The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard is a useful tool for new canners. Find basic canning techniques as well as helpful hints to make the process easier. Small-Batch Canning is perfect for a small family or harvest, the fruit and vegetables can still be preserved for later use. It also works if you have a large harvest but want to keep some fresh. Find this excerpt in Chapter 6, “Pickle Perfection.”
Pickling can be traced to India, over 4,000 years ago. Today, more than ever, we can revel in the marvelous versatility of pickles which is reflected in the variety of vegetables—and even a few fruits—in our recipes, including Madras Pickled Eggplant, which harkens back to the origins of this condiment.
North Americans are said to eat more than 20 billion pickles each year. The Japanese even eat them for dessert. While it will no doubt be a long time before the cucumber loses its popularity, we weren’t surprised to learn that peppers account for more than 20% of specialty pickle sales. Fire-Roasted Pickled Sweet Red Peppers are one of our favorite specialty pickle recipes since they have so many uses.
Many fruits and vegetables find their way into a pickle. Cucumbers, cauliflower and beets are favorites, but asparagus, sweet cherries and lemons offer interesting variety. Slightly less common, but in our opinion absolutely wonderful, are oranges, pumpkin and watermelon rind. All these can be made in sweet, sour or hot versions and flavored with such herbs as dill, mustard seeds, bay leaf, or peppercorns—the possibilities are endless.
Remember that you need perfect produce for perfect pickles. This means the very freshest produce available. Too long between harvest and preparation can result in hollowed or shriveled pickles. Most pickles need a few weeks to mellow before they are ready to eat.
Techniques for Producing the Perfect Pickle.
- Fresh produce is a must when making a batch of pickled anything.
- Always use pickling salt.
- Salt vegetables before making them into pickles. This draws out some of the moisture, producing a firmer pickle.
- Cut a thin slice from the blossom end of cucumbers to remove an enzyme that may cause pickles to soften.
- Process pickles in a boiling-water canner to destroy organisms that can cause pickles to soften.
- Check the label on vinegar to make sure that it has at least 5% acetic acid.
- Store prepared pickles a few weeks before sampling.
- Serve pickles cold and refrigerate pickles after opening.
Pickles are a great way to add interest to just about any meal. They are a wonderful accompaniment to richer meats like pork and ham, helping to cut the fat taste. What self-respecting Rueben sandwich would adorn a plate without a kosher dill pickle? Any of our pickles make handy and welcome gifts, so make extra jars to give to friends.
Watermelon Rind Pickles
Make this delightful pickle from a part of the watermelon that is often discarded. Leave a small amount of the pink flesh to give a bit of color. Cut interesting shapes with canapé cutters. The secret of the crisp texture is to add the sugar gradually during the pickling process. The extra two days this requires is well worth the wait.
- 4 cups peeled watermelon rind, cut into 1 L
- 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes
- 1/4 cup pickling salt 50 mL
- 4 cups water 1 L
- 2 cups granulated sugar, divided 500 mL
- 1 cup white vinegar 250 mL
- 1 lemon or lime, thinly sliced 1
- 1 tsp whole cloves 5 mL
- 1 tsp whole allspice 5 mL
- 2 cinnamon sticks, 3 inches (8 cm) long 2
- Place watermelon rind in a large non-reactive bowl. Dissolve salt in the water and pour over rind. Let stand for 4 hours; drain and rinse twice.
- Place rind in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan; cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, cover, and boil gently for 8 minutes, or just until tender. Drain; place in a large non-reactive bowl.
- Combine 1 cup (250 mL) sugar, vinegar, lemon slices, cloves, allspice and cinnamon in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and pour over rind. Place a weight such as a plate on top of rind to keep it submerged. Let stand for 24 hours.
- Drain liquid from rind into a saucepan; add 1/2 cup (125 mL) sugar. Bring to a boil and pour over rind. Replace weight and let stand for 24 hours.
- Drain liquid from rind into a saucepan; add 1/2 cup (125 mL) sugar. Bring to a boil. Add rind and return to a boil. Remove from heat.
- Remove hot jars from canner. Remove cinnamon sticks from liquid and place one in each jar. Remove rind from liquid with a slotted spoon; pack into jars. Pour liquid over rind to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of rim (headspace). Process 10 minutes for half‑pint (250 mL) jars, 10 minutes for pint (500 mL) jars and 15 minutes for quart (1 L) jars.
Makes 2 pint (500 mL) jars.
Copyright © 2007 Eleanor Topp and Margaret Howard.