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Archive for the ‘cucumber’ Category

Temperatures and humidity in Arkansas have dropped from deadly to merely oppressive, but we’re still running above normal.  Therefore, this weekend I made one of my favorite summer soups, gazpacho.  Gazpacho is a tomato soup made entirely of fresh and raw ingredients, and it refreshes and rejuvenates you as you eat it.  A friend once called it salsa soup, but it really is a bit more than that.  For our household, it’s so good we think of it as red gold on the table.  And except for the celery and seasonings, we grow everything that goes in it, and you can too.

copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader

Ingredients for 4-8 servings

Note:  Use what you have.  If 1 cucumber yields you 3/4 cup and you want to use it up, go for it.

  • 1 cup peeled, chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup celery (about two stalks)
  • 1/2 cup cucumbers:  Peel if it’s one of those nasty store-bought cucumbers.  If it’s a larger cucumber, be sure to scoop out the bitter seed section.
  • 1/2 cup fresh pepper, either sweet bell pepper or a mild chile pepper (My usual choice is a Hatch/Anaheim.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed (as in, use a garlic press)
  • 3 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (or a dab of anchovies and 1 tablespoon of some good calamata or black olive juice)
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups tomato juice
  • 1/3 cup snipped parsley or chervil or chiffonaded cilantro or lemon basil (one, not all four!), reserving some of the herb you select for garnish

You have three options for preparing this soup.

  • Option one is to mince finely all of your vegetables and then combine everything except the part of the herb you are reserving for garnish.
  • Option two is to dice your vegetables not so finely and then hit the combination of vegetables with everything else except 1 cup of the tomato juice with an immersion blender or put them in a food processor and pulse until they are minced.  Once the veggies are minced, you can add the rest of the tomato juice and the portion of the herb that isn’t garnish.
  • Option three is to put everything in your stand blender except the herbs and pulse until the veggies are minced.  Then add the herbs.

Chill the soup in a glass or stainless steel non-reactive container well before serving.  The soup keeps really well, the flavors melding nicely, and the mixture is so healthy that I often double the recipe to keep it on hand.

Do you have a favorite heat-beating recipe?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Regular readers know that I suffered catastrophic garden losses thanks to a house/cat/garden sitter who did a great job with two out of three.  I’m pleased to report, though, that courtesy of the pre-soaking (and sometimes pre-sprouting) technique, I’ve got butter peas, summer squash of several varieties, cucumbers (Armenian and a pickling cucumber), and okra all peeping out of the earth, facing the scorching temperatures bravely.  A bunch of different basils successfully sprouted too, as did some volunteer radishes.  I hope that winter squash will emerge soon to join all of the other garden babies.  I’m watering all of my seedlings daily, in hopes that our record-high temperatures will break soon.  It was too late for re-planting the dozens of peppers I lost, but everything else is pretty well on track.

My tomatoes were better prepared for abuse than everything else, having not only been planted extra-deep but also having thick mulch and soaker hoses.  They are doing really well, especially my Principe Borghese sun-drying tomatoes.  I have an Excalibur dehydrator on its way to the homestead now to process these little ruby gems into chewy, almost smoky intensely tomato-y dried treats for winter and spring.  I hope our apples continue to grow, as it looks like we’ll have plenty of those for drying as well as for savory jelly and apple butter.

And we’ve still got some peppers, some eggplants, leeks, carrots, cabbages . . . and grand plans for fall plantings of more cool-season vegetables.

What’s growing in your garden?  What are you planning for fall in the garden?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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As regular readers know, our Grand Canyon adventure resulted in a lot of dead garden at our house.  I could sit and weep among the remains of spring’s hopeful planting, or I can re-plant.  I prefer re-planting.  That means calculating days and figuring out what can germinate, grow, and be harvested before frost.

One of the biggest limitations for gardening is germination temperatures.  Certain seeds will not germinate in soils warmer than about 70 degrees, while other seeds can’t germinate below those temperatures but prefer temperatures at closer to 80 degrees F.  Very few vegetable seeds like to wake up in the sauna that is our Arkansas summers, but you can coax a few along with a little soaking and extra care.

Next, consider how much growing time you have before first frost or, more importantly, first regular frosts.  We’ve got, believe it or not, almost 90 days left.  That means I can select almost every summer squash out there, cucumbers, pole and bush beans, okra, some melons, and a few winter squashes.

