Sunday, August 14, 2011

Your questions answered about pickles

Hi Mom (hope I can call you that) -
I just came across your blog on canning & McClure's pickles - yum!!

My mother-in-law used to can the BEST pickles but never wrote down the recipe and she passed in 2006.  Needless to say, it's been a LONG time since I've had a decent pickle.  I have been toying with the idea of trying to make some so your blog has intrigued me.

While I can follow most of what you are saying, some of it is very foreign to me - like "place in a non reactive vessel - a pickling crock or large ceramic bowl works great.  Mix 1/2 cup pickling lime mixes with 1 gallon water.  Be careful not to inhale pickling lime dust. "  The bowl - Can I just use a large dark Teflon pot like I make pasta in? Not sure what NON REACTIVE means?  Also I looked up Mrs. Wages pickling lime - comes in a packet.  So I just add 1/2 cup of the packet mix to water?

I'm sure these sound like simple or even stupid questions to you but hey, I need to ask someone.  I want good pickles, don’t I?  Knew you would understand!

Thanks for helping me out!!!


Hi Fran....don't worry about asking questions - ask away!  What kind of pickles did your mother-in-law make?  There's basically 2 different kinds of cucumber pickles....fresh pickles and fermented pickles.  Fresh pickles are made in a vinegar and salt brine, and they are preserved "fresh" by canning them in a boiling water bath or even kept in your fridge in a jar.   McClure's pickles are a great example of a fresh pickle.  Fresh pickles can be sweet, like bread and butter pickles, or sour.   Fermented pickles are a different species - check this recipe for kosher dills, which are made in a pickling crock and ferment for a long while before they are ready to eat.  When the fermentation stage is done, they can be preserved by processing them in a boiling water bath, or just keeping them in a jar in your fridge.   Preserving them in the fridge slows down the fermentation, but allows you  to reap the naturally occurring probiotics of fermentation.  The bottom line is, you don't buy products like Activia, you can grow your own.   That's what I do - every fall - in a pickling crock in my laundry room.   Examples of fermented pickles are sour kosher dills like you might get in a deli, they are olive colored and generally less crisp, or sauerkraut or kimchi.

To learn how to can food properly, there's no better place than the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  It will take the mystery out of the lingo like "headspace", "process", "adjust the bands", "boiling water bath canner" etc.   

For your first time making pickles, I'd recommend making a fresh pickle, because it's easier.   My favorite recommendation for a first time preserver is to make pickled green beans, because they are simple and beans are easier to pack in a jar than cucumbers.     I don't recommend using pickling lime for a beginning canner, either.   Pickling lime, or calcium oxide, is absorbed into a vegetable or fruit where it combines with it's natural pectin to form calcium pectate and thus a crispier pickle.  However, it requires lots of prep and careful rinsing and using a non-reactive (i.e. non metal) container.   There's a new product out there called "Pickle Crisp" made by Ball that is lots easier to use.   Here's how I'd use it to make a McClure's style pickle:

McClure's Style Fresh Dill Pickles

8 lbs small pickling cucumbers, sliced in half or quarters longwise
28 grape leaves
28 cloves of garlic (about 2 heads) peeled
16 dill heads, with sprigs (or 14 t. dill seeds)
Pickle Crisp
Optional 12 small dried hot chili peppers
5 cups vinegar (white or cider)
6 c. water
1/2 c. pickling salt

Place 2 cloves garlic. 2 grape leaves, 2 dill heads and 2 hot peppers and 1/8 t. Pickle Crisp in the bottom of wide mouth pint jars.   Pack with as many pickle halves and spears as possible tightly in each jar.  Prepare a brine with vinegar, water and salt by placing in all ingredients and stirring and heating until brine boils.  Fill jars to 1/2 inch headspace, place lids and bands and hand tighten. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Happy canning!


Missblue said...

Just found your blog as I was going to Eastern Market tomorrow to get cukes and such to try to make pickles. McClure's is my husband's favorite and I google for recipe. Hence I came upon your site. I too am from Ann Arbor. Looking forward to starting this recipe after my trip to Eastern Market tomorrow. Yeah, I know I live in Ann Arbor and yes, I do go to the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market, but I like to support Detroit and McClures has a table there all the time on Saturdays.

Missblue said...

Came across you site while looking for recipes to make McClure type pickles. Going to Eastern Market tomorrow to get supplies. McClure's is always set up there. I am also from Ann Arob and yep, I know the AA has a farmer's market too, but I love Eastern Market, more vendors and variety of fruits and veggies, plus I also stop in Hirt's too. Looking forward to trying out your recipe!

Cynthia said...

Hi Kathe - I love Eastern Market, too. When I was a kid my dad always took us there to get pickle making supplies.

Kelli said...

Thank you SO much for this recipe! I have been following your blog for a few years and everything I've made from your recipes has turned out fabulous! (I don't know how many Yooper Egg recipes I've had to print and pass along, thanks to you!)

These pickles are no different! I had never water-bathed pickles before, and tried your recipe. I will not be searching for another. In fact, I was paid the highest compliment and felt that you needed to be the recipient, as well. I was fortunate enough to have access to a pickle farmer's crop in August 2014 and he said that I have to pay him with a jar of pickles. I laughed and said sure, but I wasn't making any guarantees on my product, having never canned them before. Recently, that farmer opened the jar and said that they were THE BEST pickles they've ever received, and that his wife wanted the recipe! YOU, my lady, have impressed a Munger, MI pickle farmer! :)

Thank you, again, so much!!

Cynthia said...

Thanks Kelli!!!