Wednesday, August 6

Preserving Cucumbers

I love me some fresh cucumbers.  It's funny too, because I've really only learned to appreciate cucumbers in my adult life.  I pretty much avoided them like the plague all through my childhood and throughout high school. 

However, I've always loved pickles, so go figure!  I guess a lot of people do that though, so it's probably not entirely strange. 

Anyhow, I don't know if there is anything better than fresh from the garden produce.  It just tastes....better.  I buy cucumbers here and there throughout the year (yes, I realize that's not buying seasonal!) for our green salads and there's nothing like biting into a fresh from the garden cucumber to remind you the ones you've been buying from the grocery store pretty much have little to no flavor. Plus, you appreciate the garden your dad plants for you all the more. 

Even as much as my family (yes, all three of them!) and my parents like fresh cucumbers, you can only eat so many.  And as much as I wish there was a way to preserve the cukes in their natural state, you really can't.  So making refrigerator pickles and sweet relish it is.   

And before all you sweet cucumber haters click away, let me tell you too, my husband CANNOT stand bread and butter pickles OR sweet relish.  And he raves about both of these to whoever will listen. They are both that good. 

Our former favorite landlord blessed me with both of these recipes about a year ago and I can't thank her enough. 

Easy Refrigerator Pickles 

6 cups thinly sliced pickling cucumbers (my dad planted English cucumbers and they worked just fine)
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp celery seeds
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, sliced

Place 3 cups of cucumbers in glass crock/bowl (I used canning jars); top with 1/2 cup of onions and repeat.  Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in small saucepan, stir well.  Bring to a boil for 1 minute.  Pour over cukes/onions.  Let cool.  Cover and chill for at least four days to allow flavors to meld (my husband usually can't wait longer than day!).  Pickles may stored in refrigerator for up to two months. 

I've definitely stored some longer, but as always, use your best judgement.  If they smell or look or taste off, time to toss 'em. 

I know this next recipe sounds like a crazy amount of veggies, but you let it sit in a salt solution to extract much of the water out of it, and in the end it made just 7 pints of relish.  More than enough to last until next summer and even some to give away!  

Sweet Relish

Combine in a large pan/dutch oven:

8 cups ground cucumbers
1 cup ground red pepper
2 cups ground green pepper
6 cups finely diced celery
1/2 cup un-iodized table salt (I used sea salt)

Cover with tap water and let stand at least four hours.  After sitting for four hours, drain as much of the liquid out as possible.

In a seperate saucepan combine:

3 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups white vinegar
2 tbsp celery seed
2 tbsp mustard seed

Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar and then add to strained veggies and bring the mixture to a boil.  Boil for ten minutes.  Pour into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch of head space.  Screw on lids and rings and place in water bath.  Water bath can for 10 minutes.  And remember, that's 10 minutes once it's reached a rolling boil.

Here is a great set of canning instructions if you've never canned before.  

My parents let us borrow their outdoor burner to process the water bath on.  We have a glass top stove top and I've heard that you are not supposed to use those for canning?  Anyhow, this is such a nice alternative because it can be done outside and avoids heating up the house on warm summer days! 


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