Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pickles

I have work up the wazoo this week and it's going to stay that way for awhile. Work, work, work, work. So when the Sister missionaries decided to make an unannounced house call, it was hard to smile and invite them in for a chat. Then again, I knew I'd rot for eternity if I *didn't* invite them in for at least a moment because it was just really hot and the girls looked baked. So I invited them in, refilled their water bottles, and then figured that since I was obligated to chat for a few minutes (and the upstairs of our non-airconditioned home is no place to just hang out and noway was I inviting them downstairs where noone has picked up the toys in three days) that I could at least pick through the garden for TGTB (things getting too big) while we talked. Before I knew it I'd fished out about ten big-ish cucumbers. So we wrapped up our conversation and I went in and washed off the pickles and stuck them in the fridge. Then it was back to work.

A few hours later I got the call that the dogs were ready to come home from the groomer. By that time I was at a good stopping point with work. Max was at the pool with a friend, so Chris and I took the twins and went to the store for shampoo (I'd been using the dog shampoo on the twins and Chris thought that was somehow bad/wrong. It's just SHAMPOO in a more expensive bottle! And it gave them a nice shiny coat.) and pickling spices. Then we got Dairy Queen, dog food, and the dogs (in that order).

Back home it was dinner time, so I read through the pickling recipes, googled pickling thoughts, and totally uncertain that any of this will be edible, put the pickles in ice water while I made hamburgers on the grill for everyone else. After dinner I mixed up the brine and spices (technically, spices in mesh spice thingy, not actually floating in brine) and simmered what I was supposed to simmer and boiled what I was supposed to boil . . . it was the usual hairball off-the-cuff bit that canning something for the very first time (without my aunts standing behind me waving a wine glass and offering opinions such as "you can't even taste the hot peppers! Someone send [Uncle] Denny to the store for some jalepenos." That isn't hairball at all and comes out great.)

The thing is, when you hunt around on the internet for pickling recipes, everyone is always in search of some way to make the pickles crunchier and not soft. But doing a proper water bath pretty much guarentees that the pickles will be somewhat soft because 15 minutes at a full boil--well that cooks the cucumber, see? So some of the recipes cheated and had you pour in the brine at a full boil and then quick put the lid on and not do a water bath at all. But I'm too afraid of killing someone to try this. I thought about it . . . when I eat a kosher dill pickle SPEAR--I want crunch. But pickles don't cost very much and I don't eat them all the time. So if I want a pickle just to eat as a pickle--I can go buy a proper Vlasic and do that.

A pickle that you put in a hamburger though--you don't put that in for the crunch. You put it in for the flavor--no? I mean, that's why the relish that my aunt home-canned was so incredibly good. It had some onions in there and some fabulous flavor. It was just . . . I could almost have eaten it plain out of the jar. Almost. It was relish. It went on hotdogs and hamburgers. I want THAT recipe.

But until I get that recipe, I'll make dill sandwhich pickles. I'll cut the tops and bottoms off the pickle and carefully slice the pickles lengthwise into thin sandwich slices and pack them in tightly into the pint jar with the dill on the bottom, then add the garlic and the mustard seed, and the bay leaf, and the red pepper, and more dill to the top, then pour in the brine, and then the lid--and then process for the full fifteen minutes. It's okay if they're soft. They just have to taste good. They're going in my sandwich or my hamburger.

Phew! I'm glad that's solved. The pressure to find a way to make them crunchy was ruining the fun.

And it smelled heavenly. And the finished jars look like home-canned sandwich pickles. And now, back to work because the whole family has eye-exams at the end of August and if you add that to the back-to-school clothes and semester tuition for piano lessons . . . sheesh. August is expensive.

1 comment:

Aunt Charlotte said...

Get Mom's recipe for bread and butter pickles from Connie- they are great!