Posts Tagged 'pickling'

I pickled a peck of picked peppers.

Ok, so that title is a bit misleading. I actually pickled 3 pounds of store bought peppers. But this was a total win of a recipe. I’ll be keeping these on hand forever.

I wanted to make pickled peppers for a while. Only problem was, for what? My younger kids don’t like too much spice, and I’m not real keen on strong heat. I didn’t want to make jars and jars of stuff just to sit around.

What I wanted was something closer to “Hots.” A blend of sweet and spicy peppers packed in oil that is popular on sandwiches on the east coast.

I found yellow chile peppers at the grocery store. Didn’t know much about them, but they looked good. And I thought they’d look good in a jar. So I grabbed a couple pounds and brought them home.

On the way home I stopped by Cost Plus and found their Weck Jars on sale. So of course I grabbed 3 of them as well. I know the price is high. But I love them. Weck jars have a presence to them. They just look so amazing with food in them. The added benefit of food only touching glass is a bonus.

Pickled Pepper Brine
5 C White Vinegar
1 C Water
4 t Pickling Salt
2 T Sugar

Start by rinsing and hand washing all your peppers. Pretty easy step.

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Cut the top off each pepper and then slice lengthwise.

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Pack the pepper halves in to jars. I pushed them down to compress them, but not enough to break them. My childhood Tetris experience definitely helped me out.

Combine the brine ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour the hot brine over the peppers leaving 1/2″ headspace.

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Add your lids and rings, or in case of Weck jars, rubber bands and lids.

Process for 10 minutes in a water bath.

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Skip ahead 3 weeks. I always let my pickled foods sit for 21 days before opening. It can be murder seeing them every day. But it’s totally worth it.

The end result were peppers that have a mild heat like green chiles, the tang of vinegar, and the subtle sweetness that you get with sweet peppers. It’s like a blend of sweet and hot peppers, but only one pepper. I couldn’t be happier.

Tonight I chopped a couple up and used added them to a bowl of mild chili. But I can totally see these sliced on a sandwich, mixed in with ground beef as a burger or meatloaf, or on a pizza. As soon as stock runs low I’ll be making more.

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How the Local Government Forced Me To Be An Artist

So I wanted to share a bit of the process that I went through to come up with my designs.

I love Mason jars with every fiber of my being. I was really trying to sell my canned jams, jellies, pickles etc. However after about two months of investigating I found out that the local government was interested in charging me approximately $900-$1200 in application fees, inspection fees, that fee and this fee. Then I would need to rent commercial kitchen space by the hour, and not only do all my prep work and processing there, but purchase separate equipment (knife, cutting board, canner, etc) to keep there….which requires storage fees. This would run upwards of $300 a month. And I haven’t even purchased jars, fruit, sugar, and pectin yet. As a side business it was not feasible financially. The alternative? Give my recipes to a processor and pay them to make my stuff. Uh, no. Making it is 2/3 of the fun.

Needless to say I was pretty disappointed. A bunch of nanny government rules and fees preventing me from doing something so simple. Unfortunately the cottage food law here only covers cakes, cookies, and breads and doesn’t allow for jams and pickles like Texas’ does.

But I’m an idea man. And I’ve never let a little thing like bureaucracy stop me. So I decided I’d try my hand at selling mason jar related things. My community has several farmers markets and a monthly art walk downtown. My thought was maybe I can get a table and sell mason jar soap dispensers and “sippy cups.” But that wasnt really enough, and certainly wouldn’t suffice for an art walk.

I’ve never fancied myself a very artistic person, and generally anything that I draw turns out looking like an eight-year-old did it. So I thought maybe I could buy really cool mason jar art in Etsy (there’s a ton of amazing water colors!) and resell it. But the art walk folks don’t just want art whole sellers, they want artists. And, a lot of the printed stuff is of the 4 public domain jar designs floating around. Boring. So I had to think some more.

