Sunday, August 22, 2010

Risking the Pickles

Now that I am done with school it's up to me to teach myself new things.  I find it a lot harder to do now than when I was in school.  It's a risk to learn new things because you might fail.  Which is funny because of course you WILL fail.

So far I have learned how to knit cables, drive a stick shift, and make pickles.  The first cabling project I made I had to restart about 7 times, but I didn't care.  Knitting mistakes bother me very little, the only thing you waste is time, and I don't feel it's too much wasted because I knit for the act of knitting, not for the finished product.  I was very worried and scared of making a mistake while learning to drive a stick because I was afraid a mistake would lead to an accident and then death.  There were some scary moments, but I made it through, and I'm much more confident in my driving now.  I'm not so sure what my mistake of making pickles was...maybe that I left the cinnamon stick in the jars so I think I have 4 or 5 jars that taste like Christmas.

Making pickles was the most mystifying.  I didn't know really what I needed or what to do.  Turns out just some equipment and very expensive spices.  I think pickling is one of the easiest things I've ever cooked.  Far easier than pie, and more fun than cookies.  I even bought and installed a shelf in the laundry room to store all my bread and butter pickles in.  I only made that one kind because they are my favorite and my Oma used to make them.

First to make pickles, you cut up the cucumbers and the onions and mix them with canning salt and let them set in the fridge for 4 hrs (or over night).  Then you drain and rinse them.  Next you combine the spices in a big pot while waiting for the larger pot full of water heat to boiling with the empty jars in it.  This is to sterilize the jars.  You also boil the lids too.  The spices include sugar, cinnamon, allspice, clove, mustard seeds, and turmeric.  Turmeric is the worst...all my white tea towels are now stained yellow.  No big deal, they were bought with possible stains in mind. 

Then you add white vinegar and apple cider vinegar and heat to boiling. I think that at this point is when I would remove the cinnamon stick.  The cinnamon, clove and allspice are all added in berry/stick form as well as powdered form.  I think the cinnamon stick may be left out entirely.  Of course, early (but not too early) in my college career, I had several bad experiences with cinnamon liquor, and I've never really felt kindly to any cinnamon flavor or scent since.

Then the cucumbers and onions are added and the mixture is reheated to boiling.  This is one of my favorite parts, I like watching the bland, sorta-lame-in-comparison cucumbers change color and texture into delicious pickles.

In the mean time, take out the sterilized jars and set them on a towel and prepare all your tools.  You DO need the wide mouth funnel, it is worth the money to buy.  My mom and my pickling friend never heard of the measuring stick, but it came with the pickling kit I bought, and I found it quite helpful.  You rest it on the edge of the jar to help measure how high the pickles are filling the jar.  There is also a magnetic stick to pick the lids out of the boiling water.  I feel this wasn't too necessary and made it harder because it kept on grabbing two lids at once.

Finally you fill the jars with the pickles.  First you put in the pickles and then add the syrup sauce after until the jars are full to about 1/2 inch from the top.  Then the lids are put on and the pickles are put back into the larger pot and boiled for 10 minutes.  My favorite part of it all is next.  When you remove them and let them set you can hear the lids pop in and that's how you know you did everything right.  If they don't pop in, there isn't a good seal and you have to eat them right away and not store them in your pantry, or laundry room in my case.

The scariest part of all of it is the very large pot of boiling water.  I bought the cheapest one I could find at Kroger and I kept vividly imagining it bursting open and spilling boiling hot water every where.  I don't think I could ever be brave enough to use a pressure cooker!

No comments: