Okay, so I’m that person who goes to garden centers and comes home with a trunk full of “rescue” plants. You know, those half-dead plants that get relegated to the back of the store marked down to 25 cents in the hope that someone will take them away. Rehabilitating rescue plants is something at which I excel. My yard is full of rehabilitated rescue plants. In any case, stores generally put the box of last season’s seeds on the same rack as the rescue plants, and hopeless plant nerd that I am, I can never resist thumbing through them looking for seeds of interest.
On one particular day last winter, I found a packet of Muncher cucumbers. Hey, they’re heirlooms. Awesome. I generally try to plant only heirlooms, as I think the taste is generally better. Well, my husband, daughter and I are all self-proclaimed pickle junkies. We love pickles, so I thought “Why not? We’ll plant these in the garden next year. After all they’re only a quarter.” Yeah, ask my husband, those are often famous last words when it comes to me and plants.
So, spring came, we built a trellis on one end of the garden and I planted my little packet of rescue seeds. We made it a point to plant them in a raised bed to avoid our spring floods. Every one of those seeds sprouted and grew…and grew…and grew some more…until they covered their trellis. They also migrated to the trellis with the mini pumpkins…and the trellis with the Christmas lima beans. The spring rains came and went. The summer heat and humidity settled in with a vengeance. Through it all, those little rescue seeds produced and produced and produced.
We picked the first couple of cucumbers and enjoyed them fresh. They were nice and mild, a refreshing treat. We had cucumbers sliced and in salads, picking one or two at a time, often eating them right there in the garden. Then the vines started producing in earnest. One or two quickly became ten or twelve. We took the first good harvest and made bread and butter pickles. The second harvest was made into garlic dill pickles using some of our freshly picked garlic from the garden. The third harvest was converted to serrano pickles (absolutely to DIE for!). Now, the vines have finally died off and the final and largest harvest is currently residing in our fermenting crock while we wait…anxiously. That’s not counting the cucumbers we enjoyed fresh along the way. We have a variety of pickles and plenty of them to last until next year. That little 25 cent packet of seeds was definitely a winner, and you’d better believe we’ll be planting the Munchers again.
Here is my recipe for serrano pickles. Enjoy!
Fresh-Pack Serrano Pickles
Makes about 7 quarts
• 2 gallons water
• 3/4 cup pure granulated sal
1. Wash cucumbers thoroughly and drain. Cover with brine and let stand overnight. Drain.
2. Combine vinegar, sugar, salt and water. Add pickling spice tied in a cheesecloth bag. Heat to boiling.
3. Pack cucumbers in clean, hot quart jars. Add dill and 1 serrano pepper, sliced, to each jar. Cover with boiling liquid, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Adjust lids and process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes.
4. Remove jars, complete seals, cool, and store.
Photo credit: “A small first harvest” by Sherry Smith, 2016; “The fermenting crock” by Sherry Smith, 2016