Now, I remembered carving in linoleum blocks way back in junior high school, and enjoying that very much. I thought if revisit that. I grabbed a lino block kit from Hobby Lobby and brought it home. After my family went to bed (I work shift work, they don’t) I grabbed a beer, a mason jar, my block and a pencil. I sat at the table and willed the jar on to the block. I’d sketch and erase, sketch and erase, over and over. Until finally I came up with this:

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Hmm, not horrible, I guess. So I grabbed the carving knife, and another beer, and 3 hours later I wound up with this:

20130109-204029.jpgWhich printed this:

20130109-204101.jpgNot too shabby. I posted pics on Facebook and Instagram and got some decent feedback. So I thought I’d try some more.

The 2nd night I sketched out jars had stuff in them. I clicked around online for inspiration since shading and reflection are important, and yet confusing when you’re cutting in negative. I wound up with this (pencil in the left, Sharpie on the right):

20130109-204337.jpgThis took longer to carve out, since there was more detail. But eventually I got this:

20130109-204450.jpgWhich printed:

20130109-204522.jpg I like this one because no one, not even I, know what’s in the jar. I’ve heard people say “I love the olives.” Or “those cherries look good” Who knows? Maybe they’re just marbles.

But together the two stamps gave me hope that maybe I’m not destined for failure.

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Now, my goal was to make one a night for as long as I could. The third night I grabbed more beer, more music, and I sat down to another blank canvas. This time I wanted a larger quart jar, as realistic as I could get it. So I sketched, and erased, and sketched some more. I wound up here:

20130109-205020.jpgI’m pretty proud of that one. For a guy that can’t draw, paint, or take good photographs I was feeling pretty good. Due to the number if letters and fine detail this took me two days to draw and cut. But eventually the block and stamp were done.

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While I spent my night whittling away on blocks, I spent my day’s learning how to screenprint. I read a bunch of blogs online, talked to some friends with experience, and even borrowed a simple set up from a friend of mine. I also started setting up an Etsy store. I basically got everything on the website established except for items to sell, and did not make the store go live yet.

Over the next two days I printed my stamps on paper, scanned the image, printed it on a transparency, added one of my favorite canning phrases, and burned my own screens. Then I started printing.

I made towels:

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Bags and backpacks:

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And some shirts:

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I took some of my towels and bags down to a local antique store where I took pictures of them with a more appropriate setting. And with that I “opened my store.”

It’s the American dream, right? I think the best part for me is that I’m not dependent on the income. In fact, I’m likely to spend any money I make on more jars, more fruit, more sugar and pectin, and more things to screen print. That’s an important part for me. This has to stay fun. I don’t want to get to the point where I feel like this is something I have to do but rather something I want to do. So, we’ll see how it goes. I’ve had decent success so far and have filled a handful of orders.

Last night I took a break from screenprinting everything and picked up another block and pencil. I’ve already done three different types of jars and I wanted to mix it up. So I decided to add some still life around the jar. After a couple hours of sketching and cutting, I came up with this:

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I haven’t burned this image into a screen yet, and haven’t decided whether or not I will. Although a couple of my friends say that they really enjoy this one. I think cutting the woodblocks is at least half of the entertainment for me. Really it comes down to having 2 to 3 hours at night where I can just relax and wind down, knock back a couple beers, listen to some light music, and cut chunks out of blocks. And right now, that works for me.

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If you’re interested in anything here, the link to my shop is etsy.com/shop/MasonJarsMixingBowls

If you have any ideas for wood block cuts I’d love to hear them. And if you have anything to share, positive or negative, about the ones I’ve already done I’d love to hear that too.

Happy canning.

I’ve entered the screenprinting business. Here’s a link to my Mason Jar related Etsy Store MasonJarsMixingBowls

I’ve entered the screenprinting business. Here’s a link to my Mason Jar related Etsy Store MasonJarsMixingBowls

I promise my followers that I’m not going to spam you guys with a bunch of Etsy links from here on out.  But I’m kind of excited.  I decided to sketch some mason jar designs on linoleum blocks, carve them out, make stamps, turn those stamps in to silk screens, and then print some towels, shirts, bags, and things.  So, if you’re in to canning, pickling, mason jars, and cooking (which you are if you’re reading my blog) why not swing by to see if you see something you like.  Everything is crafted with the same amount of care that I put in to my canning.   I’m mason jar obsessed and this is just another part of the adventure.

