Or Fannie Farmer. Or some pioneer woman stocking up for a long hard winter in the plains. I’ve long been a stress baker, creating things when I’m antsy and need to calm myself. Yesterday, however, I was a stress canner. At the end of the day, I looked back and actually surprised myself. I wonder if I’m from another era sometimes. In a cloud of crazy energy, I busted out the following: cherry blueberry jam, red plum jam, quick dill pickles, bread & butter pickles, salted caramels and some really crappy rice krispie treats. Regarding that last one, file it away in the “I should have known better” category. Stale rice krispies and Dollar Store marshmallows do not a delicious treat make. Ick.
There’s something so very comforting in seeing my pantry shelves lined with rows of jeweled toned jars. The downside is that I have more jam than I can ever possibly eat. Yes, I am one of those crazy jam ladies that’s always giving away little jars of this and that. Oh lord. You would think I have a family of 30 the way I put this stuff up. What the hell am I thinking? Somewhere along the lines, I’ve turned into an 1800’s farmer’s wife except I live in a tiny apartment in the city in 2009. Yeah, I don’t really understand it either. But when I see a good price on Kirby cucumbers (30 cents a pound?!), I think pickles. Or when a vendor at the farmer’s market offers me 10lbs of free plums, it’s all about jam. Really, what’s a girl to do?
Thumbing through the August issue of Food & Wine magazine, the page on Quick Pickles caught my eye. Huh. Sounds interesting. And easy. I’ve made a lot of jams/preserves but hadn’t really entered the pickle arena because it seemed intimidating. Well, this sounded like a piece of cake. I love tasty pickle-y bits. When I saw cheap Kirby cuc’s at the store last week, I remembered those recipes and decided to give them a whirl. How hard could it be?
Let me tell you, this was easy – and I mean super duper easy. I made a couple tweaks, like no coriander seeds so I used mustard, and I cut the recipe in half. Next time I think I’ll up the ante on the chile peppers too but will wait and see if that flavor becomes more pronounced over time.
The whole process was stupid simple: cut the vegetables to fit the jars, mix up a simple brine, pour it into the jars, seal and refrigerate. No heat whatsoever; no complicated canning processes. The hardest part is probably finding the canning jars, which can be a bit of an ordeal in the city. I bet this would work just as well in any sealable container. Damn, probably even a good Ziploc bag if you had to.
The recipe said, “refrigerate overnight or up to 1 month.” Really? Only one day in the brine? I had my doubts. How good could that be? Don’t pickles have to soak in all that vinegar-y, garlic-y goodness over time? Shocked the hell out of me but these were really good after only one day. Ever skeptical, know-it-all me was downright speechless. They were delicious. I stood there, refrigerator door open, pickle juice dripping down the front of my shirt and ate half the jar in quick succession while doing a little jig of happiness. Class act, this girl, let me tell you.
Some variations are listed in the original recipe that I think would be fantastic like green beans, carrot sticks or asparagus (for each, first blanch 2 minutes then cool and continue.) At the rate I’m going through these goodies, I figure I’ll be back on a pickle making kick in just a few days. And I most certainly will make more when it’s this easy.
Stress Baking* Therapy Factor: HIGH. Ginormous in fact. There is something so utterly relaxing and chest thumping about canning that I can’t quite explain. You feel like such a provider, whether you have a large family or just a goldfish. Excellent things to give away and share the love too. Good good good all the way ’round.
*perhaps better phrased as “Stress Canning Therapy Factor” in this instance.
Quick Spicy Dill Pickles – adapted from Food & Wine magazine
Makes 2 pints
1 pound Kirby cucumbers
1 ½ Tablespoons kosher salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
¾ cup distilled white vinegar
3 large garlic cloves, slivered
1 Tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 large jalapeno or Serrano chile, slivered
6 dill sprigs
1 cup water
2 clean pint jars
- Wash and quarter the cucumbers lengthwise. Check the spear height in the jar – you may have to trip the spears down a bit to fit. The cucumbers must be submerged.
- In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, salt, and sugar. Stir until completely dissolved.
- Add the mustard seeds and 1 cup of water. Set aside.
- Pack the vegetables into the canning jars – cucumbers, garlic and chile slivers.
- Remove the thick stems from the dill and jam half the dill into each jar. Use a wooden skewer to get it in between the spears and in the nooks and crannies.
- Pour the brine over the cucumbers to cover.
- Close the jars and refrigerate overnight or up to one month.