jalapeno’s, and one of ’em seeds & all. WHOOOO BOY. Amazing. Hot, but a good heat. Surprising. Not as refreshing and clean as the first batch, but definitely more interesting! If you prefer a smoother salsa (*cough*Jay*cough*), use an immersion blender to blend it all up before jarring it. Like I said last time, adding roasted corn, black beans or different chili peppers & spices are always fun. Funny thing is, the people who claimed my latest batch of salsa was “too hot” ended up eating it an awful lot. Masochists? Or was it just that good?

Summer is the best time to make all of this, because you can use all fresh, in-season ingredients. So don’t be skurred! Try it. You’ll be surprised how easy & fun it is, and you’ll be wanting to experiment more & ordering a canning kit in no time.

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