Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pickles! (Our First Attempt.)


When I was over at Allie's house helping with her bee situation, she gave me a few gigantic homegrown cucumbers. There's no sense of scale in this picture, so you'll have to take my word: these cukes were huge!

Last year, we got cornichon seeds from Christine, but some creature ate the baby plants all the way to the ground. My gardening is all about the battles with the snails. Sigh.

I had grown French tarragon with the goal of pickling cornichons, and so even though these particular cucumbers were humorously large, I decided to follow the recipe for cornichons.

Following a single recipe was easier said than done. There were all sorts of contradictory instructions online and in our cookbooks. In the end, we improvised, using what sounded tasty, and using what we had on-hand.

We cut the cucumbers into spears, and salted them with kosher salt (regular table salt has additives that do not work well in pickling). We left these overnight, and in the morning the cucumbers has exuded about an inch of water. This is a very typical Hungarian preparation for cucumbers. I can't imagine how many salad cucumber I salted in my childhood.

Do you notice our vintage enamel cookware? We've been finding these at estate sales. This white-and-blue stockpot is from Poland. The couple who owned it had a neat trick: they stuck a wine cork under the enamel handle. While these handles typically get dangerously hot during cooking, a cork stays cool, so it is easy to lift the lid. Very clever!

I harvested the tarragon, washed it, and cut it into sprigs that were about an inch long. I suppose I could have left them long, but I liked the shorter size.

Gardeners who do not apply pesticides have to be extra vigilant about removing varmints from their crops. And, of course, at our house all interesting creepy-crawlies get photographed before being chucked into the compost pile. I wonder what this guy is? Perhaps a cabbage white caterpillar?

We used our home grown garlic. I somehow managed to knock the wicked-looking sheep shears off of the wall while I was cutting the garlic off the braid. I caught it before it hit the floor, and didn't get hurt. But clearly we need to secure this more safely.

Also, I have to realize that trying to catch falling rusty blades is a really foolish instinct. Let it fall, and get your hands and feet out of the way. I was lucky, but really, reaching for a plummeting blade is stupid.

Robb boiled some large sauerkraut jars, to sterilize them. And then we divided the seasonings between three jars. We really had no idea how many jars the cucumbers would fill.

For my own record, we used 1.25 ounces of tarragon, 1 ounce of garlic cloves (which was two heads of our pathetic little crop), 15 whole black peppercorns, an unmeasured amount of kosher salt, and about 2.5 pounds of cucumbers. The spears were too tall for the jars, and trying to stand them up was a pain-in-the-patoot, so we made a positive out of a negative, and spiraled them around the inside of the jar. We ended up needing only two jars, and will probably buy more cucumbers today to use the spices in the third jar. We topped off our jars with white vinegar, and will store these in the fridge for about a week.

It's always nice when one's kitchen clutter is so color-coordinated.



I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy this blog.

Bubbaloo Magoo said...

I love canning pickles - glad to hear you've attempted them! We started out with some great cuke plants this year and have gotten a good amount, then some critter (we think a groundhog) got into our garden and chomped on the plants - some are coming back, but we're not sure how many more we'll get. Good luck with them, and good luck with the bees!

Mo and Steve said...

Sounds delish and looks lovely, hope it tastes good. I'm sure it will :)

LKW said...

Oh, my, I'm in my own 'putting up' phase.

It makes you appreciate farmers and grocery stores, I think. I love to do it, but it IS work.


ArtGekko said...

Matt and the boys have put up a couple batches of pickles, too. The boys really love helping with the slicing and such.

I envy you your sheep shears. My garden job supervisor has a pair in her took bucket. They're perfect for deadheading back things like coreopsis and catmint. Maybe I need to start going to auctions and estate sales again....

Anonymous said...

Glad you stopped by Henbogle so that I could find my way to your blog. I've been poking around and am enjoying the reading, you have a great voice.

I was horrified by the bee poisoning. How dreadful. I'm with you, sometimes (frequently) I really hate humans.

Good luck with your siding project. God it is boring tedious hard work, but so satisfying upon completion.


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