Cowboy Candy; Or How To Make Weapons Grade Pepper Spray At Home

When your passion is putting food in jars people tend to find out. Most of my friends know that I spend many weekends canning in the kitchen. They also know that I hate seeing food wasted and generally will try to find some way to preserve anything anyone drops off on my doorstep. This has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the nicer points is that generally I get volumes of free produce. The drawback however is dealing with my wife when she comes home to find approximately 300 pounds of lemons on the countertop.

This weekend I returned from a short trip back east to a message from a friend who told me that he had lemons and jalapenos waiting for me. Lemons are easy. Limoncello and preserved lemons, as well as candy lemons are an annual thing for me. But jalapeños I haven’t done yet. So I started thinking of creative ways that I could use my hot little friends.

After the success of Dilly Beans I decided its time for me to go back to canning roots and try some of the tried and true local gems that people have been making for ages. Forget innovation. Forget variation. Some things are good for a reason.

So here we go. Another recipe I’ve heard about for a while but had never tried is Cowboy Candy. Cowboy Candy is candied jalapeño peppers. Just like with the beans, people rave about these things. They talk about the stuff like it’s crack. Like once you start you’re gonna be fiending in your bedroom crying for another jar. Every recipe I’ve come across comes with the same warning. “Make more than you expect. You’ll go through faster than you think. Your friends will take your entire inventory.” If everyone is this wild about them they must be onto something.

They’re supposed to be amazing on burgers, with cheese and/or crackers, on top of meat as a glaze, as a condiment or straight out of the jar with a fork.

20121212-021224.jpgThe following recipe is found all over the Internet. I don’t even know who to give credit to at this point. Maybe it’s public domain by now? I found it the recipe I followed on a Facebook canning group. But you can find it, word for word, on several sites.

Cowboy Candy
3lbs Jalapeños
2 C Apple Cider Vinegar
6 Cups Sugar
1/2 t Turmeric
1/2 t Celery Seed
3 t Minced Garlic
1 t Cayenne Pepper

The peppers that my friend brought over were red and bit small. So I decided to pick up some larger green ones from the grocery store. Together I felt they made a nice mix, added some variety, and looked appropriate for the holiday season. I used 2 pounds of green and 1 pound of red peppers.

20121212-021606.jpg I’ve made many recipes with many hot peppers in them before and generally don’t wear gloves. However this time you’re going to be slicing at least 3 pounds of jalapeno peppers over the course of probably 20 minutes. It is well worth your time to wear a pair of latex or rubber gloves during this process. You will appreciate this when you need to rub your eye, scratch your nose, or God forbid, use the restroom.

Start by slicing off the very top of the pepper to remove the stem. Then slice the pepper into little 1/4 inch rounds.

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20121212-022325.jpgWhen you are finished set the peppers aside. In a large pot combine the apple cider vinegar, sugar, and spices. This is the one point where I deviated from the recipe. I read online that many people found this recipe to be very sweet and they reduced the sugar. I reduced the sugar by one cup. However, I doubled the recipe for the brine.

20121212-022404.jpg Bring the brine to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for five minutes. Then add the pepper slices and simmer for four minutes. You don’t want to be standing right over the pot while the stuff is boiling. The combination of vinegar and peppers coming up into your eyes and lungs is quite overwhelming. I had the fan on over the stove throughout. Use a slotted spoon to remove the peppers and place them into clean jars. Leave 1/4 inch headspace.

20121212-022628.jpgReturn the remaining brine to the heat. Boil it hard for six minutes. Then use a ladle to pour the brine over your peppers in the jars, again leaving headspace. Use a clean paper towel and a dab of white vinegar to clean the rims of the jars.
Process half pints for 10 minutes and pints for 15.

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It was suggested that the leftover brine makes an excellent marinade, addition to sauces, or a condiment in and of itself. I went ahead and jarred up what I had left and processed it alongside the peppers.

As with everything pickled these bad boys need to sit for a little while. The suggested time is three weeks. We’ll see how long these last in my pantry before the wife finds them.

