Wednesday, August 18, 2010

24 Degrees and Smoke

Ike and I have been back at home for a few days now and still are unpacking.  I was looking forward to finally relaxing away the last two weeks of summer vacation with only a few 'must do' items on my list.  Sadly, I think I've missed out on the Saskatoon berry season here, but it has been so very dry here this summer.....I probably didn't miss too much in the way of berries.  Also for the first time in my life I've heard the weather forecast including smoke.  The forecast for today.....24 C and smoke.  Well, they were bang's 24 degrees and smokey in my's a little unnerving as 70% of the province is in 'extreme fire danger' with 175,807 hectares of forests already burned.  (That's 434,426 acres or 679 section)
While I does seem that I've missed out on the Saskatoon crop this year, I did manage to get in on some pickling cucumbers as a neighbour had an extra 25 lb crate of cukes sitting around.  Normally I like to choose each cucumber myself and I pick small ones that will pack better into the 1 liter canning jars I use, but this time I had no choice.  Wow these cucumbers were huge.......the size you might get along side a smoked meat sandwich in a Kosher deli.  I could only fit 4 in a jar:(  This created some pause for me as I hummed over my options.  After hearing stories on my recent visit home about how my dads' baba would keep a 45 gallon wooden barrel of pickles and one full of sauerkraut in her porch all winter......I got to thinking I might be able to do something similar if not a bit smaller scale.  So I pulled a 3 gallon crock out of the basement and gave it a good washing, filled it with scrubbed clean cucumbers and seasonings and salt water right up to the top.  This was a much better use for those jumbo sized cucumbers and was much faster for me as well. 
I still managed to can up 7 liters of  the usual vinegar dill pickles using the smallest of the cucumbers that I could find, and they are all now sealed and waiting in my basement.  After a week of fermenting (now doesn't that sound delicious) in the crock on my kitchen counter I will move them to a cooler place and eventually into a cupboard in the garage where it will be much cooler come winter.  And just like my great grandmother........I can yell at Ike not to put his hands in the pickle jar:)
I actually prefer salt water pickles to vinegared ones.......and since I've made almost 4 gallons of them.....I sure hope they turn out properly!  They are much less work than regular pickles (due to the fact that I did not can them), so you might want to give them a try.

Moms' Salt Water Dill Pickles
To each 1 liter (1 quart) canning jar add:
1 clove of garlic (cut in half)
2 heads of dill (substitute 2 tsp of dill seed if unavailable)
1 small dried red chili pepper
1/8 tsp pickling spice
2 black pepper corns
3"x3" piece of horse radish leaf or root the size of your baby finger
about 1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 level tbsp pickling salt (coarse salt)

Prepare cucumbers by soaking in ice water for a few hours.  Scrub clean and cut off the very ends of each cucumber.  Pack your clean canning jars with cucumber and add all spice ingredients as listed.  Pour salt into 1/2 cup of boiling water and stir to dissolve.  Pour this into filled canning jars and top up with remaining cup of boiling water ...filling to leave 1/2 inch head space.  Seal jars with clean new snap lids and leave to seal.  If you are more comfortable using a water bath to process jars, use method outlined here.
If you are doing this on a larger scale like I am trying you will not need to seal the container.  I filled my 3 gallon crock with cucumbers and 9 times the listed ingredients...since my crock held about nine liters.   After topping up with enough water to cover the cucumbers, I placed a small dish inside the crock that I could weight down to submerge the pickles.  Then I covered the crock with a clean tea towel.  After one week I will see if they taste 'pickled' enough.....and if they do I will move them to a cooler location.  I will then remove some of them into a smaller container that will fit in my fridge for daily use.

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