Our garden has been producing some beautiful vegetables this summer. It has been so much fun to watch them grow and eat fresh produce from our own backyard!
I wanted to share with you my first canning experience as we begin to harvest some cucumbers from our garden. I asked my mother-in-law, Cindy, to show me the ropes. I wanted to have some guidance during my first experience with canning. Cindy has been canning for many years, so it was very helpful to observe a “pro” before attempting on my own!
Last Saturday morning, we prepared several jars of dill spears and bread and butter pickles.
First, we gathered and washed all of the cucumbers. Then we weighed and divided them per the guidelines of each recipe. Cindy uses Ball’s “Blue Book” for preserving and she gave me my own copy last Christmas!
The yellow, sunburnt spots should be removed because they can cause the pickles to become bitter.Then, into the processor they went, one-by-one. Thank goodness my mother-in-law has all the fancy equipment! We sliced some onions… Then tossed the cucumbers and onions in a tub with canning salt. There is special salt just for canning… who knew! Maybe I’m the only one…Ha! Then we covered the cucumbers and onions with ice to chill for about an hour. It was then time to make the liquid “bath” for the pickles. We followed a recipe from Ball for bread and butter pickles. As the recipe instructed, we mixed the remaining ingredients in a large pot and heated to a boil.
NOTE: We made several batches at one time so our measurements were sometimes double or triple the recipe’s measurements. You can determine how many batches you need to mix based on the weight of the cucumbers you want to preserve. The mixture was approaching a simmer so we drained and rinsed the cucumber mixture. Then added it to the hot liquid mixture. We gave it a good stir and brought it to a boil. Time for the jars! Into a very warm jar we added the bread and butter pickles. We filled the jars almost to the top, leaving just about an inch at the edge. I wiped the lip of the jar clean with a warm wash cloth and placed the tops on the jars securely.
We worked simultaneously on some dill pickle spears… perfect for barbecues and sandwich lunches! YUM!
We halved and quartered the cucumbers to create equally-sized pickle spears.
Per the recipe from one of Cindy’s cookbooks, we filled each jar with garlic, peppercorns and dill. I really enjoy looking through old, family favorite cookbooks! Cindy commented how old her cookbook looked as I snapped this photo. I told her I believe you can tell which recipes are the best in old cookbooks by how dirty a page becomes. The more use a recipe gets, the more spots and splatters it accrues over the years! It just becomes more special to me!
We strategically placed the spears into each jar as tight as possible, leaving about an inch at the top edge. Meanwhile, we had the liquid vinegar mixture ready and boiling on the stove. We ladled the mixture into each jar; Again, leaving about an inch of room at the top. I wiped and sealed the jars for the dill spears and it was time for their bath. Into the boiling water they submerged as well. Cindy and I were both very grateful to have an air-conditioned home during this canning process! It can be a steamy job! Once they boiled for the allotted time, we removed the jars to cool. And there they were… beautiful, tangy, mouth-watering pickles. Goodbye garden, hello stocked pantry!Cindy even labeled the jars for me to keep! I was so excited to stock our pantry with some homemade pickles straight from our garden. When it comes to preserving the flavors of summer, for me, it doesn’t get much better than this! Thanks again, Cindy!I can see more canning in my future!