Monday, July 11, 2011

Preserving Summer's Bounty

This year we had decided to just plant enough that we could eat out of the garden, and maybe freeze a little bit. We were going to be camping and having fun, so I didn't want to spend time canning food (except for our famous salsa). Spring rains delayed our planting, but we finally got tomatoes, peppers and okra in the ground. My sweet mama planted some seeds while we were gone camping. “Just a few,” she said. Now we have cucumbers and zucchini growing like there's no tomorrow.

Friday, we sliced up cucumbers to soak overnight in lime and water to make them extra crisp. Saturday, we chopped them and mixed up sugar, vinegar and spices for another overnight dip. Yesterday I heated the mixture, sterilized jars, and canned eight half-pint jars of sweet relish. It's a recipe from I got from a co-worker over 30 years ago, and the only one I use for sweet pickles.

Funny thing, once I get started, I really enjoy the whole process. It's relaxing and satisfying to grow, preserve and eat your own food. It reminds me of my grandmothers, who had to can their own food in order to feed their large families over the winter. There are no artificial preservatives, only natural ingredients.

I'm sure if I calculated the cost per jar, based on my time and effort spent, it would be cheaper to buy them at the grocery. That's ok...I like carrying on family traditions, spending time outdoors, and seeing these pretty jars lined up on the shelf. For the next batch, though, I'm going to call my mama to come help me with these “few” cucumbers she planted!

Sweet Lime Pickles

           4 lbs. Cucumbers                               4 cups distilled white vinegar (5%)
           1/2 cup pickling lime                         4 cups sugar
           1 gallon water                                    2 tsp. pickling salt (non-iodized)
                                                                       2 tsp. pickling spices

Soak sliced cucumbers in water and lime mixture in a crock or enamel pan for 2 hours or overnight. (Do not use aluminum pan)

Pour off lime water, rinse cucumbers 3 times in fresh cold water. Soak 3 hours in fresh ice water.

Combine vinegar, sugar, salt and spices in a large stainless steel or enamel pot. For relish, chop the slices here and put spices in a muslin bag. Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. Add cucumbers and remove from heat; soak 5-6 hours or overnight.

Boil mixture 20 minutes. Fill sterilized jars with hot mixture to ½ inch head space. Wipe jar rims and cap. Process pints and half-pints 10 minutes, quarts 15 minutes in a water-bath canner. Set jars on a towel until cool. Check lids and wipe jars with damp rag when cool. Refrigerate any jars that didn't seal; store others in a cool, dry place.

The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.  ~Hanna Rion