I have been growing and preserving fruits and vegetables for most of my adult life. It tastes wonderful, is easy to do and fun? Anyway, I hear more and more people are getting into it. Left to right are my Amish paste tomatoes (like Roma), pinto green beans (these, picked at the green stage, are incomparable), dill pickles, strawberry jam, bread and butter pickles, wild plum jam and green peppers. So, listen up foodies and gardeners too.
This recipe is for my famous dill pickles. Yes, I say famous because they were chosen for Smith and Hawken's the GARDENERS' COMMUNITY COOKBOOK that benefited Second Harvest (Alice Waters, Thomas Keller and Emelie Tolley among others have recipes in it too). They took creative license with my recipe so here's the real deal.
1 quart white vinegar (5% acidity)
3 qts. water
1 cup canning salt
Bring to a boil.
To pint or quart canning jars (wide-mouthed are easiest), add sprig of fresh dill, 1 dried red chili pepper and 1 clove of garlic and 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. of alum added to each jar. Use a mandolin to slice pickling cucumbers (not the kind in the store for salads) and arrange in the jar. If you are a fellow perfectionist, layer or arrange them carefully and your jar will be beautiful. Pour the boiling brine over the cukes and seal the jar. Now here's the decision you'll have to make for yourself. This is an old farm recipe and the farm wives used to invert the jar after sealing until cool, then set upright and stored away. Nowadays, the extension folks don't like this method. They want you to give the pickles a waterbath which to me ruins my product. I simply put the finished product in my fridge and they keep for at least a year till I begin the process anew each spring...I can't tell you how many fans I have that tell me they've never had a better dill pickle. Guaranteed.
I need to add here that if you've never canned before you will need equipment and a general knowledge of the process. Don't let this scare you away. Get a Ball (as in Ball jar) canning guide. It is thorough, has pictures, many recipes and will give you step by step instructions. Also, the equipment is inexpensive and can even be bought at garage sales for next to nothing.