I also plan on adding these to my repertoire of easy to make Christmas gifts. Although slicing the jalapenos took a little bit of time the actual process for cooking and preparing the cowboy candy was very easy.

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Do you have a favorite family recipe for pickled or candied produce?

Happy canning.

The Holy Trinity Of Bloody Mary Toppers

Update: This recipe won a 1st place Blue Ribbon at the 2013 Arizona State Fair in the Pickles, Relishes, and Spiced Fruits category.

After I made my Dilly Beans I got some feedback. “Put them in a Bloody Mary” they said. “The spicier the better” they said. “And add some pickled asparagus and pickled Brussels sprouts too!”

I thought this would make a wonderful idea to bring to a holiday party. Some mixer, vodka, and a variety of pickled vegetables and olives as toppers. But the idea of toting several quart jars around with me in December wasn’t appealing. Then it hit me. Why not do them in the same jar?

I started reading the NCHFP’s directions on pickling each of the individual vegetables. The real difference was that asparagus and brussels sprouts are processed for 10 minutes whereas the beans are only processed for 5. So I did some asking around and found someone who said that they processed their dilly beans for 10 minutes and they still come out crunchy. And with that was born the idea for the holy trinity of Bloody Mary toppers. But the idea of those three things hanging out in a jar together seemed awfully green to me. So while I was at the store I picked up those miniature red, orange, and yellow peppers as well as purple pearl onions.

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Bloody Mary Pickle Mix
Asparagus
Green Beans
Brussels Sprouts
Mini Sweet Peppers
Pearl Onions
Garlic
White Vinegar
Pickling Salt
Water
Dill
Black Peppercorns
Mustard Seed
Dried Red Chiles
Red Pepper Flake

I decided to go with the same brine and seasonings as my Dilly Bean recipe, except that I also add mustard seed to the jars.

Let’s start with the Brussels sprouts. First off, did you know they grow like this?

20121201-214458.jpg I never really thought about or imagined what Brussel sprouts look like as they grow, but I guess I thought it was more like tiny cabbages coming out of the ground. Turns out they grow on gigantic stalks that look like DNA. My wife picked up two of these stalks to use for Thanksgiving. It turns out that was twice as much as we needed so we had one left for this project. She told me ahead of time that she’d started by cutting the little sprouts off of the stalk. However she quickly discovered that simply snapping them off was much quicker and more efficient. So if you buy your sprouts like this, simply start at the bottom and snap them off, working your way around to the top.

20121201-214745.jpg These bad boys are going to be cut, blanched, boiled in brine, and then sitting in a jar for who knows how long. So you want healthy, tight, clean little sprouts. I started by trimming the stem just a little bit and then pulling off any leaves that weren’t firmly wrapped around the sprout or had blemishes. Then I sorted them into two piles, big and small. I cut all the big ones in half so that their total size were about equal.

20121201-215040.jpg Get a pot of water boiling and drop your sprouts in. Set a timer for four minutes. Blanching helps start the cooking process to make them tender, improves the color, and can help kill harmful bacteria. After four minutes immediately remove them and place them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

20121201-215203.jpg For directions on how to blanch the pearl onions see my entry on pickled beets.

Get an assembly line going for your jars. Put the dill, garlic, black peppercorns, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, and dried red chili in each jar. Then start working on your Tetris skills. Each jar needs asparagus, green beans, brussels sprouts, mini sweet peppers, and pearl onions.

20121201-215610.jpg I found it easiest to stack the very vertical beans and asparagus against one side of the jar and then fill up the remaining space with the oddly shaped items. The onions and garlic fill the little recesses left over. Try to get a fairly even mix of vegetables in there so that the last person to the jar isn’t stuck with four green beans and a half of a brussels sprout.

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20121201-215813.jpg Follow the directions from the dilly bean recipe to make your brine. Pour your hot brine over the vegetables. Add your clean lid, clean ring, finger tighten it, and place into a water-bath canner.

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Process for 10 minutes. Once the time is up remove the jars carefully and set them on a tea towel or cutting board where they can have a chance to cool slowly and undisturbed.

