Category Archives: Pickles

How to Make Dill Pickles

Pickles
Dill Pickles

Dill pickles are one of the easiest pickles to make. Cold-packed into hot sterilized jars, this recipe transforms tiny 3” – 4” cucumbers into tangy pickles that, for any dill lover, are the quintessential pickles to accompany many sandwiches and burgers.

This recipe is sized with the smaller household in mind. Many don’t have large storage capacity for big batches of pickles such as our ancestors made and stored in their cold rooms or cellars. Yet other households are comprised of only one or two people so they don’t need large batches of pickles but still want to have a taste of homemade goodness that comes from home preserving.

Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles

Freshness Counts with Pickling Cucumbers!

As with any pickle recipe, freshness of ingredients is key. That means the cucumbers should, ideally, be processed the same day they are picked from the vine or, certainly, within 24 hours. Otherwise, the cucumbers start to lose their flavour and get soft and punky and, as we all know, dill pickles are meant to have crunch.

Use Pickling Vinegar

It is very important to use vinegar which is made especially for the pickling process. It will usually have 7% acidity, making it stronger than table vinegar. This helps to preserve the pickles longer. Most large grocery stores will stock this vinegar, especially around “pickling time” in late summer or fall. The container should state that it is “pickling vinegar”.

Pickling Vinegar

Use Pickling Salt, Not Table Salt, in Pickles

One of the biggest tips I have for pickling is to never use table salt in the pickling process. Always use proper pickling salt. This is a coarse salt specifically for pickling and it will be marked as such on the package label. Apart from it being way too salty for pickling, iodized table salt can cause some discoloration of the cucumbers and will likely form a cloudy brine. The brine should be bright and clear. Table salt, because of its fine texture is too easily absorbed into the cucumbers, resulting in overly salty pickles. I can always tell if someone has used table salt in making pickles just by simply looking at the bottles of pickles – the contents of those bottles just do not have an appetizing look to them.

Coarse/Pickling Salt

Preparing the Jars 

The jars should be examined to ensure they are free of cracks, chips, and nicks. They should then be washed, rinsed, and sterilized. I sterilize mine in a pot of boiling hot water on the stove. Use a jar lifter to place the jars, upright in the water, holding each one steady until it fills with water. Bring the water back to a boil, reduce the heat slightly to prevent boil-overs, and boil the jars gently for 10 minutes from this point. Turn the heat to simmer and leave the jars in the water until they are ready to be filled with the cucumbers. The jars must be kept hot because, once filled, they will be going into a hot water bath and cold jars meeting up with boiling water will crack.

Making the Brine

The process I use to make my dill pickles is quite simple. This involves making a simple brine of equal parts of pickling vinegar and water along with some pickling salt, a bit of sugar, and some pickling spices. To keep the brine clear, bundle the pickling spice into a double (or triple) layer of cheesecloth. Gather up this little sachet and tie with string. Once this brine has simmered for about 15 minutes, discard the spice sachet and bayleaf. The brine is then ready to be poured over the cucumbers.

Spice Sachet
Preparing the Spice Sachet
Pickling Spice Sachet
Pickling Spice Sachet

Preparing the Cucumbers and Filling the Jars

The small 3” – 4” dill-sized cucumbers can be left whole or they can be sliced in two (or even quartered) lengthwise or they can be sliced into “coins”. Just note that the pickles are likely to have more crunch if the cucumbers are left whole. Make sure to trim the blossom end of each cucumber by 1/8” – these blossom tips have enzymes that can lead to limp, punky pickles. Pricking each cucumber 3-4 times with the tines of a fork will help the vinegar brine penetrate the cucumbers better resulting in more flavorful pickles.

Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles

The point where you start to place ingredients into the jars is the point where it is necessary to work along quickly because the jars cannot be allowed to get cold before they go into the hot water bath. Ensuring all ingredients and pickling equipment are laid out before starting the process and following a set order will help this process move along quickly.  Further along in this posting, you will find an outline of the step-by-step sequence I follow to quickly get the jars filled while they are still hot and then into the hot water bath.

A slightly smashed garlic clove along with some mustard seed and a whole clove are first placed in the bottom of each jar. Where, in the jars, the small bunch of feathery dill fronds and the umbrella-shaped seed head of the dill plant are placed is a matter of personal preference. I like to place the dill fronds on one side of the jar and the seed head on the opposite side. These can, of course, be placed on the bottom of the jar or the feathery dill fronds on the bottom and the dill head on top of the cucumbers. The taste will be the same. However, if you like your jars to have a nice appearance that immediately signifies they are dill pickles, placing the fronds and dill head so they are visible will do the trick!

Ensure the cucumbers are tightly packed, compactly, into the jars but not so tight that they are squished. Once all the ingredients are placed in the jar, pour the hot brine into each jar, leaving ½” head space at the top of each jar.  A chopstick, or small non-metal spatula, is useful to remove any air bubbles that may appear and more of the brine may need to be added, as necessary, to bring it to about ½“ from the jar rim.

Add a Grape Leaf to Keep the Dills Crunchy

I add a grape leaf on top of the cucumbers in each jar. This is an old trick to keep the cucumbers crisp – the tannin-rich grape leaves have enzymes that help to keep the cucumbers crunchy. Some say, with the removal of the blossom ends of the cucumbers, it is not necessary to add the grape leaves to the jars but I have access to them so I add them and my dill pickles always turn out super crunchy.

Heat the Jar Lids and Metal Ring Bands

Always use brand new metal jar lids; never re-use them for pickling purposes as their seal is only meant for single use. Check the metal ring bands (which can be re-used multiple times) to ensure they have no dents or nicks in them and there is no rust. The jar lids are heated in hot simmering water, just until they are hot and the gaskets softened —  3 – 4 minutes should do it. Heating the lids too long or in rapidly boiling water will weaken the rubber on them causing them not to seal properly. Wipe each jar rim with a clean, damp cloth before applying the lids, rubber side down, to the jar tops. Tighten the metal ring bands, fingertip tight. At this point, the dills are ready, without delay, for their hot water bath.

Heating Jar Lids
Heating Jar Lids

The Hot Water Bath

Processing the jars of dills stabilizes the contents for longer shelf life. Make sure the hot water canner is ready to go with the boiling water in it by the time you fill the jars. Load the filled jars into the metal basket that comes with the canner. The jars should remain upright during the hot water bath process and they should not touch each other. Once the basket is lowered into the boiling water, ensure the water level is at least 1” above the jar tops. Add more boiling water, if necessary, to bring the water to this level.

I recommend following your canner manufacturer’s instructions for the canning process as the length of time the jars need to be processed will depend on the altitude of your locale. Here on PEI, I process my half-pint jars of dills for 10 minutes and I start the timing from the time the hot water returns to a full rolling boil after the basket of jars has been placed in the canner of hot water. Once the 10 minutes is up, remove the jars, one by one, with a jar lifter and place them on a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal. Sometimes, this will take place almost immediately and sometimes it can take a few hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Let the jars rest, undisturbed, on the wire cooling rack for 12 hours. Then, let the sealed jars stand in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks before opening. This gives time for the dill flavour to develop fully.

Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles

The Sequence

To help organize your work to make these pickles, I offer the following suggested order for the sequence so that the steps happen when they should and the hot jars do not have a chance to cool before they are filled and placed in the hot water bath.

  1. Fill the hot water canner with hot tap water, place it on the stove, and start the heating process to get it to the boiling point. Starting with hot tap water will reduce the amount of time it takes to get the large canner of water to a boil. Make sure the water is at the boiling point before the wire basket of filled bottles is placed in the canner.
  2. Heat a pot of boiling water to sterilize the jars. Wash jars. Boil them gently for at least 10 minutes. Keep them, at simmer level, in the hot water until they are needed for filling.
  3. Wash and cut blossom ends from cucumbers and prick each with tines of a fork, 3-4 times.
  4. Gather spices for the jars and prepare garlic cloves.
  5. Start making the brine.
  6. Make a quick trip to the garden to pick the fresh dill heads and fronds.
  7. As the brine is nearing completion, remove the sterilized jars from the hot water and place the garlic, spices, dill fronds and dill head in each jar. Pack in the cucumbers.
  8. Heat lids in small pan of hot water. Boil extra water in case it is needed to top up hot water canner to 1” above jar tops.
  9. Pour brine over cucumbers, remove air bubbles with a chopstick (or small non-metal spatula), and top up with more brine, as necessary. Add the grape leaf to top of each jar. Wipe the jar rims with clean damp cloth.
  10. Place lids and metal ring bands on jars. Place jars in canner basket and lower into canner of hot water. Add any additional water necessary to bring water level to 1” above jar lids. Cover. Bring canner water back to full rolling boil. Start timing the canning time from this point.
  11. Have wire rack set out for bottles as they come out of the canner.

Note: The garlic clove is likely to turn a blue-green-gray color. Don’t be alarmed by this – it’s just the effect of the acid from the vinegar coming into contact with the garlic.

Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles
[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Dill Pickles

Ingredients:

2 lbs – 3” – 4” pickling cucumbers, freshly picked and washed

1 tbsp pickling salt
1¼ cups + 1 tbsp pickling vinegar
1¼ cups + 1 tbsp water
2 tbsp granulated sugar
½ tbsp pickling spice, gathered into double (or triple) layer of cheesecloth and tied into spice sachet
1 bay leaf

3 – 4 whole cloves
1 tsp mustard seed, divided equally among the jars
3 – 4 small garlic cloves, slightly smashed
Fresh dill heads, one per jar along with small bunches of feathery dill fronds
Grape leaves, medium-sized, 1 per jar

3 – 4 half-pint jars, lids, and metal ring bands (the number of jars needed will depend on the size of the cucumbers, whether they are sliced or left whole, and how compactly they are fit into the jars)
1 chopstick

Method:

Wash and trim 1/8“ from blossom end of each cucumber. Prick cucumbers 3-4 times with tines of a fork. Leave cucumbers whole or cut into two or four spears, lengthwise (or slice into “coins”). Fill the canner with hot tap water and heat to boiling point while making the brine. Begin sterilizing the jars in large pot of hot water to have them ready when brine is heated.

To make the brine, combine the pickling salt, vinegar, water, sugar, pickling spice sachet, and bay leaf in small stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately reduce heat to low and cook brine, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring periodically. Remove from heat and discard pickling sachet and bay leaf.

Place 1 whole clove, ¼ to 1/3 teaspoon mustard seed (divide the teaspoon of seeds equally between number of jars used), and 1 small slightly smashed garlic clove in each hot, sterilized jar. Place a small bunch of feathery dill fronds along one side of the jar and one umbrella-shaped dill head on the opposite side of the jar. Fill the jars with the cucumbers, packing tightly (but not squashing them), and keeping the dill fronds and dill head in place against the sides of the jars.

Pour the hot brine into each jar, filling to within ½ inch from jar rim (head space). Use a chopstick (or small non-metal spatula) to remove any air bubbles that may have formed in the brine. Add more brine, if necessary, to bring it to ½“ from the jar rim. Add 1 grape leaf to top of each jar, pressing it below the surface of the brine, to keep cucumbers crisp. Wipe each jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Seal the jars with heated lids. Screw on metal ring bands, fingertip tight.

Place jars in hot water bath basket, ensuring jars do not touch each other or fall over. Lower basket into canner of hot water. Ensure the water level is at least 1″ above the jar tops, adding more water as necessary. Cover with canner lid. Increase the heat to return the water to a rolling boil then decrease the heat to just keep the water at a rolling boil but not boiling over. Process half-pint jars in the hot water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting time for altitude. Start timing the processing from the point where a full rolling boil is reached after basket of jars has been added to the canner. Turn off heat and remove canner lid. Using a jar lifter, carefully remove the jars, one at a time, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal over the next few minutes or hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Let jars rest, undisturbed, on wire rack for 12 hours. For maximum dill flavour, let sealed jars stand in cool, dark place for 6 weeks before opening.

Yield:  Approximately 3- 4 half-pint jars

Dill Pickles

These easy-to-make dill pickles combine dill, garlic, and pickling spices to transform tiny cucumbers into crunchy pickles that, with their tangy flavour, are a great accompaniment to many sandwiches and burgers.
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs – 3” - 4” pickling cucumbers, freshly picked and washed
  • 1 tbsp pickling salt
  • cups + 1 tbsp pickling vinegar
  • cups + 1 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • ½ tbsp pickling spice, gathered into double (or triple) layer of cheesecloth and tied into spice sachet
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 - 4 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp mustard seed, divided equally among the jars
  • 3 – 4 small garlic cloves, slightly smashed
  • Fresh dill heads, one per jar along with small feathery dill fronds
  • Grape leaves, medium-sized, 1 per jar
  • 3 – 4 half-pint jars lids, and metal ring bands (the number of jars needed will depend on the size of the cucumbers, whether they are sliced or left whole, and how compactly they are fit into the jars)
  • 1 chopstick (or small non-metal spatula)

Instructions

  1. Wash and trim 1/8“ from blossom end of each cucumber. Prick cucumbers 3-4 times with tines of a fork. Leave cucumbers whole or cut into two or four spears, lengthwise (or slice into “coins”). Fill the canner with hot tap water and heat to boiling point while making the brine. Begin sterilizing the jars in large pot of hot water to have them ready when brine is heated.
  2. To make the brine, combine the pickling salt, vinegar, water, sugar, pickling spice sachet, and bay leaf in small stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately reduce heat to low and cook brine, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring periodically. Remove from heat and discard pickling sachet and bay leaf.
  3. Place 1 whole clove, ¼ to 1/3 teaspoon mustard seed (divide teaspoon of mustard seed equally between number of jars used), and 1 small slightly smashed garlic clove in each hot, sterilized jar. Place a small bunch of feathery dill fronds along one side of the jar and one umbrella-shaped dill head on the opposite side of the jar. Fill the jars with the cucumbers, packing tightly (but not squashing them), and keeping the dill fronds and dill head in place against the sides of the jars.

