Food Grade Container
I haven’t canned anything in 20 years but the theme of this blog, Exploring Vegetarianism in PA Dutch Country, got me to thinking about the great foods I loved as an omnivorous kid and can still love as a vegetarian.
As a little kid I can remember the joy of my Grammy Lukens’ home made pickles. They were thick hunks of cucumber dripping with a spiced sweetness that no other pickle could match. She, my Aunt Esther and my Mom all had success in making them. I think someone even added a little green or blue food coloring to them. The one thing that hasn’t allowed them to touch my palette in years isn’t just that Grammy and Aunt Esther have passed away but, as Mom pointed out before I started this project, they are a real pain to make. It’s time to have a try at making Grammy’s 14 Day Pickles so join me on this Odyssey!
Washing and Measuring the Water
The first difficult part was finding pickling cukes. I found out the drought we had a while back has made an impact on the smaller pickling cukes but not so much on the big ones we like to slice. I had my Dad checking the prices at the local farmers markets that he frequents and a few of the Amish farms. The price bounced around for a few weeks, 5 – 6 / $1.00 and over here they were more like 3 – 4 / $1.00. Last week Dad got the word at one farm that this would probably be the week that they would be most plentiful. Farmers Market prices seemed to be staying the same but I finally was able to find a vender who had them for sale by the peck. They looked good too!
Covered with Boiling Salt Solution
I didn’t know how much water it was going to take to cover them in the food grade container my parents graciously lent me. I put them in and covered them and washed them at the same time. After removing the cukes, I measured the water because I had to know how much salt to add. My Aunt Esther had taken time to write down the recipe and it said to cover the cukes with boiling water (2 Cups of Salt for every 2 Quarts of Water). It ended up being 2 gallons of water to cover them so we needed 8 Cups of Salt.
A Plate to Keep them Submerged
Boiling that much water all at once took every pot I had. I mixed the salt into the boiling water. The next part was tricky since the pots were filled and heavy. Jim held Miles, our cat who really wanted to help in this part of the project, as I poured the boiling solution over the cukes.
A Weight (it was NOT this heavy) to keep the Plate down
Next, we want to keep those cukes under the solution and we found a plate that was a good size for to help keep them submerged. Mom and Dad use this technique in making their saurkraut and I was on the phone with her just as the water started to boil and Jim came back from the grocery store with the salt. She suggested using a small weight in a baggy to keep the plate from rising too much.
We found a weight that was similar to the 3 – 5 lb hand weight they were using for their saurkraut and bagged it up to keep that plate down. I checked on them later and realized that cukes have a LOT more water content that cabbage. With the salt, heat and pressure of the added weight they were being flattened into little shriveled things in a huge vat of a solution of salty water and their own excreted juices.
The Bagged Weight on the Submerged Plate
The added volume of liquid made it a lot easier to keep the cukes submerged so we took the bagged weight off and let them sit over night.
Have I ruined them by pressing their goodness out? No one will know for a couple of weeks but I will keep sharing what I find along the way. Check out Day 2!