Pickles: Plan B

Making pickles seemed like such a great idea.

I seeded three sorts of cucumbers, and planted out a dozen plants in late spring.

cucumber flowers

The plants flowered all over, tons of blooms. I began to fear for a tidal wave of production.
(You know how I feel about tidal waves.)

not cucumbersThen, horrors, many of the tiny vegetables perished on the vine. This is, as usual, a mystery…

Still, I watered them every day, and picked maybe 1 to 3 nice ripe mature cucumbers about that often–more than enough for fresh eating.

lime cucmbers growing

It seemed time to make pickles.

A little research revealed that pickle recipes demand maybe 40 pounds of cucumbers, each one four inches long and each one picked on the same day after which you instantly start the esoteric days and weeks of the pickling process. ( I calculated that I should have planted about two acres of cucumbers for a batch.)

The Food Preservation Committee–the dog and I–held an emergency meeting in the lawn swing and were in complete agreement that making traditional pickles was simply not a choice at this juncture. (“Maybe during some other incarnation” is what we put in the footnote of the meeting minutes.)

But life is sometimes fair and doors open or anyway computers load data and I found many recipes for what I am calling “Instant Sweet Pickles” –which just means you eat them now instead of canning them and eating them later, always a plus for those of us with no patience. Or perhaps I rationalize (rationalise) again. (I know I do it.)  Anyway this whole summer pickles thing is quick and really good and, call them marinated or call them pickled, we are about to consume this season’s fifth quart of them.. So here’s a recipe–

summer refrigerator pickles

Instant Sweet Pickles

Put 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 cup sugar,  1.5 tablespoons salt into a little kettle. Fill a tea strainer with pickling spices and toss it in. Simmer everything for about ten minutes.

Fill a quart jar with cucumber slices layered between a few rings of sweet onion. (I’ve also added green beans. You can get creative here.)

Take the tea thing out of the kettle and pour the hot syrup into the jar over the sliced cucumbers. It won’t quite fill the jar at first but as the veggies get hot they kind of sink and then it’s plenty of liquid to cover them. I turn the jar now and then as it cools, then refrigerate. They keep for a couple of weeks at least but probably they will be gone before that…

summer quick pickles

I bought the pickling spices in bulk as a mix and I’m not certain what is included.

pickling spices

Peppercorns. Cinnamon chips. Celery seeds. Bay leaves maybe…

I’ve tried this recipe with both pickling salt and regular salt and I don’t see a difference. I also used little “pickling” cucumbers along with English ones, all good.

These pickles are grand on sandwiches or just plain or in salads like pasta salad or potato salad…

Which brings me to the potatoes–just a small update.

fallen potato plants

The plants have fallen over in their pots.  Which is a lot of falling because they became tall. Some of them bloomed. I will wait for their obvious demise at which time I will dig. Stay tuned, because it will possibly be the closest we ever come to the experience of opening an Egyptian tomb.


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
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25 Responses to Pickles: Plan B

  1. kininvie says:

    OK, I reckon you can turn out the potatoes now, especially the ones where the shaws (yes, that’s what you call the leaves, although I’m certain you knew that) are turning yellow. You don’t want to leave them in the soil too long, because slugs (and worse) have a habit of finding the tubers and making neat little nests deep inside, and it is really, really off-putting to cut into a nice steamed potato and find that it is….rather more nutritious in terms of protein than you had hoped.
    In fact, treat any tuber that has even the tiniest hole in it with deep suspicion.

    That said, I am sure all yours will be perfect, as I’ve always avowed.

    • linniew says:

      Really Kininvie? Time to expect potatoes? And I must confess that I didn’t know “shaw” as “leaf” at all. But you knew I wouldn’t. (There is a little town called Shaw, about five miles from my house. My car quit there once and I had to walk home. Seemed a long way…) You are quite intuitive to know I would not be pleased to find things living in my potatoes, so I’ll consider myself educated and not hesitate to begin the dig– just must find my pith helmet, around here somewhere. Good to have a potato coach–not to be confused with a couch potato.

