We have taken to going to the Saturday Farmer’s Market in downtown Redwood City. We head to Peets, pick up some coffee and walk to the market. I try to find something new to try while I am there, and am always intrigued by items I am unfamiliar with.
This week Mr. B and Brilliant Daughter accompanied me, and we had a blast calculating what we wanted to make with all the delicious offerings. BD decided she was going to make roasted tomato salsa, buying huge tomatoes that were at least ½ pound apiece ($1/pound). She picked up the jalapenos, onions, and cilantro there as well. Oh, and she bought some very dramatic dahlias for her dining table.
I, on the other hand, was intrigued by the mound of pickling cucumbers at one of the stands. Not too big, not too small, I thought they would make the perfect dill spears. One of the last memories I have of my godfather being active, prior to the end-stage ravages of ALS invading his body, is making pickles at LJB Farms in San Martin, just outside Gilroy. LJB Farms, located at 585 Fitzgerald Avenue, is a family-run farm with a barn/store selling all local produce. The farm is run by Louie Bonino and his two sons, Brent and Russell, while the barn and store is run by my godmother’s sister, Judy. Over Labor Day 2004, Louie and Max, with a lot of helping hands, set up a canning area outside the barn and pickled cases of peppers and cucumbers. It was fun to watch the assembly line they had set up and reminded me of that old saying where many hands make light work. I myself have never attempted pickling, but was recently inspired by Molly at Orangette, who made pickled veggies for her wedding festivities (Congrats, by the way!). So I bought a bag full of the little green gems and came home to find a recipe.
I have a very old book by Ortho called The Complete Book of Canning. I have had this book for over 20 years (copyright date is 1982), and have used it frequently. Everything is explained, recipes are pretty simple, and there is nothing intimidating about it. I settled on the recipe for Dill Spears, and set to work cutting, assembling ingredients, and getting the canning kettle and brining mixture to boil.
The process is pretty simple. Basic canning rules apply. I ran the bottles through the dishwasher and heated the lids right before canning. Take one jar out of the dishwasher, pop in some fresh dill, a garlic clove or two, some peppercorns, and then stuff in the cucumber spearks. Fill to ½-inch from the top, put lid and ring on and put in water. Repeat until canner is full. Boil 20 minutes. Remove jars, and start again (if you bought that many cucumbers, which I did). It certainly wasn’t difficult. I got 12 jars of pickles out of it. (Unfortunately I did not have any quart jars, so made do with smaller ones.) I even got a little creative, putting whole dried peppers in a few of them, and some celery seed in some others.
Now comes the waiting part. Tap…tap…tap..tap…….
4 pounds pickling cucumbers, wshed and blossom ends removed
3 cups white or cider vinegar
3 cups water
1/3 cup salt
3-5 peppercorns per jar
2 dill heads per jar
1-2 garlic cloves per jar
Set canning kettle to boil. Mix up vinegar, water and salt and set to boil. Run jars through rinse/heat cycle on dishwasher. Cut cucumbers and ready your peppercorns, dill and garlic in small bowls. Once canning bath is boiling, take brining mix off heat. Start with one jar, add in peppercorns, dill and garlic, then pack in spears tightly. Fill jars with boiling brine, leaving ½ inch headspace. Seal. Process for 20 minutes,