20121201-220102.jpg And there you have it. First off, these are some of the coolest looking jars that I’ve ever made. Second I think they’ll do well as gifts or as favors to the host or hostess of a holiday party that you are attending. Since they are pickles remember to make them three weeks ahead of the date that you need them so they have time to brine. Also my peppers are desperately trying to float to the top. I found out afterward that to avoid this you can take a small knife and cut one or two slits and each pepper. This will allow the air to escape and the pepper will suspend in the liquid.

Set this jar out with some picks and a bowl of olives and your guests have their choice of what to place on their Bloody Mary. Alternatively this would also make a good accompaniment to a cheese or antipasto platter.

Do you have a different combination of pickled vegetables you enjoy? What are your favorite Bloody Mary toppers? Let me know.

Happy canning.

Of Cranberries and Apples

I waited and waited for cranberries to drop below $1 a bag. And my favorite low cost produce store sold out without ever reaching that price. So I finally folded and bought 15 bags at $1.50 a piece. I think this is the cheapest I’ll find them.

I had an initial game plan. Half would be Odessa’s, to make Odessa’s Cranberry Sauce. The other half was to be mine to make a sort of apple cranberry chutney I’ve been wanting to try.

Unfortunately (fortunately?) the Internet is an amazing pool of awesome information and ideas, and I stumbled across something I couldn’t resist. Pickled Cranberries.

And with those ideas stirring in my head I went in to the kitchen. 9 bags of cranberries for Odessa, two to pickle, and four for chutney. Or so I thought.

I should mention that this post won’t be very picture heavy, cause I was cooking my ass off tonight. Felt like everything on every burner needed my constant attention. And I was interrupted by two mishaps. One by my kid, and one my own doing.

Odessa started with her recipe first. It’s still my favorite cranberry sauce. And I could have two jars a month and be happy.

Cranberry Apple Chutney

24oz cranberries
20 apples, cored and rough chopped
9 cups sugar
4 lemons, zested and juiced
4 cups water.

This is a recipe that I found through Instagram, and then modified. The original recipe, as it was provided to me called for 8 cups of apples, 4 cups of cranberries, 6 cups of sugar, and one lemon. I based my math off of the amount of cranberries that I had left. But that was nearly 16 cups and I didn’t have it in me to add 24 cups of sugar to something.

I chose to go with Granny Smith and Fuji apples to stick with the red and green holiday theme.

20121128-014819.jpgFor what it’s worth, Fuji apples do not hold up to cooking, a little key point that I forgot. Opt for Lady Pink, Braeburn, Honey Crisp or other firm apple instead, if given the choice.

I used my handy dandy apple corer/slicer and cut the apples into 6 slices. Then I rough chopped the slices into pieces.

20121128-014748.jpgPut the water in a large pot, heat, and add the cranberries. I gave the berries about a five minute head start over the apples. As the cranberries start popping add your apples to the pot. Once the cranberries and apples start to cook and release more liquid add your sugar as well and stir thoroughly mix. Cook for approximately 10 to 15 minutes until the cranberries and apples begin to cook down. Then add your lemon zest and juice.

20121128-015454.jpg I tasted the chutney after originally having only added 6 cups of sugar. That still seemed a bit too tart. I added another 3 cups of sugar, bringing the total to nine, simmered, and taste it again. That seemed like a good amount.

Continue to cook for approximately 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture thickens.

20121128-015541.jpg Pour your cranberry chutney into clean mason jars, apply your lid and ring.

20121128-015644.jpg Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes for pints.

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20121128-020016.jpg This ended up making 14 pints.

As I was looking around the web for cranberry recipes I came across an idea for pickled cranberries. Pickling is my most recent obsession. The author suggested adding a spoonful of pickled cranberries to club soda and gin, or tossing them in olive oil and topping a goat cheese and arugula salad with them. This sounded way too delicious to pass up.

