I can admit it,I like mason jars. I think the clear glass containers hold tons of possibilities. They can hold your pens and pencils on your desk. The jars are used as drinking glasses and even shabby chic chandeliers, this crafty lady has even given them a whole day of the week . The most alluring use for mason jars is the obvious,pickles! Ok,really there are a lot of tasty,fresh pickling recipes that can be stored in mason jars,through the clear glass the produce looks amazing. The colors of the ingredients all fall into place and the flavors that come together meet you at the twist of the lid.
I have piddled around with a few recipes over the last few years that wound up in mason jars. I made these really garlicky-sweet pickles,some tasty pepper relish and have even made a a lemon hand scrub that should be mass produced for all your friends,their hands and feet will thank you.I didn't really decide to really get into pickling until this summer and when you make this sort of decision you have a few things to make peace with:
1. You should use fresh,locally-grown produce if at all possible. I know I know it's hard to find certain produce locally grown,well.... sometimes. The cucumbers I have used in the most recent pickling recipes have all come from the local farmers market. Now I am totally willing to admit,that Kroger has some fine produce and yes somewhere you are helping someone that grew that bell pepper,but seek out fresh produce from the local farmers market first. The produce is fresh and the taste is fresher.Ok I'm off my soap box.
2. Follow the canning instructions and read the recipe all the way through. Canning is a bit of a process. The jars need to be clean and sterilized. Wash them in the dishwasher,that fantastic appliance works wonders,if you don't have a dishwasher,wash them really well with hot soapy water and rinse well. You can sterilize them in a big pot of boiling water that reaches a temperature above 212f degrees for 10 minutes. The lids and rings have to fit the jar and the rim of the top of the jar needs to be smooth and clean without nicks or chips. Make sure you have a canning pot big enough to fit your jars and a caning rack that fits in your big ol' pot. The rack keeps the jars from touching the bottom of the pan and they can process safely. Processing the jars kills of any bacteria that may want to grow in your delicious pickles and heating up the jar and the ingredients to a certain temperature stops any bacteria growth dead in it's tracks.
3. HAVE FUN! Canning is a lot of work and will produce delicious food for you and your friends and family to enjoy. It's worth the work and you get a steam facial along the way,your skin will thank you.
Now ! onto the first recipe: Bread and Butter Pickles,My Way! Linda Ziedrich has written lots of cookbooks and she wrote a pickling cookbook that has won my heart and it will win yours too! It's called The Joy of Pickling and it has been a fantastic introduction into pickling for me.I hope you enjoy a recipe of hers soon enough for yourself. Now let's get down to some pickling!
Bread-And-Butter Pickles,My Way
-The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich,pg 89
About 3 1/2 pounds 3-5 inch pickling cucumbers
1/4 c pickling salt
4 tsp whole yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp whole celery seeds
1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
2 c cider vinegar
2 c water
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp ground tumeric
1. Slice the cucumbers 3/16 inch thick,discarding both ends. You should have 2 quarts.In a large bowl,toss the cucumber slices with the salt. Top the cucumbers with ice from 2 ice cube trays. Let the cucumbers stand at room temperature for 3-4 hours.
2. Drain the cucumbers well. Toss them with the mustard seeds,celery seeds,and hot pepper flakes. Pack the cucumbers into 4 pint mason jars.
3.In a saucepan,bring the vinegar,water,sugar and tumeric to a boil.Pour the hot liquid over the cucumber slices,leaving 1/2 inch headspace.Close the jars two-piece caps.In a boiling-water bath,process the jars for 10 minutes.Or pasturize the jars for 30 minutes by immersing them in water heated to 180f degrees to 185f degrees.
4. Store the cooled jars in a cool dry,dark place for at least 3 weeks before eating the pickles. After opening store in the refrigerator. (I have mine stored in my dining room on the bottom shelf of a small table.It's in a corner and they have a chance to really get good and tasty,oh I can't wait!)