Eco-Vegan Weekend: Pickles

Give plain pickles a kick with homegrown cayenne.
Give plain pickles a kick with homegrown cayenne.

Rather than bombard you with recipes, I’ll just let this week’s Eco-Saturday offering serve as a Vegan Friday recipe as well.

If you’re serious about reducing your environmental footprint, it’s well worth your time to learn to can surplus produce for winter use, and two of the most plentiful summer crops — tomatoes and cucumbers — are easy to put up without any fancy equipment or special culinary skills.

Since I have a bumper crop of cucumbers at the moment, we’ll do a batch of pickles for your first lesson. The recipe below is a riff on one my mom gave me.

Here’s what you’ll need for this project:

Seven pint canning jars with rings and new lids (don’t reuse lids, as they may not seal properly)
Big stockpot (any pot at least four inches taller than the jars will do)
Jar lifter or tongs

4 lbs. pickling cucumbers (small ones with black spines; the kind with white spines will go to mush if you can them)
2 c. cider vinegar
4 c. water
5 tbsp. salt
14 cloves garlic
Jar of dill seed
Whole black peppercorns
Ball Pickle Crisp granules (optional; if you don’t use it, you can increase the salt to 6 tbsp.)
14 cayenne peppers (optional)

Sterilize jars, lids and rings. The fastest way to do this is in the dishwasher, assuming you have one. If you don’t, you can sterilize the jars, lids and rings by boiling them.

Peel each clove of garlic, cut it in half, and crush it by laying the flat of a chef’s knife on top of it and hitting the knife with the side of your fist.

Mix the vinegar, water, salt and garlic together and bring it to a boil either on top of the stove or in the microwave.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the garlic from the brine.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the garlic from the brine after it boils.

If using peppers, cut the stems off while the brine comes to a boil. Cut the cucumbers into spears and pack them into jars. Add four pieces of garlic, about 1 1/2 tbsp. dill seeds, three peppercorns, 1/8 tsp. of Pickle Crisp and two peppers (if using) to each jar.

Leave about a half-inch of headspace in each jar.
Leave about a half-inch of headspace in each jar.

Fill jars with liquid, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe off the tops to make sure you don’t have any moisture, seeds or bits of cucumber between the jar and the lid.

A boiling-water bath is sufficient for acidic foods.
A boiling-water bath is sufficient for acidic foods.

Place the lids on top, screw on the rings as tightly as you can, and place as many jars as will fit in your stockpot. Cover the jars with water, bring to a boil, and let boil 10 minutes.

Using tongs or a jar lifter, carefully remove the jars from the water and let them sit out on the counter to cool. Repeat as necessary until you’ve boiled all the jars.

As the jars cool, you should hear a “Plink!” from each one. This is the sound of the jar sealing itself.

When the jars are completely cool, remove the rings. Pull on each lid with your fingers. If it doesn’t come off, it’s sealed. If you can pull it off with your fingers, it didn’t seal right, and you need to store it in the refrigerator and try to use it up fairly quickly.

Home-canned pickles will remain shelf-stable at room temperature for at least a year. (You’ll probably eat them all long before then, though.)


2 thoughts on “Eco-Vegan Weekend: Pickles”

  1. Dill seed is okay if you can’t get hold of (or grow your own) dillweed. Then you would use a complete seed head with an inch or so of the stem still attached per jar.

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