Pickled Cranberries
24oz Cranberries
3 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon juniper berries (I didn’t have these, and didn’t want to run out to the store. I’ll add them next time)

Place the allspice, clove, peppercorns, and juniper berries in cheesecloth and tie off.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and spice bundle in a pot and heat to a boil. Add the cranberries and cook for 5-10 minutes until the cranberries have popped. Bring the mixture back to a full boil.

Remove the spice bundle and cinnamon sticks and set aside. Ladle the cranberries into jars, and then add brine to the 1/2″ headspace. Cut the cinnamon sticks in half and add a piece to each jar.

Lids, rings, and 10 minutes in a water bath. As these are pickles, let them sit for a while before opening and enjoying.

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**Update**
The wife cracked a jar of the pickled cranberries today and made herself a cocktail of tonic water, gin, and some cranberries. Not long thereafter she texted “OMG these things are awesome.” I asked her to take a picture, and classy it up a bit so I could post it here. Ladies and gentlemen, my wife’s classy picture of her cocktail:

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Cranberry Pickled Apple Slices
It was at this point that I thought I was done. But I noticed that I had this gorgeous red tinted, cranberry scented brine left in the pot. I couldn’t bring myself to toss it out. I decided to be adventurous. I took two Fuji apples a d two Granny Smith apples and cored and sliced them. I returned the spice bundle to the brine and added the apple slices. My intent was just to cook them to the point of being soft. However at this very moment my three-year-old walked into the kitchen and told me that he had broken some glass. When I went to investigate I found that he had made his way into my canning pantry and was playing “how high can I build a tower of jelly jars.” Turns out the answer is seven. The tower had fallen and a jar if Strawberry Citrus Jam met its demise. In the time it took me to deal with and clean that, my apple over cooked. But, oh well, not the end of the world.

The apples were added to jars and covered with brine. Then processed for 10 minutes. I’ll probably warm them and use them to top vanilla ice cream. Or serve them as a side to pork chops.

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So there’s 4 things you can do with cranberries and apples. I’m definitely considering those pickled cranberries as Christmas gift idea #2. Show up to a holiday party with a couple jars of those bad boys, some vodka, gin, and mixers? You’ll be the hot of the party.

As I said earlier, I’m on a huge pickling kick right now. If you have a great recipe, or know of a must have pickling book, please share.

Happy canning.

Dilly Beans. Because Eventually We All Have To.

Update: This recipe won a 1st place Blue Ribbon at the 2013 Arizona State Fair in the Pickles, Relishes, and Spiced Fruits category.

I’d heard about Dilly Beans when I first got into canning. But having had canned green beans, I couldn’t imagine the joy in eating soft, soggy, pickle flavored beans. And since I was teaching myself to can simply by reading as much as I could, I didn’t have the opportunity to ask things like “How do they stay crunchy?”

But being over 2 years in and head over heels for canning, I decided to go back and give them another shot. Instagram had a lot to do with it, because the canners I follow speak so highly of them. Especially in the context of being very spicy and in a Bloody Mary.

So I made a smaller batch last month. 2 quarts and 3 pints. Just something different to try out. The nicest part was how easy they were to make. Of course the downfall of pickling is that you really need to wait at least two to three weeks to taste the product. So I waited and waited. Last night the wife and I were enjoying some beers after dinner when I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. I cracked a jar and tried one.

Oh. My. God. Why haven’t I made these before? Crisp, crunchy, spicy, and packed with all the best parts if dill pickle flavor. I’m not even ashamed to admit that we consumed the pint jar in less than 20 minutes. Fine. We’re making more.

I found myself at my favorite produce store with green beans on sale. I ended up leaving with a bushel. Which, is just over 29 pounds of green beans.

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Dilly Beans
Green Beans
Fresh Dill
Garlic
Dry Chilis, Chili Flake, or Cayenne pepper
Pepper Corns
Vinegar
Water
Pickling Salt

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Lets talk about ratios. As you know, if you keep up with me, I don’t work in small quantities. When I can stuff I make cases at a time. Now I’m guessing you guys may not be up for making a bushel if green beans. So here’s your ratios. Every part of salt gets 10 parts water and 10 parts vinegar. For instance 2 1/2 cups water, 2 1/2 cups vinegar, 1/4 cup salt. Or, in my case, two batches of 10 cups each of vinegar and water and one cup salt.