  4. Pour the hot brine into each jar, filling to within ½ inch from jar rim (head space). Use a chopstick (or small non-metal spatula) to remove any air bubbles that may have formed in the brine. Add more brine, if necessary, to bring it to ½“ from the jar rim. Add 1 grape leaf to top of each jar, pressing it below the surface of the brine, to keep cucumbers crisp. Wipe each jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Seal the jars with heated lids. Screw on metal ring bands, fingertip tight.

  5. Place jars in hot water bath basket, ensuring jars do not touch each other or fall over. Lower basket into canner of hot water. Ensure the water level is at least 1" above the jar tops, adding more water as necessary. Cover with canner lid. Increase the heat to return the water to a rolling boil then decrease the heat to just keep the water at a rolling boil but not boiling over. Process half-pint jars in the hot water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting time for altitude. Start timing the processing from the point where a full rolling boil is reached after basket of jars has been added to the canner. At the end of the processing time, turn off heat and remove canner lid. Using a jar lifter, carefully remove the jars, one at a time, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal over the next few minutes or hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Let jars rest, undisturbed, on wire rack for 12 hours. For maximum dill flavour, let sealed jars stand in cool, dark place for 6 weeks before opening.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Approximately 3- 4 half-pint jars

Be sure to read blog posting that accompanies this recipe for more information on the procedure to make dill pickles.

For other great pickle, relish, and chow recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Mustard Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Pickled Beets
Mustard Beans
Green Tomato Chow
Rhubarb Relish

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Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles

Best Pickled Beets Recipe

Pickled Beets
Pickled Beets

I so love pickled beets.  They are something I grew up with and I make them every year.  It’s a bit of a messy job but, oh, are the results so worth it!  I look upon these as vegetable candy!

Pickled beets are really nothing more than cooked beets bottled with a vinegar-sugar-spice syrup. That’s it.

For pickling, I recommend cylinder beets if you can get them. They are long and slender and slice nicely for fitting in to the jars and also for presentation.  Regular ball beets can, of course, be used for pickling and, in fact, that’s all my grandmothers would have used – just the regular garden variety.  However, some of the round beets grow quite large and the slices have to be cut into two or three pieces to get them to fit in the jars and they don’t look quite as nice for presentation….same great taste, though.

Beets take awhile to cook so patience is required for this exercise.  Try to select uniformly-sized ones so they all cook at the same rate. However, if you have a mixture of sizes, place the larger ones in the bottom of the pot and the smaller ones on top.

Don’t peel the beets before they are cooked. Simply remove the leaves, leaving about 1″ stem and the root end intact.  Removing the stem or root end will cause bleeding and the vegetable will lose its vibrant color during the cooking process. The stem ends get removed after cooking and the beets get peeled after they are cooked. In fact, the skins will usually just slip off the cooked beets.

Because these vegetables are a bit messy to deal with, I use a portable burner and cook them outside so there is less chance of beet-spattered walls and counter in my kitchen. They do stain surfaces. I add a couple of teaspoons of cooking oil to the water in which the beets are cooked as I find it helps to prevent them from boiling over.

When the beets are starting to get along with their cooking, start the syrup to cook in a separate smaller stockpot.  The syrup should cook for about 18-20 minutes at a slow boil.  Don’t boil it too rapidly or for too long as it will evaporate and there won’t be enough syrup to fill the jars. This means more syrup has to be made and the syrup needs to go over the hot beets so timing is everything. For instructions on how to make the spice sachet used in the syrup, visit my posting on making mustard pickles. I also recommend that pickling vinegar be used. It will usually have 7% acidity, making it stronger than table vinegar and will help to preserve the beets longer.

You can give the cooked beets a quick rinse under cold running water. It does make them a bit easier to handle. However, they have to be bottled hot so don’t over-do the rinsing. I recommend slicing the hot beets about 1/4″ thick. Pack them well into the hot sterilized jars, leaving about 1″ headroom. Ladle the hot syrup into the filled jars, filling each jar with the syrup to within 1/4″ from the top. Use a non-metal object to remove any air bubbles that may have formed in the jars and add more syrup, if necessary, to fill up the jars to about 1/4″ from the tops. Seal with heated lids and screw on the jar bands just until resistance is met.  For greatest food safety, it is recommended that the filled jars be processed in a hot water bath following your canner manufacturer’s directions for your local altitude.

Traditional PEI Christmas Dinner
Pickled Beets with Roast Turkey Dinner

We enjoy these tasty morsels with cooked dinners such as the traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey dinners as well as with roast beef or pork dinners. They are also good served with cold meats.

Beets
Pickled Beets

[Printable Recipe follows at end of posting]

Best Pickled Beets

 Ingredients:

5 lbs cylinder beets, stem and root ends intact
Boiling water
2 tsp cooking oil

2¾ cups brown sugar
2¾ cups pickling vinegar
1 cup + 3 tbsp water
2¾ tsp pickling spice, tied into a small cheesecloth sachet
2 – 6” cinnamon sticks
¼ tsp salt

Method:
Remove the leaves from the beets, leaving about 1” stem in place.  Rinse under cold water to remove any clay.  In very large stock pot, place the larger beets on the bottom, then the smaller ones. Cover the beets with boiling water and add 2 tsp cooking oil.  Cover and cook over medium-high heat until beets are fork tender.

As beets are nearing the cooked stage, begin making the syrup by combining the sugar, vinegar, water, pickling spice sachet, cinnamon sticks, and salt into a small stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium low and boil, uncovered, slowly for approximately 15-18 minutes.

Remove cooked beets from water, rinse quickly under cold water, peel, and remove and discard stem and root ends. Slice hot beets into ¼” thick slices and pack into sterilized jars, leaving 1” headroom.

Remove and discard the pickling spice sachet and cinnamon sticks from the syrup.  Ladle hot syrup over beets leaving ¼“ headroom.  Using a non-metal object, remove any air bubbles from the jars and add more syrup as necessary to fill jars to about ¼“ from the top. Wipe each jar rim clean with a damp cloth. Seal immediately with heated lids. Screw on jar bands just until resistance is met.

Process filled jars in hot water bath according to canner manufacturer’s directions for the proper time for your local altitude.

Yield:  Apx. 6 pints

For more of my pickle and chow recipes, follow these links:
Mustard Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Green Tomato Chow
Mustard Beans
Dill Pickles

Best Pickled Beets Recipe

Yield: Apx 6 pints

These tasty sweet pickled beets are easy to make, showy in presentation, and are a fine accompaniment to many meals. A Prince Edward Island favorite.

