Fall is here and the weather is getting cooler each day. It is that time of year where you want to start picking your last crops of vegetables and fruits. Autumn reminds me of digging the mason jars from the basement and starting to boil them to make sure they are clean. After going to a restaurant recently and drinking water out of a mason jar, I vividly was reminded how when living at home, the only use we had for mason jars was for pickling and preserving food. My how times have changed!
The first vegetable I remember pickling are those fat, over ripe cucumbers. We would let them ripen on purpose. As a little girl, I was over joyed when I finally was allowed to start picking these fat, yellow, over ripe cucumbers. I would use a wooden basket to place my chosen cucumbers.
Once I had my cucumbers picked, the next step was to peel off the skin and remove the seeds with a paring knife. I would also slice the cucumbers into long and narrow pieces. The specific type of pickle that my mother would make is called, “selfgerken”.
These peeled pickles were kept in brine a few months before eating. It was an old recipe my mother had that we used. Because they were salty, we often rinsed them off before serving. Still I remember them as being very delicious!
To can vegetables, as with fruit, always select perfect, completely ripe, sorted by size and degree of ripeness, so that you can handle similar pieces together. Make sure you set out all your equipment first. That includes: boiling water bath canner, standard glass canning jars and lids, preserving kettle, teakettle, strainer, knives, measuring cups and spoons, wooden and slotted spoons, wide-mouth funnel, ladle, jar lifter or tongs, timers, hot pads, rubber spatula and wire cooling racks. Make sure your equipment and work surfaces are clean. A trick to keep the natural colours of your fruits is to use a salt-vinegar solution to keep fruit from discolouring.
Once you have discovered how easy it is to make pickles with cucumbers, you can be adventurous and try pickling peppers, cauliflower, mushrooms, eggplant, artichokes, baby corn, okra, and mixed vegetables. Remember to date your canned goods. They make great homemade holiday gifts for family and friends.