When it comes to the seasoning I added the following to each quart jar:
One sprig dill, 2 garlic cloves, two dried chilies, 10-20 peppercorns. For the pints I added half as much. For this particular batch I went heavy on the chilis, adding up to six to each quart and substituting 1/4 t of Santa Fe Chili Powder to the pints. I expect those to by spicy. Very spicy.

But this is what’s great about recipes like this. Up the dill, reduce the garlic, omit the pepper your choice. Add more or less cayenne or pepper flake for a mild, medium, hot, or atomic bean. You can also use dill seed or dry dill if you choose. Though I love fresh dill for all my pickling. Mix the flavors up and enjoy the variety.

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Clean and prep your green beans. I cut a 1/4 inch of both ends. Because I had 30 pounds the entire family cut 1/4 inch of each end.

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I read a lot of recipes where people cut each bean the exact same length to perfectly fit the required headspace in a pint jar. And that’s pretty cool…for them. I might try that for my state fair entry next year. But I have 30lbs of beans to process. If you’re making pints be sure that none of your beans are too long. If you’re making quarts you needn’t worry.

I grab a handful of beans and try to get them all facing the same direction. Then I gentry drop them straight down into the jar.

20121114-004758.jpgThen I try to fit a 2nd handful next to the 1st. After that you grab beans one by one and try to jam them in there. I’ve read of people using chop sticks to move the beans in the jar around to fit more. Again, time vs payoff. I tried to fit as many beans in one jar as I could.

20121114-005007.jpgHeat your vinegar, water, and salt to a boil and stir to dissolve the salt. Add the pickling solution to each jar of beans leaving headspace. I like to use the very bottom of the threads as a guideline. Lid, ring, finger tight.

Process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes. Yes, 5 minutes. That’s not much time. That also means this is one time your jars must be sterilized prior to processing. I use a steamer basket insert to steam my jars on a separate burner prior to use. When you put the jars on the water to process, remember that time doesn’t start until the water starts to boil again. After 5 minutes remove and set on a towel, cutting board, etc.

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And now the hard part. Let them sit in your pantry for at least 21 days before opening. Let the flavors mellow. It’s totally worth it.

Dilly Beans are amazing out of the jar. They also rock in a Bloody Mary. I’d serve them with burgers or steak. Or on an antipasto platter at a dinner party. They’ve got great crunch, a good bite, and fantastic acidic flavor. Of you haven’t tried making them yet you should give it a chance.

Happy canning!

Beets The Heck Out Of Store Bought

My wife loves beets. It’s a fact. She loves them steamed, roasted, grilled, raw, and pickled. On salads, with vegetables, as a side. It doesn’t matter. The woman loves beets. And that’s how a lot of my canning adventures start. Trying to impress the woman that loves me unconditionally.

I found myself at an Asian grocer tonight trying to find the ingredients for pickled ginger. And while I was wandering through aisles of various dehydrated fish products, candy made from vegetables, and exotic sauces I found a big display of Beets; 69 Cents/Lb. Now I don’t know if that is a great price, but it definitely seemed like a fair price. I picked up about 8 pounds of beets, a bag of pearl onions, a gallon of pickling vinegar, and a white onion.

The only thing I’ve done previously is dice and roast beets with other root vegetables. So I was not sure just how easy this task was going to be. Everything turned out better than expected.

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Pickled Beets
8lbs Beets
1 Bag Pearl Onions
1/2 White Onion
2 Cinnamon Sticks
12 Cloves
12 Allspice Berries
4 Cups Vinegar
2 Cups Water
2 Cups Sugar
1 1/2 t Salt

If your beets come with the greens attached just trim them above the bulb. The idea is to trim them, but not to cut in to the beet.

Cover the beets in water and bring to a boil.

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Boil the beets for approximately 45 minutes. Mine were the size of baseballs, and 45 minutes was perfect.

While the beets are boiling heat a medium pan of water to boil. Then drop in your pearl onions and boil for 3 minutes. Place the onions in an ice bath to cool.

