During the month of August, we have been highlighting locally-grown produce. We are highlighting how to buy various produce, store it and how to prepare it with tasty recipes. Cucumbers have now arrived. They are starting to multiply in backyard gardens and are more affordable when buying in quantity at a farmer’s stand.
If you enjoy them freshly sliced with just a bit of dill sprinkled on top, you will really enjoy them made into quick fresh refrigerated pickles.
Even the novice cook can feel successful in making quick fresh refrigerated pickles. The first trick is to know which end of the cucumber to trim before slicing into wedges or thick slices.
Cucumbers have a stem end and a blossom end. The blossom end is the very first growth of the cucumber and contains enzymes which can cause softening. This end is where the blossom attached to the cucumber. It’s important to slice the blossom end off. Trim just 1/16 of an inch. This will keep the pickles from softening.
Next, choose a clean glass gallon jar. If you do not have a glass jar that size, then choose a large glass bowl with a small plate to cover. Glass containers are best to use because pickles are made with large amounts of vinegar. Since vinegar is an acid, it could penetrate plastic or even react with porous metal containers like aluminum or galvanized metal.
A one-gallon container holds five pounds of fresh cucumbers. Do not use copper, iron, galvanized metal containers or lead-glazed crocks. Other 1 to 3 gallon food-grade containers may be used if they are lined inside with a clean food-grade plastic bag. Do not use garbage bags or trash can liners.
The first step in making pickles is to make the brine. This is the vinegar solution that makes cucumbers into pickles. It’s important to bring the mixture to a boil to dissolve the salt. Once it boils, turn off the heat and let it cool. Glass containers may crack if boiling water is poured into them.
Next, prepare the cucumbers. First wash in water slightly warmer then the cucumber. This will release the dirt more easily. Drain and begin by slicing off the blossom end. If you are using baby cucumbers, leave them whole. Large cucumber can be sliced on the diagonal.
The last step is to add the other ingredients to the containers, followed by the cucumbers and, lastly, the brine. Pickles can last in the refrigerator for two weeks.
Here is a bit of trivia from the CHOP CHOP magazine. The sour taste of the pickles comes from the added vinegar as well as the natural process of fermentation, which uses healthy bacteria to convert the vegetables’ own sugar into tart lactic acid!
Easy Dill Pickles
5 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
¾ cup white vinegar
1 1/2 pounds cucumbers
3 garlic cloves, peeled
4 large dill sprigs1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
If using a bowl, place the plate on top to keep the cucumbers under the brine. Enjoy!
Recipe taken from Chop Chop Magazine
For more information on preserving fruits and vegetables, visit the Penn State Food Safety website at: http://foodsafety.psu.edu/preserve.html