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs cylinder beets, stem and root ends intact
  • Boiling water
  • 2 tsp cooking oil
  • 2¾ cups brown sugar
  • 2¾ cups pickling vinegar
  • 1 cup + 3 tbsp water
  • 2¾ tsp pickling spice, tied into a small cheesecloth sachet
  • 2 – 6” cinnamon sticks
  • ¼ tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Remove the leaves from the beets, leaving about 1” stem in place. Rinse under cold water to remove any clay. In very large stock pot, place the larger beets on the bottom, then the smaller ones. Cover the beets with boiling water and add 2 tsp cooking oil. Cover and cook over medium-high heat until beets are fork tender.
  2. As beets are nearing the cooked stage, begin making the syrup by combining the sugar, vinegar, water, pickling spice sachet, cinnamon sticks, and salt into a small stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and boil, uncovered, slowly for approximately 15-18 minutes.
  3. Remove cooked beets from water, rinse quickly under cold water, peel, and remove and discard stem and root ends. Slice hot beets into ¼” thick slices and pack into sterilized jars, leaving 1” headroom.
  4. Remove and discard the pickling spice sachet and cinnamon sticks from the syrup. Ladle hot syrup over beets leaving ¼“ headroom. Using a non-metal object, remove any air bubbles from the jars and add more syrup as necessary to fill jars to about ¼“ from the top. Wipe each jar rim with a damp cloth. Seal immediately with heated lids. Screw on jar bands just until resistance is met.
  5. Process filled jars in hot water bath according to canner manufacturer’s directions for the proper time for your local altitude.
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Beets
Pickled Beets
Pickled Beets
Pickled Beets

Bread and Butter Pickles

One of my very favorite kinds of pickles are the traditional sweet Bread and Butter Pickles.  If I didn’t limit myself, I could sit down and eat an entire bottle of these pickles! They are especially good with sandwiches and burgers.

Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pickles are not hard to make but, like most pickled products, they are a bit time-consuming and, sometimes, finding the right ingredients can be a bit of a challenge.  The first challenge is to get the  cucumbers that are suitably-sized for bread and butter pickles.

Small Pickling Cucumbers
Small Pickling Cucumbers

These are small cucumbers (but bigger than those used to make dill pickles), about 6-7 inches long and only about 1 1/2″ to 2″ wide.  You don’t want to use large field cucumbers because they have too many seeds, meaning they will fall apart as opposed to holding their shape when sliced. As well, large slices of pickled cucumbers are not attractive to serve alongside a sandwich or burger.

To make quality pickles, fresh produce is needed.  I recommend using cucumbers that have not been picked any longer than 24 hours.  Cucumbers that have been picked for days start to get soft and “punky” and are not good for pickling because they have already started to deteriorate and lose their freshness. As well, the skin on the cucumbers will be very tough.

Ask for “bread and butter pickling cucumbers” at your local farm stand or market and the sellers should know what you mean. Be sure to ask when they were picked and check to make sure the cucumbers are firm to the touch. I bought mine at Balderston’s Farm Market in Stratford, PEI, and the big bin of the cucumbers had just been brought in from the field and were being bagged up while I was at the stand.

Give the cucumbers a good wash and then dry them off.

Trim and discard the cucumber ends but leave the peeling on for these pickles. Not only does the peeling give color and texture but it helps to hold the cucumber slices intact.

DSC00389 (1)

If you have a mandolin, it will make slicing the cucumbers easier and you will have uniformly-sized slices of cucumbers. I suggest cutting the cucumbers into either 3/16″ or 1/4″ thick slices, depending on how thin or thick you like pickle slices.  The 1/4″ thickness will help the pickles retain their shape the best.

I recommend using the small silver-skinned onions (often referred to as “pickling onions”) for these pickles because, when sliced, they will be about the same size in diameter as the cucumbers. I find these onions are somewhat stronger in flavour than the standard garden variety of onions.

Silver-skinned Onions
Silver-skinned Onions

Even if you don’t like onions, they really are needed to give these pickles flavour.

Use firm, blemish-free peppers – 1 red and 1 green – for this recipe and dice them up.

The green pepper contributes to the flavour and the red pepper adds a splash of color to the pickles (as well as taste).

Be sure to use pickling (coarse) salt, never table salt, for the soaking of these pickles. You should be able to find this salt in the same grocery aisle as regular table salt or at your bulk food store where it may be labeled as either “pickling” or “coarse” salt.

Coarse/Pickling Salt
Coarse/Pickling Salt

Once all the vegetables are cut up, place them in a large bowl or pot.

Sprinkle the vegetables with the pickling salt.

Give the vegetables a good stir to mix in the salt.

For the brine, you will need a total of about 5-6 dozen large ice cubes.  Completely cover the vegetables with a layer of ice cubes.  As these melt, they combine with the salt to make the brine in which the vegetables will soak for three hours at room temperature.  Make sure you have additional ice cubes to add to the vegetables as cubes melt. The key is to keep the vegetables ice cold as this will help the cucumbers retain their crispness.

Once the ice cubes melt, the vegetables will start to float in the water if they are not weighted down so I suggest placing another lightweight plastic bowl directly on top of the vegetables and ice cubes and weighting it down with a couple of frozen freezer packs which will also help to keep the vegetables cold. Be sure to cover this top bowl to keep the cold trapped inside.

DSC00523 (1)

After the vegetables have soaked for three hours at room temperature, drain them in one to two large colanders and discard any ice cubes that may still remain.

Give the vegetables a quick short rinse of fresh cold water. This will remove any salt residue that may remain. Don’t over-do the rinsing – just a quick rinse-off is all that is needed.

Drain the vegetables really well, letting them sit for at least 20 minutes or so.  If too much water is left in the vegetables, it will dilute the syrup and make for watery pickles. As they are draining, I often will scoop up a handful or two of the vegetables and move them around in the colander and then gently shake the colander to release any trapped water.

For any pickling, I recommend using vinegar that is specially labelled for pickling – it will usually have 7% acidity, making it stronger than table vinegar which will help to preserve the pickles longer.

Pickling Vinegar
Pickling Vinegar

The syrup is easy to make. There is no need to bundle up all the spices into a cheesecloth sachet for the syrup as it is perfectly fine to have the spices loose in the pickle jars. Just remove and discard the cinnamon stick before bottling the pickles. To make the syrup, simply combine all the syrup ingredients in a large stock pot and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.

Once the syrup has reached the boiling point, add the drained vegetables.

Bring the mixture back to the boiling point, occasionally stirring the vegetables. Once it reaches the boiling point, remove the pot from the heat.  All this process aims to do is to heat the vegetables and they should not be cooked until they are soft – these pickles are meant to be crispy. Overcooking will make them soft and punky.

Some use the sanitizing cycle on their dishwashers to sterilize the jars. I’m still using the old traditional method of sterilizing the jars in hot water. The jars must be hot when they are filled with the vegetables.