Finally, what do you have the energy to put in in the heat?  Frankly, it’s pushing 100 degrees here and “feels” 103-107 degrees F thanks to the humidity.  I can work for a few hours but more could lead to heat stroke.

So far, my pre-soak method has gotten squash ands butter peas to emerge from the soil two days after I planted them.  I didn’t pre-sprout basil, but that too has come up with lots of water and loving care, along with some volunteer radishes.  My pole beans, however, have not cooperated, so my bean teepees may be cucumber teepees this year.

Believe it or not, I still plan to put out a little winter squash.  I hope to keep the vines in check so I can cover them with veggie tunnels as the temperatures drop.  I’ll also plant okra and cucumbers, using the seed-soaking and pre-germination method I mentioned earlier.  And my tomatoes look great!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.  All rights reserved.

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It’s hot, but my kitchen is not.  Dinner is cool.  Today’s dinner starts with gazpacho, a chilled tomato-vegetable soup, accompanied by shrimp salad in cucumber boats and beets.  I’ll post the gazpacho recipe separately.  Now I’ll share the shrimp boats basics.

Shrimp Boats

I like these shrimp boats because they are chocked full of raw vegetables, and the boat shape can lure in even picky eaters.  Serves two.

  • 1/4 onion, finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • optional:  fresh green peas or soybeans, if you have them
  • 1/2-3/4 pound shrimp (good sized), cleaned and boiled until just cooked
  • 1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 squirt (about a teaspoon) ketchup (trust me!)
  • 2-4 tiny squirts Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 large, long salad cucumber

Mix together the onion, celery, shrimp, mayo, ketchup, and hot sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Peel cucumber if the exterior is bitter or coated with nasty wax.  Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise to make two long halves.  Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds.  Now you’ve got a canoe!  Fill it with the shrimp salad mixture, and you’ve got a shrimp boat.

Shrimp Boats and Beets

Of course, you could substitute chicken salad, tuna salad, or salmon salad by adjusting your seasonings.  For an appetizer option or a whole fleet of smaller boats for dinner, use pickling cucumbers and salad-sized shrimp.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts and tweets are within fair use as long as you provide a full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader.

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Meatless Mondays are making a comeback that they haven’t seen since the Great War–um, meaning World War I.  Okay, yes, they had a resurgence in World War II, but that war was much less about slogans and much more about the reality of rationing.  All that history aside, Meatless Mondays are a healthy way to add more vegetable protein to your life and help save our planet.  They can also be incredibly tasty and, frankly, more satisfying and filling that meat-filled days–especially if you include such a rich dish as baba ghanouj (baba ghanoush).  Baba ghanouj can form a centerpiece of a perfectly light, healthy, and cool summer meal.

I got introduced to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food more than a quarter of a century ago when I lived in Boston.  I doubt if I’ve ever had authentic, but I know that the large ethnic enclaves in Michigan where I lived more recently got pretty close.  Baba ghanouj, believe it or not, was probably the first way I had eggplant. I really like it.

Today we can get beautiful smaller eggplants like Japanese varieties that have little bitterness and form the ideal foundation for baba ghanouj for two.  Two Japanese eggplants should serve four.

For two servings, roast at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes a Japanese eggplant, slit but not cut through, in a glass or cast iron covered pan along with 2 to 4 (or more) garlic cloves, peeled and tough ends cut off but otherwise intact.  Slice the eggplant in half, scoop it out of the tough skin, and mash it with the garlic and about a tablespoon or two of tahini (sesame paste).  Yes, it’s okay to let everything cool a bit. That’s it.  What you’ll have is a thick dip ready to serve at room temperature that has an unexpected sweetness from both the garlic and eggplant.  The tahini has the advantage of being the only food that can actually lower your cholesterol without drugs–that is, sesame does that!

Serve baba ghanouj with whole-wheat pita wedges (yes, you can make pita at home too, but that’s another post) and slices of chilled seasonal vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, carrots, peppers, and radishes (in cooler climes) for dipping.

Baba ghanouj works great as an appetizer but also works for a whole meal.  We like it with falafel (fried chickpea patties, easily made from mix or homemade, to stuff in more pita) and tadziki (thick yogurt with diced cucumber, dill, and lemon) to increase the protein content of the meal.  I’ll post those recipes in the near future.  Meanwhile, consider baba ghanouj for a cool summer supper or your next picnic or potluck.

