Once you have cucumbers plants zipping along, all you need is patience and a good recipe. To me, a good pickle recipe takes only one day of actual handling of the cucumbers. However, to go strictly by taste, some of the best recipes take a few days. Both types of recipe are given here.
After you have all the “baby Gherkins” you need (at the rate of eating one pint a month, twelve pints should be enough, but they are nice gifts, too) you can begin letting the cucumbers mature to the size for dills, “bread and butters”, and for use in salads.
After that you can start trying to find friends who need cucumbers.
After that you can start trying to find enemies who need cucumbers.
After that you can start a cucumber stand.
After that you can attack the row with an ax, screaming . . .
Well, twenty-five plants will be too many once you get your Gherkins, so be prepared to do the unthinkable and till that row under after a time. Tell yourself, “A weed is any plant that is growing in the wrong place.” They make good fertilizer, anyway.
One other thought about pickles. Some people pressure-can everything they put into jars. Others do not. I never recommend that practice to anyone else. I do recommend that you follow the directions on pressure or hot-water canning to the letter, always. Also, whenever a pickle recipe calls for vinegar, it means “5% acidity apple cider vinegar” unless noted otherwise. It does NOT mean “4 ½% amber-colored, distilled, apple-cider-flavored vinegar”. In other words, get the real thing. The same for salt. Do not use regular table salt, but special salt for canning or at least get un-iodized salt.
Also, think about the quality of the water you use. High quality water is better, by far. I use a pitcher type filter with good results.
Now for the recipes.
2 gallons cold water
2 cups pickling lime
7 pounds cucumbers (about 1 gallon, but weigh them!)
2 quarts vinegar (see above, about vinegar)
1 Tbs. whole cloves
1-2 tsp. whole pickling spices
1 Tbs. canning salt
4 pounds sugar
Mix lime with 2 gallons of water. Add cucumbers. Soak 24 hours. Drain and rinse well. Cover cucumbers with clear water and soak 3 hours. Drain. Mix vinegar, spices, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Pour over cucumbers and soak 12 hours. Dump all into a pan and boil hard for 35 minutes. Place into boiling hot jars. Cap with hot lids. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Kosher Dill Pickles
1 cup pickling salt
3 quarts water
1 quart vinegar (see above about vinegar)
Pack cucumbers as tightly as possible into clean quart jars. Into each jar, also place:
1 clove garlic
2 heads dill (fresh) or 2 tsp. dried seed
1 cayenne pepper
Bring brine to a rolling boil. Pour brine into each jar to cover all contents. Cap with hot lids. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Allow to cure for six weeks before eating. The quantities for the brine above will make 7 to 8 quarts of pickles (or about two gallon jars, but then you cannot hot-water bath them. Many people never do and they make fine pickles.) Cucumbers may be whole, spears, chunks, or slices, but whole ones stay crisper.
8 cups sliced cucumbers*
2 cups sliced onion*
1 Tbs. canning salt
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 cup vinegar (see above about vinegar)
1 tsp. mustard seed
½ cup chopped bell pepper
1 tsp. celery seed
Stir salt into cucumbers and onions. Let soak for one hour. Heat remaining ingredients to a boil. Add cucumber mixture with all its juice. Bring to a boil again. Pack into boiling hot jars. Cap with hot lids. Process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath. Yield: 5-6 pints. *Chop or grind to make relish instead.
1 cup chopped cucumber
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup chopped bell pepper
¼ cup chopped onion
1 cup Italian dressing (vinegar/oil type)
Mix and enjoy!
photo credit: wikipedia