Adventures in Canning: Part 1
I've been a busy bee these past few months! I apologize for the lack of articles recently, but my plate has been pretty full. I have good news though! I have several articles planned for the next week or two, as well as the months to come, and I'm looking forward to producing more content. Thank you for your patience!
One of the things I've been working on lately is my garden. It's taken off and it's doing great! (Well, except for the cabbage and the broccoli. An army of caterpillars mowed through them. ) In particular, the cucumber vines have been growing prodigiously. Late last week I was cutting fully grown cucumbers off the vines, and by this Tuesday I had enough to make a batch of pickles! I have no prior experiences canning at all, but I've been looking forward to this all summer. Here's how it went:
Rather than making my own seasoning mixture from scratch (which I'll probably do in the future), for this first batch I decided that I would just buy a seasoning mixture and follow the instructions. I also made the decision not to look up a bunch of information online. I didn't want to get overwhelmed with details during my first experience. In preparation I went out and bought a big canning pot, a set of 12 pint jars, a bag of sugar, a jug of white distilled vinegar, and a packet of the bread and butter seasoning mixture. At home I sliced up all the cucumbers so that they'd be ready to go. I read through the instructions on the seasoning packet as well as what came with the jars. As per the directions, I sterilized the jars and prepared my pickling juice. Dividing the juice between the jars was probably the trickiest part. The pot was big and the jars were hot. Let's just say that between that, and shaking the jars to get the air bubbles out, my counters smelled like pickles for awhile. I immersed them in boiling water for 5 minutes, and then allowed them to stand in the water for an additional 5 minutes. And Voila, pickles! Honestly, the end was the hardest part. I wasn't sure whether any of the jars would seal or not and I spent the evening fussing over them. By morning though, all but one had sealed and I'm pretty pleased with the results.
I definitely learned a lot from this experience. Chiefly, that I need to have more and bigger jars next time. (I've already decided to put out a call for jar donations.) I ran out of jars before I ran out of cucumbers and I was left with about a third of the pickling juice. I also realized just how much the pickles shrink in the jars, and I'll be sure to pack them more tightly this next time around so that I can use them more effectively.
All in all, I consider it a success! I think they're delicious! I'll be keeping several for myself, and giving the rest as gifts. I'm eager to see how friends and family members like them. And for all of you who cringed when you read that I made bread and butter style pickles this time, I'm already planning on a batch of dill spears as soon as I've replenished my store of cucumbers.