Sterilizing Jars
Sterilizing Jars

Use a slotted spoon to gather up the vegetables and place them in the hot sterilized jars. A wide-mouthed funnel is useful for this process. Fill the jars, leaving about 1″ headroom in each.

Pour the hot syrup into the jars and over the vegetables, leaving about 1/2″ headroom in each bottle. Remove any air bubbles that may appear in the jars by inserting knife into each bottle and gently moving vegetables to allow liquid to fill any pockets of air that may have formed.

Wipe the tops of the jars with a clean, damp cloth to remove any syrup.  Seal immediately with heated lids. Screw on jar bands just until resistance is met.

Process filled jars in hot water bath according to canner manufacturer’s directions for the proper time for your local altitude.

Cool jars completely and listen for the “ping/pop” sound that will tell you that the jar is sealed.  This may happen quickly or it can take several hours. The lids should also have an inward dent in the center of their tops if they have sealed to the jars properly. If a lid has not made the “popping/pinging” sound and is not dented inward, store the jar in the refrigerator and use it first.

Store the jars in a cool, dark area.

How many jars of pickles you get from this batch will be determined by how tightly or loosely you pack the cucumbers into the jars. This will also dictate how much syrup is used, too.

Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles

Ingredients:

6 – 6½ lbs small pickling cucumbers, peeling on, sliced either 3/16”  or 1/4″ thick
4 cups silver-skinned onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
½ cup pickling salt
5-6 dozen ice cubes

Syrup:
5 cups white sugar
1 tsp tumeric
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tsp celery seed
3 cups pickling white vinegar
½ cinnamon stick

Method:

Wash the cucumbers and trim and discard their ends. Slice the cucumbers either 3/16″ or 1/4″ thick, depending on the desired thickness of the pickle slices. Slice onions and dice the peppers. Combine the sliced cucumbers, onions, and peppers in a large bowl. Sprinkle pickling salt over vegetables. Stir mixture with a large wooden spoon to distribute the pickling salt. Completely cover mixture with a layer of ice cubes. Place a large bowl over the vegetables and weigh it down with a weight (a couple of freezer ice packs work well) to keep the vegetables soaking in the brine. Let sit at room temperature for 3 hours, adding more ice cubes as they melt to ensure vegetables are kept cold.

Drain vegetables into 1-2 large colanders and rinse with cold water to remove any salt residue. Drain again for several minutes.

In large stock pot, combine all of the syrup ingredients. Bring the syrup to the boiling point over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetables. Bring the mixture just to the boiling point, stirring occasionally. Remove pot from heat.

Using a slotted spoon, fill hot sterilized jars with the vegetables leaving 1” headroom in each bottle. Pour hot syrup into the bottles, leaving ½” headroom in each bottle. Remove any air bubbles that may appear in the jars by inserting knife into each bottle and gently moving vegetables to allow liquid to fill any pockets of air that may have formed.

With clean, damp cloth, wipe clean each jar rim. Seal immediately with heated lids. Screw on jar bands just until resistance is met.

Process filled jars in hot water bath according to canner manufacturer’s directions for the proper time for your local altitude.

Store jars in cool dark area.

Yield: Apx. 7-9 pint bottles


For other great pickle, chow, and relish recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Mustard Pickles
Pickled Beets
Mustard Beans
Green Tomato Chow
Rhubarb Relish
Dill Pickles

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.  If you enjoyed this posting and recipe, please share it on your social media websites.

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Bread and Butter Pickles

Yield: 7-9 pint bottles

Ingredients

  • 6 – 6½ lbs small pickling cucumbers, peeling on, sliced either 3/16” or 1/4" thick
  • 4 cups silver-skinned onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • ½ cup pickling salt
  • 5-6 dozen ice cubes
  • Syrup:
  • 5 cups white sugar
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tbsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 3 cups pickling white vinegar
  • ½ cinnamon stick

Instructions

  1. Wash the cucumbers and trim and discard their ends. Slice the cucumbers either 3/16" or 1/4" thick, depending on the desired thickness of the pickle slices. Slice onions and dice the peppers. Combine the sliced cucumbers, onions, and peppers in a large bowl. Sprinkle pickling salt over vegetables. Stir mixture with a large wooden spoon to distribute the pickling salt. Completely cover mixture with a layer of ice cubes. Place a large bowl over the vegetables and weigh it down with a weight (a couple of freezer ice packs work well) to keep the vegetables soaking in the brine. Let sit at room temperature for 3 hours, adding more ice cubes as they melt to ensure vegetables are kept cold.
  2. Drain vegetables into 1-2 large colanders and rinse with cold water to remove any salt residue. Drain again for several minutes.
  3. In large stock pot, combine all of the syrup ingredients. Bring the syrup to the boiling point over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetables. Bring the mixture just to the boiling point, stirring occasionally. Remove pot from heat.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, fill hot sterilized jars with the vegetables leaving 1” headroom in each bottle. Pour hot syrup into the bottles, leaving ½” headroom in each bottle. Remove any air bubbles that may appear in the jars by inserting knife into each bottle and gently moving vegetables to allow liquid to fill any pockets of air that may have formed. Seal jars with sterilized lids and metal screw bands. Store in refrigerator or in cold storage room. For longer storage, or if storing outside a cold/refrigerated environment, process the pickle jars in a hot water bath following the canner manufacturer's directions.
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Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles

Mustard Beans

We have had an abundance of yellow wax string beans this year.  They were late producing but they sure made up for their tardiness.

DSCN1015-001

We can only eat so many fresh beans so one way of preserving them is to make mustard beans.  This is similar to mustard pickles which are made with cucumbers.

Mustard beans are actually quite easy and quick to make.  The beans are par-cooked in boiling water, drained, then added to a mustard sauce . The trick is to cook the beans just until they are barely fork tender as, otherwise, they will become soggy and tough. The beans should still hold their shape but not be extremely hard when you bite into them.

Mustard beans are a great addition to many meals; we use them just like we would mustard pickles.  They are simply a different texture and I make the mustard sauce a wee bit differently.

Mustard Beans

Ingredients:

1 lb yellow wax beans, cut into 1½” lengths (apx. 4 cups)
1½ – 2 cups boiling water
½ tsp table salt

1½ cups white vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1½ tbsp dry mustard
½ tsp celery seed
1½ tsp tumeric
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp table salt

Method:

In medium-sized pot and over medium-high heat, bring beans to a boil in salted boiling water. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook beans just until they are barely fork tender. Drain.

In large pot, heat 1 cup of the vinegar to the boiling point.

Combine sugars, flour, mustard, spices, and salt in bowl. Mix well. Add remaining 1/2 cup of vinegar to make a paste. Add and stir in 2-3 tablespoons of the hot vinegar to the mixture to temper it and then pour all the sauce ingredients into the hot vinegar in the large pot.

