Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to make dill pickles

Pickles are a delight to the taste buds and can add flavor to enhance the taste of even the blandest of meals. Pickles, when prepared with freshly picked ingredients, will maintain a glorified place in your kitchen shelves. 

The history of pickles seems to be so old that it is almost untraceable. But the origin of the main ingredient of pickles which is cucumber, can be traced back to India. Evidently, pickling seems to have been started by our fore-fathers almost 4000 years back to preserve food like vegetables and meat. Cucumber pickles were supposedly first preserved and eaten around 2030 BC. Throughout history, there have been mentions about the benefits of cucumber and pickled cucumbers, right from the Bible to scholars and historians. In addition to being praised for their excellent taste, they have been acclaimed to have many medicinal properties as well.

Whatever the history might be, the delight of pickles cannot be denied by anybody in the modern times as well. Pickles still remain a favorite of every household and likely to remain so for many more generations to come. 

The below recipe gives you an easy and uncomplicated way of preparing home-made pickles which is much tastier and healthier; than the packaged variety bought from the super-market.

Preparation time: 30 minutes plus 24 hours of soaking in brine solution.
Difficulty: Medium

You will need :
8-10 freshly picked cucumbers (choose small sized cucumbers to fit in well in your containers), 

1-2 cups pickling salt (ordinary salt is not suitable for making pickles), 
2 gallons water for brine and 2 quarts for syrup, 
4 cups apple cider vinegar, 
½ cup sugar, 
2 tbsp pickling spice, 
2 tbsp whole mustard seed (needed if pickling spice does not contain mustard), 
an enamel pan and boiling water canner.

  • Prepare the cucumbers by cutting off the blossom end and slicing them horizontally. If you have very small cucumbers, you can leave the stem and use them whole. The next step is to soak them overnight in brine solution of 1 cup salt mixed with 2 gallons water.
  • Prepare the jars by sterilizing in boiling water and later removing the moisture with a cloth ensuring the jars are completely dry.
  • Drain the soaked cucumbers and place them inside the jars. Add 1 tea spoon mustard seed inside each jar. 

  • Place the pan on the gas and add the vinegar, sugar and rest of the salt, 2 quarts of water and pickling spice. Heat the mixture till it boils. Now pour the boiling solution inside the glass jars containing the cucumbers. Make sure to leave about ¼ inch space from the top.

  • Now process the jars in boiling water inside the canner for about 10 minutes. Now lift the jars carefully without making much movement and place them for cooling in a draft free place. Your pickle is now ready to be enjoyed after a short waiting period of 24 hours.

Tips: The lids of the jars should have a sealing gum. To check if the lids have been sealed you can place your finger on the lid after it cools, and see if it makes a popping sound. If it does, refrigerate immediately to seal it.

To choose cucumbers, try the small sized ones which are dark green in color and have a lot of warts in them.