Copright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  All rights reserved.

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We eat a lot of salad around here with various permutations and combinations, but two have come to have names.  One we call “favorite salad #1.”  No, I have not posted about it yet.  You’ll just have to come back to find out about it.  (Grin.) Tonight I’m talking “Favorite salad #2.”  Favorite salad #2 is Mediterranean in influence, incorporating some things we grow and some things we buy.  Actually, this salad has a larger percentage of non-local products than we usually eat; maybe that’s what makes it name worthy.    The ingredients are sweet, tangy, salty, and ever so slightly bitter, making for a wonderful blend.  For each individual salad, layer the ingredients from top to bottom in roughly this order:

  • 1-2 cups mixed baby greens, big pieces gently torn, or in summer chard and/or mustard greens
  • optional if in season:  cucumber, quartered lengthwise and then sliced thinly–put on outside edge of greens
  • course grated carrot (a couple of tablespoons per salad)
  • 1-2 thinly sliced radishes
  • 1-3 dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tablespoon of feta cheese (goat cheese feta makes it really special)
  • a few sliced pitted kalamata olives
  • optional if in season:  halves or quarters of cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 tablespoons slivered or sliced almonds, toasted (325 degree F for 5-7 minutes)
  • 1-2 tablespoons dried black currants
  • optional:  chives, thin slices to garnish (I cut these with kitchen scissors straight over the salad)

You can serve this salad with a homemade oil and vinegar dressing or get even more non-local and try it with a store-bought Mediterranean-inspired dressing like Drew’s Lemon Goddess Tahini or Annie’s Goddess Dressing. Both of these are tahini-based dressings, the sesame paste featured in  hummus (chickpea dip). We like the salad with Italian, Greek, and Middle Eastern food.  In the winter it may be a part of a big meal.  In the summer, it may be the meal all on its own (or maybe with some watermelon, mmmmmm).

Give it a try and let me know what you think!  Do you have a favorite salad combo?  We’d really like for you to share it with us.

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Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader. Short excerpts with full links are welcome.

Beans and ham, beans and cornbread, navy bean soup, ham-bone soup, Senate bean soup:  no matter what you call it, this old Southern favorite that’s not quite soup, not quite vegetable stew can include pork ham, turkey ham, or no animal flesh at all.  The beans can be pretty darn healthy, really healthy, or phenomenally healthy.    Today I’m going to give you all three variations (smidgen of red meat for a low-fat bowl, ultra low-fat bit of poultry, or fat-free vegetarian) on classic Southern beans, any of which can be prepared on the stove top or in a slow cooker.  Oh, they are soooooo good!To duplicate the Southern experience, serve these beans with cornbread (to complete your vegetarian protein), good greens (like turnip or collard), and pickles, chow-chow, or tobasco.  My ancestors made these beans on the top of a wood stove or in a kitchen fire in a big cast iron pot in colder months.  They might have cooked them all day, slowly, on a March or April day after they’d polished off an Easter country ham and just had the bone left.  They might have gathered wild greens, or perhaps they had greens growing in their kitchen garden.  Regardless, these beans with cornbread and greens made great healthy, frugal cuisine then, just as they do today.  They are a classic case of “meat and three,” where any meat included is a seasoning, not the main focus of the dish, and they are a great choice for today’s environmentally and economically conscious culture.

makes about 7 cups

the vegetables:

  • ½ large yellow onion (a full cup diced, give or take a bit)
  • 1 cup  to 1 ½ cups (split) carrots, diced
  • 1 cup to 1 ½ cups (split) celery, diced

the dried beans:

  • 1 1/2 cups dried navy beans (the classic!), pinto beans (more like chili), black beans (think southwest), or another bean like Jacob’s cattle or Anasazi (I used navy beans, black beans, and Anasazi!)


the liquid:

  • 5 -6 ½ cups water, vegetable broth, chicken stock, or turkey stock (or 1/2 smoked turkey stock*, half water)

Use the larger amount for Anasazi beans, the lesser for most other dried beans.  (Anasazi beans need 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of beans, whereas other beans of similar size need 3 cups of water for every one cup of beans.  We’re adding ½ cup more liquid to make the beans a little brothier.)

optional animal products:

