Zesty Sweet and Sour Pickles

I grew up on bread and butter pickles, but pickles with some zest takes the experience to a whole other level!  Powdery mildew loves anything with a vine, so there had to be a way to give my cucumbers a fighting chance. Although I have three raised beds inside my back yard, the level of sunshine often isn’t the greatest for certain vegetables and everything I planted last year with a vine ended up dying from an excessive fungus infection.

This year, I found a place that might just work outside the fence and in more sunshine.  After filling two half wine barrels with good soil, I planted a starter pickling cucumber plant in each barrel. To ensure the powdery mildew didn’t get a toe-hold, I sprayed the plants with Neem Oil several times in the early growing process. (See the post below “Planning the Vegetable Garden”). Now the cucumbers are growing and some are ready for harvest.

I picked 3 3/4 pounds of cucumbers today

and will prepare them for pickling using the following recipe:

Ingredients:
2 1/2 pounds pickling cucumbers (fresh from the market or your garden)
1 pound white or yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pickling salt (can use Kosher salt as a substitute, regular table salt has additives in it that will
1 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1 inch cinnamon stick
6 whole allspice berries plus a pinch of ground allspice
6 whole cloves plus a pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Instructions:

If you are planning to store pickles outside of refrigerator, you will need the following canning equipment:

* 5 pint-sized canning jars, clean, unused lids, metal screw bands for the lids

* 1 16-qt canning pot with rack

* Jar lifters or tongs

1. Carefully rinse the cucumbers, scrubbing away any dirt that may have stuck to the ribs. Slice off 1/8-inch from the ends and discard. Slice the cucumbers in 1/4-inch thick slices, place in a large bowl. Add the sliced onions and pickling salt. Stir in so that the salt is well distributed among the cucumber slices. Cover with a clean tea towel (thin towel, not terry cloth). Cover with a couple of inches of ice. Put in the refrigerator and let chill for 4 hours. Discard ice. Rinse the cucumber and onion slices thoroughly, drain. Rinse and drain again.

2. If you are planning to store your pickles outside of the refrigerator for any length of time, you will need to sterilize your jars before canning, and heat the filled jars in a hot water bath after canning. If you are planning to eat the pickles right away and store them the whole time in the refrigerator, you can skip the water bath step. It’s still a good idea to sterilize the jars first, you can do that by running them through the dishwasher, or placing them in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes. To sterilize the jars for canning, place empty jars on a metal rack in a large, 16-qt canning pot pot. (Jars must rest on a rack in the pot, not on the bottom of the pot). Fill with warm water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to warm to keep the jars hot and ready for canning. Remove with tongs or jar lifters one by one as you can the cucumbers. Sterilize the lids by bringing a pot of water to a boil and pouring water over a bowl containing the lids.

3.  In a 4 qt or 6 qt pot, place the vinegar, sugar, and all of the spices. Bring to a boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the sliced cucumbers and onions. Bring to a boil again. As soon as the sugar vinegar solution begins boiling again, use a slotted spoon to start packing the hot jars with the cucumbers. First pack a jar to an inch from the rim with the vegetables. Then pour hot vinegar sugar syrup over the vegetables to a half inch from the rim. Wipe the rim clean with a paper towel. Place a sterilized lid on the jar. Secure with a metal screw band.

.

4.  If you are planning to store pickles outside of refrigerator, process the filled jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Return filled jars to the same canning pot with its already hot water. Water level needs to be at least one inch above the top of the cans. Bring to a boil and let boil hard for 10 minutes. Remove jars from pot. Let cool down to room temperature. Jars should make a popping sound as their lids seal. If a lid doesn’t properly seal, do not store the jar outside of the refrigerator.

Makes about 5 pint jars.

Start with the freshest pickling cucumbers you can find; your pickles are only going to be as good as the produce you start with. The fresher the cucumbers are, the crispier your pickles will be. Since I had 1 1/2 times the recipe, I ended up with 6 pint jars of yummy pickles. Hopefully my vines will continue to produce and I will be able to do another batch soon.

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