I’m drowning in cucumbers. I should have known better when I planted, but I never do.
When the seeds are going in the ground, it’s all hope and joy and rainbows. Then, as the seedlings emerge, I’m thrilled to welcome each and every one. “See: I am useful!” I think. “I could survive a zombie apocalypse. People would welcome me to their camp because I *can* grow things!”
But then I can’t stand the thought of murdering my babies. So I fail to thin.
And the next thing you know I’m drowning cucumbers because I have, um, 12 plants producing in what should be a space for 3.
So, what to do with 9 pounds of cucumber (today’s haul) sitting on the counter? Make pickles.
But, that’s too much produce staring at me to even think about quick pickles; there’d be room for nothing else in the refrigerator. So, it’s a day for full-on water-bath canning. (If you quick pickle, you can’t keep your goods in the pantry because they’ll spoil. But if you water-bath can, they are sealed and can be stored on the shelf for years. Trust me. My mom still sends me her circa-1988 jams.)
Now, I make awesome pickled green beans, but I’ve never done cucumbers. So I grab “The Joy of Pickling,” by Linda Ziedrich and start thumbing through its 400 pages of dreams. I have other books that are prettier and made for yuppy foodies (“Well Preserved,” by Eugenia Bone, for example) but this has all the basics. So when I haven’t done something before, I reach for it, knowing I can make a good baseline pickle. Then, the following year I can make adjustments or try something fancier.
I, personally, rarely eat pickle spears or whole pickles. I almost always prefer slices. So, I decide on two recipes: Old-Fashioned Bread and Butters and Sandwich Sliced Dill Pickles.
What I didn’t realize is that both types of pickles needed to be sliced up and then sit for hours. And that’s where I got thwarted. My enthusiasm for the project disintegrated. Because really, it’s hot and I’d much rather be sipping ice tea and reading “Dance of Dragons” and contemplating direwolves and Others and all things cold and icy.
But then Karl gave me the “sad Maddie eyes” — the ones my dog gives me to tell me she’s being abused and nobody loves her and really, she could have just one piece of bacon… — but in this case Karl wanted pickles. (And, truthfully, I knew that if I agreed to make pickles, Karl would go to Fairway for me. On a Saturday. Seemed a fair trade.)
So I set to chopping. And chopping. And then some more chopping. About half way through the chopping I realized I had forgotten to weigh said cucumbers. D’oh!
The first rule of canning is remember to weigh your produce. (Actually, it’s don’t kill anyone with botulism… but this is a very close second.) So I found my digital food scale (seriously worth the investment of $50 if you’re going to do any kind of canning or preserving; no, for reals) and went about weighing in all those damned cucumbers.
Enough to do a full recipe of the sandwich dills (6 pints) and a half recipe of bread-and-butters (4 pints).
So now they are both sitting on the counter in their respective salts and brines. Although there was that small issue of forgetting I’d halved the recipe for bread and butters and thus over-salted them by a 1/4 cup. So we’ll explore tomorrow how one solves for that.
Until then, I’m hanging out in Westoros, with John Snow, Ghost and anyone else George R.R. Martin hasn’t yet killed off. –Amy Haimerl