  • 1 ham bone
  • 2-3 slices pork bacon, diced, rendered, and drained of fat (save it!)
  • ¼ cup turkey ham steak, diced

Stove top method:

Measure, sort through for pebbles, and rinse the beans—something you should do with all dried beans.  Soak the beans overnight or at least all day in a very heavy-bottomed stockpot or a cast iron Dutch oven.  This recipe may be a bit too big for a 2-quart Dutch oven, but you could start with just a portion of the liquid and add the rest as the beans absorb it. You’ll need to cover the beans by at least double or possibly even triple the depth of water.  (You could easily start soaking the beans in the morning and then cook them in the late afternoon.)  Drain off  the soaking liquid and add the cooking liquid (water, stock), onions, half of the carrots and celery, and any animal product you are adding.  Simmer beans, covered, for 1 ½ to 2 hours (less for Anasazi, more for black, the full two hours for navy).  Stir occasionally, but if you’ve picked a suitably heavy pot, you shouldn’t have to worry much about sticking.  After the initial cooking time, add the rest of the carrots and celery and cook the beans for ½ hour to 1 hour to finish softening them.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Method

Measure, sort through for pebbles, and rinse the beans—something you should do with all dried beans.  Add the beans, the chopped onion, half of the carrots and celery, all of the optional animal flesh and/or bone, and all of the liquid to a slow cooker (known often by the trade-marked name Crock Pot).  Put on the lid and set the slow cooker to low.  Let the beans cook all day.  An hour or so before supper (depending on the type of beans—more time for navy beans, less for black and Anasazi–and your slow cooker), add the rest of the carrots and celery and crank the slow cooker to high for about an hour to finish cooking the beans.  What if you come home and the beans are already soft?  You could turn off the beans, saute the carrots and celery, add them to the beans, and then turn on the cooker right before dinner to reheat it. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In order to get the best nutrition from these beans, serve them with whole-grain cornbread (recipe to follow in a future blog post) to make a complete protein (something you can get by mixing whole grains with beans).  Add gently cooked seasonal greens, like mustard greens, turnip greens, or collard greens—or you could even just make a side salad of healthy baby greens.  Serve with cucumber pickles like bread-and-butter or chow-chow (pickled vegetables).  Some people add pickle juice or tobasco hot sauce to the beans and greens.

*Smoked turkey stock. Did you smoke a turkey this year or get one as a gift?  Did you toss the carcass?  Don’t do that again!  For a great smoky stock, cover the smoked-turkey carcass with water, add aromatics (a stalk of celery, some onion chunks, herbs), and simmer for about two hours.  Strain off the bones, vegetables, and herbs then cool the stock.  Skim off the opaque fat that forms at the top.  Use your stock in soups and beans.  I recommend using it for no more than half of the liquid in a recipe, since it is quite strong.

Do you have questions about cooking with dried beans, Southern food, or vegetarian options?  I’ll do my best to answer them!

I’ve posted a traditional, hearty cornbread recipe.  It is all corn meal and minimally sweet, like people used to eat before every bread came to taste like dessert.

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I enjoy sharing gifts from our garden for the holidays.  I always make lots of extra jars of pickles and, when we have a good apple harvest, apple butter.  I share our garden bounty as hostess gifts for holiday parties. At this point in the year, though, with summer veggie season over, if you didn’t can pickles, you really can’t start now.  Store-bought cucumbers now will be the wrong variety for pickling, plus they’re coated with wax, which will keep the pickling brine from penetrating, no matter how hard you try to scrub it off.  Instead, look to apples and peppers for gifts from the garden.

If you had a big apple harvest, you can still make apple butter.  Apple butter is a luscious version of apple sauce, full of spices and cooked down into a decadent caramel flavor.  Let me know if you’re interested in a recipe.

If you did well with hot peppers and froze or dried some successfully, you can still make pepper jelly,  Pepper jelly is absolutely wonderful served on crackers or toast with cream cheese.  You control the heat by your choice and quantity of peppers. I make mine with cranberry juice, so it’s got a ruby-jewel color that’s perfect for the holidays.  I’ll be happy to share a recipe.  Just ask!

What gifts from the garden do you give?  Chow-chow?  Strawberry jam?  Pie filling?  Do tell!