  2. Rachelle says:

    That kininvie! Always the slug on the hosta! As you are not “pickling” your pickles (insert “canning”), the type of salt makes no never you mind; pickling salt aids in providing better long term color. I’ve never heard of the word “shaw” for leaves either, must be some low brow Scottish thing, myself being the de facto Potato Queen, although the WI Farm Bureau actually crowns an actual Potato Queen each year. When I attempted to find out who it was came across this (which is TRULY unusual, and of which I have never heard! http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=potato+queen) Perhaps kininvie would find that reference unusual as well. All said I renounce all claim to any potato crown. Still I would wait until potatoes have died. As to needing two acres to produce sufficient 4″ long cucumbers, next year plant a pickling type like “Straight Eight”. Plant a row about 25′ long with the cuke seed every two inches (between 5/20 and 6/1 ) and thin to about 6″ apart. Water well. Cukes for canning about 8/1. Keep them picked every 4 days, leaving 1 1/2″ long and smaller for next picking.

    Is it just me or is something strange with my nomenclature key today?

    • linniew says:

      Thanks Rachelle! But please send me some canned pickles– I will never get there, if only for lack of water.
      Well that and I like to read. And knit. Other stuff. Okay I am a pickle dilettante. But I do consult the urban dictionary sometimes. It helps me stay out of trouble, printwise. Kininvie reads it most days I think.

      [Note to Kininvie: I do not pay Rachelle to write these things about you.]

  3. Susan says:

    I’m a novice canner too and happy to follow the instant gratification method.. The only thing I know for sure is in the English villages of my childhood my grandmother’s generation never canned their pickles and jams. That is they didn’t go through the giant pot of boiling water and burning fingers routine. We all ate the stuff over the winter, which may explain more than the inbreeding theory currently popular. My mother once threw cucumber seeds onto the silage heap, an area about 25ft square, and had a terrific crop. Maybe it was the bacteria.

    • linniew says:

      Great comment Susan–it made me laugh, especially the inbreeding theory. I know some people preserve jars of some things by just sealing them up hot. I doubt it was too detrimental, and way easier! Isn’t it irritating how things will thrive growing in a compost heap? I’ve heard of the same thing with potatoes so I planted them in pots of compost. I’ll let you know soon if that is just a rural myth.

  4. Lyn says:

    I am a pickle dilettante too, as what you have described is the only method I ever use. They keep well for at least 6 months (never had enough to see if they last longer). It also works really well on small zucchinis (maybe you call them courgettes) if you don’t have enough cucumbers. Actually, I think I prefer the zucchinis. Good luck with your potato dig.

    • linniew says:

      I call them zuchinis and I will try some with the next cucumber batch Lyn–the greenbeans worked so why not? Glad to hear that these quick pickles keep longer than I thought. Always good to have a testimonial.

  5. Katie says:

    Hi Linnie!
    The suspense is killing me. Just dump over one of those pots. How can you stand it?

    • linniew says:

      Oh Katie, sometimes I do feel overwhelmingly curious! But this week it’s so August-hot outside. And then there is a flea battle going on around here so mostly I just vacuum all day. It’s the first time in all his nine years that Max has had ANY flea issue (we use the dreadfully expensive flea-drop stuff regularly) but now the little beasts are in the yard and they ride in on him. I actually used the vacuum so much that I had to research online how to reposition a part that came off it. I spray the yard, I comb the dog and I vacuum. Sometimes I pick a cucumber, or water a rosebush. That’s about it. But as soon as I can work in the Potato Dig I promise to report right back!

      • Katie says:

        Some years are really bad for fleas. One particular bad year back when we had 5 big dogs, seemed like we would never be rid of them. The thumping of the dogs legs against the walls was unbearable. One day I snapped and went to the feed store begging them for the strongest thing they had. It was some kind of livestock dip probably meant for sheep. I got a bug sprayer and hosed down the dogs, garage, and bedding every couple of weeks for the whole summer. It was very unpleasant, but the silence was blessed. I’m really glad you did refrigerator pickles! They’re my favorite new thing too.

        • linniew says:

          I don’t know how you ever dealt with five dogs and fleas! I’ve almost lost my mind with just one terrier. I’m using a spray for the yard that is promised to not harm dogs or people or plants. It’s from a company called Natural Chemistry and is called Yard & Kennel Spray. I have the impression that it definitely works on the fleas outside, it smells nice (it has cinnamon, clove and cedar oil in it) and it’s easy to hook up the sprayer to a hose to spray and dilute at the same time. The problem here is that the yard is kind of big. I’ve sprayed all Max’s favorite sitting spots, some twice. Today I’m not finding any fleas on him and I have hope. If he scratches at all I go over him with a flea comb, which has been essential. And now I have to go vacuum again. Maybe after that I will eat a nice pickle.