Add drained beans. Stir gently to coat beans with sauce. Bring to a boil over medium heat, continuing to stir mixture so it does not scorch. Once it reaches the boiling point, remove pot from heat and fill hot sterilized jars with the beans, leaving ¼“ headroom in each bottle. Seal. Store in refrigerator or cold storage room.

Yield: Apx. 4 half pints

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Mustard Beans

Yield: Apx. 4 half pints

Ingredients

  • 1 lb yellow wax beans, cut into 1½” lengths (apx. 4 cups)
  • 1½ - 2 cups boiling water
  • ½ tsp table salt
  • 1½ cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tbsp dry mustard
  • ½ tsp celery seed
  • 1½ tsp tumeric
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • ½ tsp table salt

Instructions

  1. In medium-sized pot and over medium-high heat, bring beans to a boil in salted boiling water. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook beans just until they are barely fork tender. Drain.
  2. In large pot, heat 1 cup of the vinegar to the boiling point.
  3. Combine sugars, flour, mustard, spices, and salt in bowl. Mix well. Add remaining ½ cup of vinegar to make a paste. Add and stir in 2-3 tablespoons of the hot vinegar to the mixture to temper it and then pour all the sauce ingredients into the hot vinegar in the large pot.
  4. Add drained beans. Stir gently to coat beans with sauce. Bring to a boil over medium heat, continuing to stir mixture so it does not scorch. Once it reaches the boiling point, remove pot from heat and fill hot sterilized jars with the beans, leaving ¼“ headroom in each bottle. Seal. Store in refrigerator or cold storage room.
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For other great pickle and relish recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Mustard Pickles
Dill Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Rhubarb Relish
Green Tomato Chow
Pickled Beets

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Green Tomato Chow

The gardening season is pretty well finished for the year in the Maritimes.  By now, most gardeners have had their fill of tomatoes and probably still have some green ones left over.

Do you have an abundance of green tomatoes you’re wondering what to do with or know where you can get some?  Today, I am sharing my recipe for green tomato chow (recipe follows at end of posting).

Green Tomato Chow
Green Tomato Chow

I grew up with chow being made every fall.  In fact, it along with mustard pickles and pickled beets, were generally on the table for most meals.  It’s a great condiment to serve with cold meats, baked beans, stews, casseroles and, of course, if you are a Maritimer, with fish cakes.

Green Tomato Chow with Fish Cakes, Baked Beans, and a Homemade Biscuit
Green Tomato Chow with Fish Cakes, Baked Beans, and a Homemade Biscuit

Chow is not difficult to make but, like any pickling and preserving, it can be a bit time-consuming since the vegetables have to be cut up and soaked for several hours (either all day or all night), then slowly simmered until cooked.  Making chow is not something that can be rushed.

Green Tomato Chow
Green Tomato Chow

The first thing you need to do is gather up all the ingredients you will need. Chow is basically nothing more than green tomatoes, onions, celery, red pepper, vinegar, sugar, and spices along with some pickling salt.  No out of the ordinary ingredients.

You can use regular white vinegar for this recipe but I prefer to use the pickling vinegar which is stronger.

Any kind of green tomatoes will make good chow. The ones I’ve used are just the basic garden variety of tomatoes.  We didn’t grow tomatoes in our garden this year so these came from Kool Breeze Farms in Wilmot Valley on the outskirts of Summerside.

Some cooks cut the tomatoes crosswise into slices.  I cut mine into chunks. Either works.  You don’t, however, want to chop the vegetables up too finely as it will start to resemble more of a relish than a chow.

Cut up the onions, celery, and red pepper.

Place all the vegetables into a large bowl.

The vegetables need to be soaked for 7-8 hours in a salt brine.  Be sure to use pickling salt, not regular table salt (see my posting on mustard pickles for explanation).  It’s important to ensure that the salt is completely dissolved in water before pouring it over the vegetables.  You will need enough salted cold water to completely cover the vegetables to soak.  I use a ratio of 1/2 cup pickling salt to 4 cups of water.

Pour the salt brine over the vegetables and set the mixture aside to soak for 7 – 8 hours.

Drain the vegetables into a large colander.

Under cold running water, rinse the vegetables to remove any salt residue.  Swish the vegetables around to ensure that all are rinsed off.

You’ll want to get as much water drained out of the vegetables as possible so let them sit in the colander for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the spice sachet.  I make a small cheesecloth sachet but I have also seen closed tea strainers used to hold the spices.  I generally use a double thickness of cheesecloth because it has quite an open weave from which the spices can escape into the chow – you don’t want to be biting down on a whole clove so it’s important that they not find their way into the chow bottles.  I buy a pickling spice mix at my local Bulk Foods store.  If you can’t find pickling spice mix, you can always make your own.  I give an explanation of how to do that in my mustard pickle posting.

Into a large stockpot, place the sugars, spices, and vinegar.  Stir well.

Drop in the spice sachet and bring mixture to a boil.

Add the drained vegetables and return mixture to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to medium-low.

Cook until vegetables are cooked, somewhat transparent, and the mixture is slightly thickened. Stir mixture occasionally to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.

While the chow is cooking, start the bottle sterilization process.  Again, refer to my mustard pickle posting for details on this.

Once the chow is cooked and thickened, remove it from the heat and discard the pickling spice sachet.  Bottle the chow while it is hot into the hot, sterilized bottles.  With clean, damp cloth, wipe clean each jar rim. Seal immediately with heated lids. Screw on jar bands just until resistance is met.

Process filled jars in hot water bath according to canner manufacturer’s directions for the proper time for your local altitude. Cool and store in cool, dark place. Let chow age for at least 2 weeks before serving.

Green Tomato Chow

3 lbs green tomatoes, chopped into chunks
3¼ cups onions, chopped
1 cup celery, sliced
½ cup sweet red pepper, diced
Pickling salt

Combine all ingredients into a large bowl. Using the ratio of ½ cup pickling salt to 4 cups cold water, cover ingredients completely with salted water. Add as much salted water as necessary to cover the vegetables. For this amount of vegetables, you will likely need at least 1 cup pickling salt dissolved in 8 cups water. Make sure the pickling salt is thoroughly dissolved in the water before pouring over vegetables. Let vegetables soak at room temperature for 7-8 hours. Drain vegetables in large colander. Rinse vegetables with cold water to remove any traces of salted water residue on vegetables. Let vegetables drip in colander for 1 to 1½ hours.

4 cups vinegar
3 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1½ – 2 tbsp pickling spice tied into a small pickling spice sachet made with cheesecloth
¼ tsp tumeric
¼ tsp dry mustard

Combine vinegar, sugars, and spices into a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the drained vegetables and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 to 1½ hours over medium-low heat, until vegetables are cooked, somewhat transparent, and mixture is slightly thickened.

While chow mixture is cooking, start the bottle sterilization process.

Remove chow from heat and discard picking spice sachet. Bottle chow while hot into hot sterilized bottles. With clean, damp cloth, wipe clean each jar rim. Seal immediately with heated lids. Screw on jar bands just until resistance is met.