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Tonight as I gaze northwest, I can see distant lightening.  With the lightening will come rain and then much colder temperatures, after a few halcyon days of wonderful golden warmth.  I’m glad that I did not give up on my eggplant when temperatures first dipped back in October, because it has continued to yield bountifully.
Tonight eggplant drove supper, with contributions from cucumber, leek, chard, red pepper, radishes, and a few store-bought additions.  Tonight we went Greek.  Alas, I did not take pictures, but I can assure you that the whole meal was full of color and flavor.  In short, I fried up some falafel to serve in whole wheat pita with homemade baba ghanouj (roasted eggplant and garlic mixed with yogurt and tahini), homemade roasted red pepper and olive dip, tadziki (cucumber, dill, garlic, and yogurt with lemon zest), and radishes and fresh bell pepper to dip.  I served swiss chard sauteed with leek (both homegrown) and garnished with currants and red wine vinegar.

I will no doubt post details on my version of these dishes in the future.  In the meantime, let me know if you’d like any recipe sooner rather than later.

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I’ll be posting more pickle recipes in 2010.  Come back to visit in July and August!

In just 3 days, Sunday through Tuesday, I picked 16 pounds of cucumbers from my garden.  Then I picked 7 more pounds from Friday through today (Sunday again). DSCN1957 It all started when I went out of town last week and neglected to tell my husband that he needed to be picking cucumbers.  Some had gotten pretty big by the time I went through on Sunday.  I made 7 pints of dill relish:  mmmmmmm.  I saved some of the smaller cucumbers and then made sure I stayed on top of picking for a few days.  Voila!  Perfectly sized dills–7 quarts, to be precise.  My next cucumbers are destined to be sweet relish (for the big ones I missed) and bread-and-butter pickles, for the medium-sized ones.

Home canning is easy and inexpensive, as long as you focus on canning things you’ll actually like eating.  I like pickles, so I grow cucumbers.  Having tried a lot of different varieties like “homemade pickles,” “little tyke,” and “pickalot,” over the years, I have to say that this year’s crop of “endeavor” has been the best ever.  I suspect it may be a combination of good rain and variety.  You just can’t beat a Kirby like “endeavor” for the traditional warty look.  The overwhelming majority of my more-than twenty pounds of  cucumbers I’ve picked this week are “endeavor,” from a single seed packet I purchased from Renee’s Garden:  http://www.reneesgarden.com/seeds/packpg/veg/cucumber-endeavor.htm Yep, from a single $2.69 seed packet plus shipping, I’ve already picked in the vicinity of 25 pounds of cucumbers in just a few weeks.

I’ll leave relish for a future posting.  Here I want to talk about how easy making dill pickles can be.  Start by gathering your equipment:

canner or other very large stockpot

glass jars that will accept canning lids

Note:  mayonnaise jars work well and are free–after you buy and eat the mayo!  Since we are using the boiling water method, not pressure canning, any sturdy jars will do.  Use only real Mason jars, though, in pressure canners.

new canning lids, with rubber softened in hot but not boiling water.

Do not use old lids.  They’ll fail to seal, and you’ll waste money.

canning screw rims

cucumbers

garlic

dill seed

vinegar

canning salt

Begin by washing your jars well.  When you think you’ve washed them well, wash them again.  Do you think I’m kidding?  My neighbor delivered what appeared to be a beautiful jar of home-canned pears last fall.  A month later, I noticed a green glob growing inside the jar.  She had definitely not followed good hygiene. Now put your well-washed jars, open side up, in your well-washed canner or stockpot, with about an inch of water in the bottom.  Turn on the heat, put on the lid, and let the jars steam to clean them some more.

Now wash your cucumbers really well.  I recommend giving them a quick rinse and then plopping them in a clean sink full of water, so you can scrub them one by one.  You’ll be amazed at how much dirt comes off!  Then rinse again.  Now trim off a tiny slice at both the stem and blossom ends.

Coarsely chop enough garlic to have at least one big clove per pint or two per quart.

Get out your dill seed.  We’ll need a tablespoon per pint, two per quart.

In  large pot, mix together equal quantities of good-quality apple cider vinegar and water to start your brine.  You’ll need about 0.625 cups of each (water and vinegar) + 1 tablespoon canning salt per pint, or about 1 1/4 cups of each liquid plus 2 tablespoons salt per quart.  Heat up the brine to boiling.

