Inspired by friends — and the pickled okra at The Wild Hare — I started pickling last summer (note: before We Can Pickle That). I got some jars, some vinegar, herbs and spices, and set about pickling. I started small and simple. I sliced some cucumbers and put them in a solution with dill and put whole okra in a solution with pepper flakes. After two weeks in the refrigerator, I had pickles!
This year, I'm branching out a bit. I'm still pickling cucumbers, but I've also pickled scapes and have an entire jar devoted just to pickled mustard seeds. Next up will be carrots and green beans, and maybe even some squash. I'm still sticking with refrigerator pickles, but I am quickly running out of room. I missed Nicki Wood's last pressure canning class at the Nashville Farmers Market, but I will be keeping an eye on the upcoming events to see when she's teaching again. Tip from the teacher: Follow NFM on Facebook to stay informed about upcoming classes. (The next should be in late July or August.) I'm a bit intimidated by the canning process, but I need to be able to get my pickles out of the refrigerator.
There are as many pickle recipes as there are pickles in the world, but I use a basic one:
1 cup distilled white or apple cider vinegar (or a mix of both)
1 1/4 cups water
4 tablespoons kosher or pickling salt
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan and pour over jars of soon-to-be pickles and seasonings. Seasonings can consist of dill (dried, fresh, seeds, whatever), sugar, maybe garlic, onions, mustard seeds, peppercorns, red pepper flakes/seeds, celery seeds ... the options are many.
Let the jars cool, refrigerate, and wait two weeks for pickles. I have read that refrigerator pickles should be consumed within two months (which is why I write the date on some clear tape attached to the lids), but I have eaten some much older and lived to write about it. I have even reused jars that had jam in them previously. Without any sterilization beyond what the dishwasher can do. I'm kind of a rebel.
Be sure to use a stainless steel, glass or porcelain saucepan or pot to heat the solution, though. Aluminum, cast iron and other metals can create a reaction to the brine that will alter the flavor. Another tip I've read indicated that putting grape leaves in with your dill pickled cucumbers or cutting off the blossom end will help them remain their snap. And that the best variety for pickling is the Kirby, a smaller, less seedy version than the typical slicer. Oh, and that you should salt your sliced cucumbers overnight to draw out extra water.
Clearly, I don't have the space or time to list all the tips. Are there any musts that I've missed? What's your favorite pickle?