Process filled jars in hot water bath according to canner manufacturer’s directions for the proper time for your local altitude. Cool completely. Store in cool, dark place.  Let chow age for at least 2 weeks before serving.

Yield:  Apx. 6 – 7 half-pint jars.

Green Tomato Chow
Green Tomato Chow

 

For other great pickle and relish recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Mustard Pickles
Dill Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Rhubarb Relish
Mustard Beans 
Pickled Beets

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Chow
Green Tomato Chow

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today. There are lots of ways to connect with “the Bistro” through social media:

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Find the Bistro on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen
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Rhubarb Relish

Rhubarb Relish
Rhubarb Relish

There is nothing like homemade relish, all natural and no preservatives.  Today, I am sharing my recipe for Rhubarb Relish.  My grandmother made a similar relish every year and, while she served it with many dishes, you could always count on it being on the table with either cold or hot roast pork.

This is a very versatile relish as it can be used as a spread on sandwiches as it compliments many meats well.  It can also be served over chicken breasts, grilled pork chops, or even fish.  Having this on hand makes meal preparation easy as you don’t have to prepare a sauce from scratch and you don’t need to open a store-bought version that will not have the same taste and is probably full of some kind of preservatives.

This recipe does not take any unusual ingredients and there are very few steps in the processing.

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Rhubarb Relish

Ingredients:

2 cups rhubarb, cut in about 1/2″ pieces
2 cups onion, chopped
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
dash cayenne
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 tbsp grated orange rind
1/2 cup cider vinegar

Method:

Wash and chop rhubarb into 1/2″ pieces.

Assemble ingredients.

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine all ingredients.

Stir.

Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Immediately reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, until mixture reduces and thickens.  Stir occasionally.  Be patient.  This will take at least 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Remove from heat.

Sterilize jars.  Bottle while relish is still hot.  Seal.  Finger-tip tighten jar lids. Process in hot water bath according to manufacturer’s directions.

Yield:  Apx. 3 cups

Rhubarb Relish
Rhubarb Relish

Serving Suggestion:

Grill pork chops.  Plate.  Top pork chop with 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp rhubarb relish.

Serve with baked potato and favorite vegetable.

Grilled Pork Chop topped with Rhubarb Relish and Served with Baked PEI Potato and Buttered Carrots
Grilled Pork Chop topped with Rhubarb Relish and Served with Baked PEI Potato and Buttered Carrots

 

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Rhubarb Relish
Rhubarb Relish

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Follow along on Instagram at “peibistro”

“In a Pickle” – Mustard Pickle-Making, My Island Bistro Kitchen Style

Sweet Mustard Pickles

One of the most common fall flavours in many Island households surrounds pickle, chow, and relish-making.  I love the smell of fresh mustard pickles in the house – not so much the mess, the tedious job of peeling and cutting up the cucumbers, and the “distressing” task of peeling strong pickling onions – an activity sure to bring a tear to the eye!  In many Island households, a meal of any kind is not complete unless there are mustard pickles on the table.  So, for most of us true cooks, we endure the process knowing the end result is worth the effort.

There are as many recipes for mustard pickles as there are cooks on the Island.  There are any number of sites on the Internet that will give detailed and scientific instructions on how to make pickles.  As for me, I follow the tradition of my mother and grandmother.

Here are my hints and tips for ensuring a good batch of sweet mustard pickles.  At the end of the post, you will find the recipe I have used for mustard pickles for many years.

Assemble the Necessary Ingredients

Ingredients for Mustard Pickles

Pickling Cucumbers

Just like anything, fresh is always best.  Some say only cucumbers that have been picked no longer than 24 hours should be used.  Cucumbers that have been picked for days start to get soft and “punky” and are not good for pickling because they have already started to deteriorate and lose their freshness.   So, look for firm pickling cucumbers, sometimes referred to as “field cucumbers”.  Ask for them at your local farm stand and inquire when they were picked.

Onions

Look for firm, fresh onions.  Strong, fresh onions are needed for flavouring in the pickles.  Sometimes, but not always, there are bags of “pickling onions” available on the market.  These are smaller onions and are so named because they are a stronger tasting onion – you’ll quickly know their strength when you start to peel them!

I have no secret for avoiding the “tears” when peeling the onions.  Some claim if you hold the onions underwater while peeling them, that works.  Others say to peel them outside.  No matter what method I have tried, it’s a teary job!

Onions Cut For Mustard Pickles

Cutting the Cucumbers and Onions

I always peel the cucumbers.  Some cooks like to leave a few of the cucumbers with the peeling on them but I find this makes the pickles tough and I don’t particularly care for the appearance of them in the pickles.  Once the cucumbers are peeled, slice them in half, lengthwise, then halve them again.  Remove and discard all the seeds from each cut section.

 

Cutting Up the Cucumbers

 

I am not too fussy when I cut up the cukes and onions – I don’t worry about getting the pieces all perfectly uniform sizes.  I tend to like the cukes and onions cut in about ½”-3/4” pieces – any smaller and the pickles are starting to resemble relish.  This, of course, is a personal preference.  There is no right or wrong size of pickles.

Cauliflower and Red Pepper

While certainly not necessary, cut-up cauliflower flowerets and sweet red pepper can be added to the pickles and I always do add them.  The red pepper adds color and dresses the pickles up, both in the bottle and on the table.  The cauliflower adds texture and variety to the pickles.

Pickling Salt

For both taste and preserving the pickles over the winter as well as for color of the pickles, it is very important that proper pickling salt be used in the water/salt brine that is used to soak the cut-up cucumbers and onions.  This is a coarse salt specifically made for pickling and it will be marked on the label.  Never use fine iodized table salt in pickles as this will produce a cloudy sauce that is a poor and unappetizing color (e.g., sort of a mossy-green-yellow color).  It will also make the pickles taste too salty because the vegetables absorb too much of the salt.  I can always tell when I see a bottle of discoloured pickles that someone has made them using regular table salt.  The pickling salt is a slower dissolving salt.  For this reason, make sure you stir it into the water for the soaking brine really well and that it is fully dissolved before pouring the brine over the cukes and onions.  You don’t want any salt granules sitting on the cucumber mixture for hours.

Pickling Salt – An Essential Ingredient in Mustard Pickle-Making

Soaking the Vegetables

Unless you are using a recipe that specifically gives directions to the contrary, plan on soaking the cukes, cauliflower, and onions in the salt and water brine overnight or at least for 8-10 hours during the day if you are making the pickles in the evening.    Cucumbers have a lot of water in them so, in order to have crisp pickles, the excess water needs to be removed from them.  Soaking them in a slow-dissolving salt/water brine draws the natural water out of the cucumbers, opens their cells, and allows the mustard pickling sauce to penetrate them.  This gives the pickles greater flavour, good color, and a longer shelf life.