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Remove the onions one at a time and cut off the root end. Then squeeze the flower end and the onion pops right out. If part of the center of the onion pops out just push it back in.

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Repeat until all your onions are liberated.

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When your beets are cooked drain them and place them in an ice bath. Be careful when removing them. The skin of the beets sloughs off very easily now and it’s a bit like trying to grab a wet bar of soap. The next step involves a slippery beet and a sharp knife so be careful. Cut off the root end and the leaf end.

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Then remove the skin. This is seriously so easy. Way easier than peaches. And even easier than tomatoes. I just passed the beet back and forth in my hands working it in circles. Almost like a pitcher does with a baseball.

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To make it even easier I did it under running water. This washed the peels away and also prevented my hands from looking like I spent the day with Ed Gein. Now tomato skins come off easily. But I’m always afraid of damaging the tomato. The beets however are hard and solid which made this part so easy.

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Cut your beet however you like. I’ve seen slices, cubes, chunks, crinkle cut caterpillar looking pieces. Whatever. Just try to keep the pieces uniform in size. I decided to cut the beet in half and then slice the halves in to 1/4 inch slices.

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I rinsed my hands repeatedly through this process and avoided looking like a MASH surgeon. The extremely rich and dark color of the beet is amazing to me. I was trying to imagine what purpose it serves in nature. An attractant to pollinators? A pesticide? I have no idea. If you know, please share. I just know I love the color.

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Mix your vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a large pot over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Place your clove, allspice, and cinnamon in cheesecloth and add it to the pot. Then increase heat to a boil. Slice your half onion in to strips. Add the white onion and pearl onions to the beets and add them to the pickling liquid.

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Allow it all to return to a boil and them simmer for 5 minutes. You know the part about clean hot jars, funnels, labels , rings, and lids by now, right? Fill your jars with the beets, packing it down, and adding pickling liquid, if needed, to the 1/2″ headspace. Use your little canning tool to remove air bubbles.

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Wipe the rims, place the lids, and finger tighten the bands. Process in a water bath canner for 30 minutes (pints or quarts). If I hadn’t mentioned it before, adding a splash if vinegar to your water bath eliminates the white hard water stains on your jars. 30 minutes later, you’ve got the beets, you’ve got the beets. Yeah! You’ve got the beets!

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I haven’t tried these yet. I’m a firm believer that pickled need to sit for a while to become better. I’ll give the 1st jar at least a month before opening. But I’ll report back.

Happy Canning.

Home Made Pickles From Scratch

Bountiful Baskets had pickling cucumbers last week.  Their website said 34 pounds for $17.50, which seemed like a decent deal to me.  I’ve wanted to make pickles for a while.  But the little cucumbers are too expensive in the grocery store.

I got my case and brought it home.  Even the crate it came in was cool.

And, I found out after getting it home, it was 50 pounds, not 34.  An even better deal.

I used the recipe from Pick Your Own which is one of my favorite websites for canning.

Dess wanted to help me with pickling.  We started by washing each pickle, and quartering them into spears.

The spears were soaked overnight in a bucket full of salt water.  The next day, I removed and rinsed the spears.  I put any combination of the following in my quart jars: Dill, peppercorns, whole mustard seed, crushed garlic cloves, dried hot peppers, and/or red chili flake.  I mixed up the seasoning so we’d have some dill-ier, some garlicky, some spicy, and some flat-out hot.

We also used a mandolin to slice some cucumbers into chips.  These were not brined.  They were just sliced and placed in jars.

The hot vinegar brine was poured over the cucumbers, and lids were placed on the jars.

Off to the water bath they go.  Since the brine has such a high acidity, you can use a water bath or a pressure canner.  I chose water bath, even though I used my pressure cooker to do so.

After 20 minutes per batch, I had pickles.  Unfortunately, you should wait 2 weeks, or 4 for really good flavor.  So now, I have 34 jars of pickles, I can’t even try them yet!

Each jar was labeled when cool, and placed in our pantry.  I’ll post an after report in 4 weeks when we finally get to open them.



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