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I love fermentation, kombucha, dehydrating, the whole bit. But out of all these food preservationy pursuits, my first love is, always has been, and doubtless always will be, canning. Good, old-fashioned canning!
When I was a food-nerdy, homeschooled kid with a lot of time to dream on my hands, I taught myself how to can out of my grandma’s old Farm Journal Cook-Book. I fantasized about living on a farm, gathering eggs and piling muddy boots by the door, rolling out of bed before dawn and milking cows in a frosty-cold barn in the moonlight. I guess, in a way, these dreams have started to become a reality for me, since now I can gather eggs from 400 layers any time I please (that’s how it works, you know).
Back home in Washington, I spent many months in big groups of women, canning thousands of pounds of produce for our collective families and hauling it off to our respective homes at the end of the day – everybody eats together, the kids play together, and we trash one house – it’s pretty much a win-win. Miz Carmen usually hosted – you’ll run into her again on this blog.
Our first canning Food Lab of 2014 (we had a few last year, too), was a raging success! The first one had to be cancelled because of a tornado and a waterspout – I know, really? Of all things. The farm lost power, got flooded, and none of the students could drive out of their streets. So, we rescheduled, and many of the students were able to get in on the new date!
Class was focusing on the water-bath canning technique, used for high-acid products like fruits, jams, jellies, pickles and the like. I decided to make a classic dill pickle for our class; the original recipe came from my long-time mentor and dearly beloved friend Miz Carmen, who was gifted the recipe from another friend, who got it goodness knows where. I have many favorite pickle recipes, but this one definitely tops the list of classic dills!
Everybody worked hard in class, and they each made a very individual pint of pickles based on the recipe – some added okra, others peppers, still others threw in zucchini; spices and heat varied, ranging from mild crushed red pepper to blazing guns ghost pepper! Some cut their cucumbers into spears – others left them whole, still others diced them or sliced them.
Fresh-Pack Dill Pickles or, Seattle Pickles at New Earth Farm
32 lb. pickling cukes, blossom ends trimmed
10 onions (1/3 per qt.)
4 garlic bulbs (2 cloves per qt.)
2-3 bunches dill (1-2 blossoms per qt.)
1⁄2 t. crushed red pepper per qt.
1⁄2 t. alum per qt. (optional)
1 t. pickling spice per qt.
Put all ingredients except cukes in jar. Cut onions, then pack cukes. Begin heating water bath, then prepare brine.
3 qt. water
1 qt. apple cider vinegar
1 c. pickling salt
(Takes about four batches)
Cover to 1/2” with boiling brine. Wipe lids, screw on rings. Process 5-10 minutes.
Remove and store 6-8 weeks, to allow flavors to penetrate Pickling spice quantity is variable; brine is not.
More from the Food Lab: High Acid Canning Class
To read step-by-step instructions for water-bath canning and enjoy a few more pickling recipes such as my very favorite piccalilli or an award-winning pickled radish, download the entire canning class packet here
For those that want to can more, I have a few favorite books to suggest!
The Ball Blue Book is the industry standard on home preservation – canning, drying, and freezing. Keep this book close at hand all year long – my copy is wrinkled, warped and scribbled on, but I have made good use of it!
Food in Jars, as seen on the popular blog www.foodinjars.com is a gorgeous, well-appointed book full of lush pictures and reasonable, human-sized, small-batch recipes that make a few manageable pints each.
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is everything we love about Ball, plus loads more. Lots of recipes to choose from, princples to learn from, and step-by-step instructions.
But more importantly, some hungry baby robins delighted us by hatching, their nest located just outside the front door of the Learning Center.
It began to rain gently, and class broke up; a few students stayed to help Chef Lyndsay and I can the rest of the vegetables we had prepped (waste not!!). The light rain turned into a torrential downpour with violent wind, thunder and lightening, and the remaining students eventually had to make a dash for it and escape through the storm! Lyndsay and I canned and cleaned until around 11:00 at night, when we called it a day, locked up, and went home.
I had such a contented, satisfied feeling from canning that day; and the beautiful building just added to my joy (despite the blurry, storm-sogged pictures you can still see how cozy it was!).
Canning merrily into the night,