Add the red pepper (if using) after the veggies have been rinsed and drained (the peppers do not need to soak in the salt water brine).

Cucumbers Soaking in Salt/Water Brine

Draining the Vegetables

After the soaking period has ended, drain the vegetables thoroughly in a colander and rinse with cold water to remove any excess salt.  Then, let them drain for about an hour or so to get as much water drained off of them as possible.  If too much water is left on them, it will dilute the mustard sauce and make the pickles too runny.

Cucumbers Draining in Colander

Pickling Spice

Of course, the right mixture of pickling spice is necessary for flavourful pickles – the wrong combination of spices or too much or too little will leave you with pickles you won’t be satisfied with.  Pickling spice, as a product, is not always available on the store shelf and sometimes I have had to create my own mixture using some or all of the following:  mustard seed, whole allspice and cloves, coriander seed, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, cinnamon stick pieces, peppercorns, and whole or coarse pieces of dried ginger.  Whole spices (as opposed to dried) are said to be better because they will not cause the pickles to darken in color.  The look you are going for is that nice, bright mustard yellow color.

Making the Pickling Spice Sachet

You don’t want whole spices and junks of cinnamon stick or bay leaves making their way into the pickle jars and on to the plate so it is necessary to contain them in a sachet.  To make a pickling spice sachet, you will need a small piece of cheesecloth (available at fabric stores).  This will have a very loose weave so I usually double or even fold it over 3-4 times and then place 1-1 1/2 tablespoons of the pickling spice mixture in the centre.  Gather up the cheesecloth around the spice and tie it with a thread.  This sachet then gets dropped into the boiling vinegar and sugar mixture and left in during the entire pickle-cooking process.  It then gets removed just before bottling the pickles.  This sachet allows the vinegar and pickles to be infused and flavoured with the spices without having the spices directly in the pickle mixture when they are bottled.

Pickling Vinegar

Be sure to use vinegar that is specially labelled for pickling – it will usually have 7% acidity, making it stronger than table vinegar and will help to preserve the pickles longer.

Boiling Vinegar and Sugar

It is important to boil the majority of the vinegar the recipe calls for along with the sugar.  This helps the sugar to dissolve before the vegetables are added.  The heat from the boiling mixture will also help the flavours from the spices in the sachet to infuse the vinegar.

Boiling the Vinegar and Sugar

Making the Mustard Sauce

Mix part of the sugar the recipe calls for with the flour, dry mustard powder and any other spices.  Then add the remaining vinegar from the recipe ingredient list to make the paste for the pickle sauce.  To this paste, add about ¾ cup of the boiling vinegar that will have already been heated.  This “tempers” the paste it so it doesn’t go lumpy when added to the boiling vinegar already in the pot.

Making the Mustard Sauce

Cook the sauce slowly to thicken it and stir often to prevent scorching.  Be patient – this process can take several minutes.  The mixture should coat a spoon and drip very slowly off the spoon when the sauce is thick enough to add the vegetables.

Sauce Should Coat a Spoon When it is Thick Enough to Add the Vegetables

It is important that the sauce gets thickened to the right consistency before adding the drained vegetables as they will still have a lot of moisture in them and the sauce will not thicken any further after they have been added.

Heating the Vegetables

Heat the vegetables in the sauce slowly, stirring periodically – you want the veggies to stay crisp and crunchy, not be cooked to mush.

Heating the Vegetables in the Mustard Sauce

Bottling the Pickles

Bottling, of course, is very important – make sure the bottles are sterilized and hot when you bottle the hot pickles.  I have a large old pot that I fill with hot water and put on the stove to sterilize the bottles.  Make sure there are no nicks in the tops of the glass Mason jars and that you use new lids each time and that the rims are not dented or rusted.

Bottling the Pickles

 

Sweet mustard pickles are a fine addition to many entrées from “meat and potato” meals to casseroles to baked beans and fishcakes.  Pickles do take some time and know-how to make but nothing beats homemade mustard pickles that no store-bought version can match.

Mustard Pickles – The Finished Product

Do you make mustard pickles or have recollections of your mother or grandmother making mustard pickles?

 Mustard Pickles – My Island Bistro Kitchen Style

Ingredients:

• 8 cups pickling cucumbers, chopped
• 4 cups onions, chopped
• 2 cups cauliflower flowerets (apx. 1 small cauliflower head)
• 4 cups white pickling vinegar
• 3 1/2 cups sugar
• 1/2 – 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, depending on how juicy or thick you like pickles
• 1 1/2 tbsp tumeric
• 1 1/2 tbsp celery seed
• 1 tbsp mixed pickling spice, tied in a cheesecloth sachet
• 1/2 cup dry mustard
• 1/4 tsp ginger powder
• Pinch cayenne
• 1 small red pepper, chopped
• Coarse pickling salt

Method:

1. Peel the cucumbers. Slice in half, lengthwise. Slice in half again. Remove and discard the seeds. Cut cucumbers to desired size, apx. 1/2″ – 3/4″ pieces.
2. Peel the onions and cut into pieces similar in size to cucumbers.
3. Separate the cauliflower into individual flowerets.
4. Place cucumbers, onions, and cauliflower flowerets into a large bowl.
5. Make a brine of pickling salt and water using 1/2 cup coarse pickling salt to 4 cups of water. Pour over the vegetables, ensuring they are completely covered. (I use apx. 6 cups water and 3/4 cup pickling salt.) Let stand overnight or 8-10 hours.
6. Drain vegetables in a colander and rinse with cold water to remove any excess salt. Let vegetables drain for apx. 45-60 minutes. Add cup-up red pepper.
7. In a large stock pot, bring to a boil 3 cups of the vinegar and 3 cups of the sugar along with the pickling sachet made of pickling spice tied in cheesecloth. Boil 2-3 minutes.
8. Mix remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the flour, tumeric, celery seed, dry mustard, ginger, and cayenne.
9. Add the remaining 1 cup of vinegar to the dry ingredients and whisk till smooth. Add apx. 3/4 cup of the hot vinegar-sugar mixture to this sauce. This will “temper” it and keep it from going lumpy when added to the hot liquid mixture in the pot. Stir and pour into the vinegar-sugar mixture in pot. Cook sauce over medium heat until thickened, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. When sauce coats a spoon and drips off slowly, it is thick enough to add the vegetables. (This could take 25-30 minutes.)
10. Add the drained vegetables to the thickened mustard sauce and cook over medium-low heat just until vegetables are heated through, apx. 12-15 minutes.

11. Bottle pickles while hot into hot sterilized bottles. Heat bottle lids and apply to bottle tops. Place rims on bottles, finger-tip tightening only. Listen for the “pop” sounds as the bottles seal over the next few hours. Store in cool area.

Yield: Apx. 7½  pint bottles

For other great pickle and relish recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Green Tomato Chow
Dill Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Rhubarb Relish
Mustard Beans 
Pickled Beets

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Homemade Pickles

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