Sunday, July 25, 2010

In a pickle

My cucumber patch is going gangbusters and I'm putting up pickles. Pickles are tasty but do they have any nutritional value?

Yes and No. They are fairly low-cal but high in sodium. That's a big problem if you are low on water. During the Age of Exploration, though, sailors often carried barrels of pickled vegetables with them. Why? They helped to prevent scurvy, a disease caused by Vitamin C deficiency. Scurvy is not something we worry about today but it could potentially be a problem if TSHTF. Better store some vitamins and maybe some pickles!

You're not going to survive TEOTWAWKI on pickles alone, but they can be useful as well as delicious. They might even count as comfort food in a stressful situation. I know they will certainly perk up any taste buds worn down by a diet of survival food.

Here's my favorite pickle recipe. It's from Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda J. Amendt. This is the book I learned to can from and the source of my favorite canning recipes.

Bread and Butter Pickles

Makes about 6 Pint Jars or 3 Quart Jars

15 to 18 1-to 1-1/2 inch diameter firm fresh pickling cucumbers
2 to 3 medium onions
1/2 c. pickling salt or kosher salt
2 to 3 qt. distilled water, chilled
3 c. sugar
2 c. distilled white vinegar
2 c. cider vinegar
2 t. mustard seeds
1 t. celery seeds
1 t. ground turmeric

Using a soft vegetable brush, gently scrub the cucumbers, being careful not to scratch the peel. Rinse the cucumbers 2 to 3 times in cool water, changing the water after each rinsing. Drain well. Cut the cucumbers into 1/4-inch slices, discarding the blossom and stem ends. Measure 2 qt. sliced cucumbers.

Peel the onions and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Cut the slices into quarters. Measure 1 qt. onion slices.

In a large bowl, layer the cucumber and onion slices, sprinkling salt between each layer. Add enough of the cold distilled water to completely cover the vegetables. Let stand for 2 hours.

Drain the salt water from the vegetables. Rinse the vegetables thoroughly with cold water to remove all of the salt. Drain well.

In a 8 qt. stainless steel pan, combine the sugar, vinegars and spices. Over medium-low heat, gradually heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the syrup to a boil. Add the drained vegetables to the syrup and heat for 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Ladle the hot vegetables into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Ladle the syrup into the jars, covering the vegetables and maintaining the 1/2-inch headspace. Cover with hot lids and apply rings. Process both pint and quart jars ina 180 to 185F water bath for 30 minutes.

One batch of B&B pickles done, another one bubbling away in one of my vintage canners.

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