Mom and I had a wonderful day in the kitchen yesterday. She traveled about an hour from her house to mine here in North Little Rock, bringing canning equipment with her. We went to the farmer's market to eat an early lunch and grab a few things we needed: locally grown dill and garlic from my dollar lady and some locally grown tomatoes. We also stopped at Whole Foods to pick up some celery seed in bulk. And then the rest of the day was spent in a really steamy kitchen and dining room!
As one of the oldest of twelve children in a not terribly affluent family, canning was serious business for my Mom growing up. As we were working Mom recalled canning beets, tomatoes, and cucumbers as a child. They also froze a lot of corn and green beans and had a cellar where they kept onions, potatoes, and carrots--I think she said they kept the carrots in a large bin filled with sand and hung the onions. She also recalled that they grew their own dill. Each child had a long row of cucumbers that they took care of and sold at the end of the season for spending money.
So yesterday I learned to can from my Mom, who learned to can from her Mom, who learned to can from her Mother-in-law Hazel Caldie Marlow, who I wrote about at Mother's day.
Mom sitting in my Great-Grandma Hazel Caldie Marlow's Lap, My Aunt Vickie to the left (who also spent a lot of time in that steamy kitchen), and My Grandma Lorraine Thibodeau Marlow sitting on top of the picnic table.
We messed around and combined two different recipes to come up with pickles mostly based on a Jewish recipe that used the spices we could locate between whole foods and my spice boxes!
- A canner
- Large canning tongs to pull the hot jars out of the water.
- 15 pint size canning jars and lids
- Kitchen twine
- 8 LB cucumbers--smaller ones are better, according to Mom, who should know since she sold them as a child for spending money! Mine were huge, so we cut them into spears and sandwich pickles. We had a couple small ones we stuck in whole.
- 30 cloves of garlic
- 15 small red chilis
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 5 or 6 broken up bay leaves
- 1 tsp juniper berries
- 1 1/2 tsp coriander
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp of cloves
- 15 Dill heads
- 6 cups of vinegar
- 6 cups of water
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- Fill canner with water to cover the jars by two inches and put on to boil. This will take a while as it is a large amount of water. We did this first and the water ended up being ready exactly when we needed it.
- Fill a teapot with water and bring it to a boil. Put the lids in a bowl or or pot large enough to hold them and pour the boiling water over to sterilize.
- Run the jars through a hot dishwasher to sterilize.
- Wrap your pickling spices in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine.
- Pour the water and vinegar into a stock pot and add the sachet of pickling spices. Bring to a boil, add sugar and salt, stir to dissolve the sugar and salt, turn heat down and simmer for at least 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile scrub cucumbers and if you have big ones slice into desired shapes.
- When the jars are ready fill each jar with cucumbers leaving a half an inch or so empty at the top.
- Add 2 cloves of garlic, one red chili pepper, a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper, and a head of dill at the top.
- Using a ladle add pickling liquid to 1/4 of inch below the top of the jar.
- Screw the lids on tight and make sure no dill, etc. is hanging out over the lids.
- If the water is ready start by putting one jar in the center of the "thingie" (what is this thing called?) that holds the jars, and put the rest around it. Gently drop the "thingie" down to where the jars were covered with the boiling water.
- When the water comes back to a good roiling boil, cover and let boil for 15 minutes.
- Pull the "thingie" up after 15 minutes (Mom and I worked together taking a side, because it is HOT) and use the large tongs to place the jars on the counter on a towel.
- Listen closely to make sure that the lids make a popping sound, and/or eyeball them to make sure that none are domed, the lid should be sort of sucked down. Mom said if any aren't then you can add them back to boiling water for another 15 minutes, or else make sure you use them within a couple of weeks.
- Store the jars, with nothing on top of them, in a cool dark place (I used the back of my pantry cupboard) for two weeks or so to let all the flavors meld together.
Our results today.
- 10 big tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 onion chopped
- 1/4 of a red pepper, deseeded and chopped
- 1 cinammon stick
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1/2 tsp mustard seed
- 1/2 tsp celery seed
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 TB paprika
- 3/4 cup vinegar
- Combine and cook the chopped tomatoes, onion, and red pepper for about 15 to 20 minutes until vegetables are soft.
- Puree ingredients in a food mill or a food processor
- Return ingredients to pot and cook on very high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is reduced by half.
- Combine cinnamon, cloves, mustard seed, and celery seed in a cheesecloth sachet and add to the mixture.
- Also add sugar, salt, and paprika
- Cook for 25 minutes on medium heat, stirring constantly
- Add 3/4 cup vinegar, continue cooking and stirring until mixture is at the desired thickness.
- Process for 10 minutes in a canner if you don't plan on using it right away. It should make about two pints and since Mom and I each took a pint, we decided not to process it, since we should use it pretty quickly.
Mom's blog post of our day