While it heats, take your hot, sterilized jars and put them on a clean surface.  Start stuffing in your cucumbers, beginning with the largest.  If you need to quarter a few to make them fit better, feel free!  Then add in your dill seed and garlic.  Make sure you’ve left at least 3/4 inch space at the top of each jar.  Finally, pour in the hot brine, leaving a half inch of space at the top of the jar.

Wipe the jar rims clean and set on your canning lids.  Now screw on the rims.  Go back and check your screwing job again.  I can usually tighten the rims a bit more.  Finally, place the jars in the canner, cover them with at least an inch or two over the top, and turn your burner on high.  When the water starts boiling, start timing ten minutes.  When the ten minutes is up, turn off the burner and carefully lift out the jars and set them on towels or a rack to cool.  Do not disturb them, and especially don’t touch the lid!

Pop! That’s the sound you should hear for each jar you’ve canned.  That’s the lid sealing.  Be patient.  The jars that are on the edges of your cooling area will most likely seal much sooner than those on the interior.  Okay, now walk away for about 24 hours.  Then remove the screw rims and store your pickles.

Remove the rims?!?  Why? Here’s a great tip I learned from my grandmother and Alton Brown:  If the screw rim is on and your canned product goes bad, how will you know?  If the screw rim is off, the bad product will pop the lid.

Last year, we put up several dozen jars (half pint, pints, and quarts) of cucumber pickles, specifically sweet and dill relish, bread-and-butter pickles, and dill pickles.  We like pickles, so for us it’s a really good deal!

Quick tip for locavores wanting to eat falafel with tzatziki in the winter:  instead of using fresh cucumber with added dill and lemon with your yogurt, instead use well-drained dill relish or finely chopped dill cucumber.  After all, it’s still cucumber, dill, and an acid;  it’s just not lemon!

Have a question about pickling or canning?  Post here, and I’ll try to answer it!

Here are a few answers to search questions that may have led you here.

*Pickles should be processed in boiling water canners, not pressure canners.  Pressure canners are overkill.

*You need enough hot vinegar or vinegar brine to cover the cucumbers completely in the jar and leave just a little head space.

*If your lids did not seal, you have two options.  Let’s talk first about why the lids didn’t seal, so you can avoid the same problems in the future.  Two–maybe three–things could have happened.

1.  Did you make sure to wipe and wipe again the jar rims before you put on the lids?

2.  Were your lids old?  Make sure to use those that are only a year or at most two years old.

3.  Did you re-use lids?  Bad, bad, bad.  Don’t do that again!

Okay, so I now count four problems.

4.  Did you warm (but not boil) the lids in water before you put them on?

Next thing you should do is figure out what to do with your unsealed lids.  First, do give them at least 12 hours to seal.  Sealing time can vary widely based on temperatures.  If your jars are showing total sealing failure, with pickles you would probably be safe to try again with new lids, but remember that you’ll be boiling your cucumbers twice and may not like the results.  Instead, I recommend putting the poorly sealed jars in the fridge and, for pickles, using within a month.  (I’d use other home-canned products much more quickly.)

What about cloudy liquid in the pickle jars?

If the cloudy liquid appeared almost immediately, it is probably a mineral/metallic reaction.  Aluminum bowls and spoons or pots can react with the brine and cause this problem.  Using regular salt instead of canning salt can cause it too.  Hard water can also cause a cloudy reaction Neither of the three is serious.  They affect appearance not quality.

If, however, you have any questions about your process and the cloudiness developed over a longer period of time, you should consider whether the pickles are going bad.  First, make sure that you have removed the screw rims.  Bad product will usually pop the lid open eventually.  Smell the finished product.  Does it smell bad?  Don’t eat it.  Is the skin portion of the cucumber slimy?  Don’t eat it.

Should you use store-bought cucumbers to make pickles?

Generally, you should not use store-bought cucumbers for pickles.  First, most store cucumbers are not pickling cucumbers.  They are designed for fresh eating.  Second, because store-bought cucumbers take a long time to go from farm to distributor to store to your kitchen, they are generally coated with wax.  This wax will prevent the pickling mixture from penetrating.  You can try to scrub it off, but chances are you’ll still end up with an inferior product.  If you can get locally grown cucumbers from your farmer’s market, I would consider using those.  Just check the variety to make sure they are good for pickling.

For more on this question, see the “comments” section and my correspondence with Barbara in Canada.

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