      • Rachelle says:

        I’m sure I speak for kininvie and readers everywhere when I say we expect a post on The Great Dust Up and Raging Flea Battle! I’m sure in a movie format this will launch Max on his way to internet movie fame! He has the lead role? It will certainly include a cast of thousands, perhaps we will see some cut-aways to life in the primitive Stick-and-Twig people villages. Or perhaps, they are not quite so primitive and live steampunk sorts of post modern lives in touch with nature. They surely could be allies in such a war, similar to the role played by the Indians in the French attempts at early land grabs in the Western Hemisphere in the early 1700s?

        • linniew says:

          I’m afraid the cast of thousands, assuming those were the fleas, are mostly dead now and would not show to good effect for close shots. I did like the characterization of the stick people, which I call brick people, as steampunk with maybe little hollowed-out stones with digital insides and cars built from acorns… I will alert them to the flea issues although they seem to be gone in the summer, off sailing in their solar powered canoes.

  6. b-a-g says:

    I think you need to hand-pollinate your cucumbers to ensure maximum yield. The mysterious, shrivelled ones haven’t been pollinated properly. I only know this because I had the same problem with butternut squashes. The next year I grew cherry tomatoes instead because they can sort themselves out.

    • linniew says:

      Not pollinated properly? Is that like being a little bit pregnant? I do totally agree that cherry tomatoes can be depended upon to have proper(?) plant sex and produce salads till frost. But you really must tell the rest of the butternut squash story b-a-g, which led to your curious conclusion!

  7. All pickles in this house come straight from the grocery store. No deep thought required. 🙂

  8. Alberto says:

    I have to admit that after Mr. K description of his ‘jacked potatoes with surprise’ I am for the first time in almost one year so glad to be forced into a low-carbs diet.
    As for your cucumbers b-a-g confirmed my first suspicion about flowers not being pollinated… Maybe you shall include some bee’s representation to your FPC.
    I was looking forward to ask you what was that you use as pickling spices but then it comes out you don’t know either.
    Around my birth town there is a big factory that produces mainly sauerkraut and gherkins, 99% of which are exported to Germany, the remaining 1% is sold locally. They are particular gherkins made for the German taste and I remember they have mustard seeds, dill and coriander settled at the bottom of the jars. They taste great (gherkins, not jars).

    • linniew says:

      Good job staying on that diet, not easy. But at least you avoid potato inhabitants. But Alberto how could there be ANY even tiny undeveloped cucumber if the flowers weren’t pollinated? I do not get this. I just googled FPC and it’s Fundamental Payroll Certification and Fish Passage Center and First Pacific Corporation… I don’t think you meant any of those things so let me know.

      The Italian pickles for the Germans sound very yummy.

      • Alberto says:

        F ood P reservation C ommittee… does it ring a bell? 🙂
        This means you are really not taking seriously enough your role of Vice President of the FPC… and I thought the Americans were kind of obsessed with acronyms.

        There could be another explanation about cucumbers: what if your cucumbers were maybe a garden cultivar, selected only for its beautiful yellow flowers?
        But more alarmingly: what if they all were male cucumbers? And the females succumbed for some reason shared with the kiwi-zombie-girl?

  9. Chloris says:

    I don’ t think I will be preserving pickles. As someone once said ‘ life’ s too short to stuff a mushroom.’ And can’ t you get botulism? Or is that just canning? But I loved your post and all the comments. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I will have to read your whole blog. Obviously not in one go, in bite sized pieces.
    It really is great to have found your blog. I have found many writers who can’ t garden and gardeners who can’t write. But a gardener/ writer who can make me laugh out loud is a wonderful find.

    • linniew says:

      I’ve only heard of botulism in canning really. These ‘pickles’ are more like a salad. But then I never really embraced any of the sciences so what do I know? But I had the best time studying Shakespeare, and your blog mixes up the literary and the garden in a wonderful way and with a great writing voice which I enjoy very much. I’ll be reading back in your posts as well. So nice to have met you Chloris!

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