Baby tomatoes

Baby tomatoes

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Canning Cookbook- Kicked Up Veggie Pickles

Ohhhhhh pickles!!!

When I was first getting into home canning in a big way, pickles were among the first foods I learned to make. Spicy dills, bread and butter pickles- my favorite, pickled carrots, pickled onions, quick asparagus pickles, relishes of all kinds. Dills. So many dills. Chunks, slices, whole, spears. Blue ribbon winning pickles. 

There are two types of pickles- brined pickles and fermented pickles. Fermented pickles, like sauerkraut, get their sour flavor from being fermented in a crock in a salty water mixture. I prefer to make brined pickles- pickles that get their sour flavor from a vinegar brine. It's quicker and since I have fur kids, I don't want to have crocks of fermenting foods sitting around. I prefer my pickles with no fur.

Adding spices to the brine changes the flavor of the pickles. Dill, of course, gives a tremendously green and fresh flavor to pickles, and garlic, mustard seed, black peppercorns and even hot peppers bring varying levels of heat and spiciness to the brine. I got the bright idea to add ghost peppers to jars of pickles one time- wow!! Talk about spicy!! 

Pickling is also a great way to preserve those beautiful summer veggies and a great addition to your relish tray for parties and holidays. I will pickle pretty much everything. It's easy to whip up a quick brine, add some herbs and aromatics and pour over a colorful mix of veggies. You don't even have to "can" the pickles- fridge pickles, also known as quick pickles, go right in the fridge and last for weeks. 

If you have a crinkle cutter you can make gorgeous slices of
bright carrots. You can also purchase crinkle cut "chips"
What kind of veggies should you pickle? Whatever you like! That's the great thing about pickles- the brine adds the necessary acidity to make your vegetables safe for canning at home, and using a colorful combo makes the jars beautiful and interesting. 

Isn't this gorgeous? I just couldn't say no
Strolling through the produce section at the big grocery store in the city I had so many choices to make. I found gorgeous little shishito peppers back on the shelf so I had to grab a couple handfuls to use in this pickle recipe. There was a fabulous display of cauliflower and broccoli set up including the most beautiful purple cauliflower. Naturally I chose one of those. I considered baby carrots but instead went with "carrot chips"- slices of large carrots cut with a wavy blade. Those are going to look great in the jars. Fresh green beans and red onion round out the veggies for this batch.

Shishito peppers are sweet with an occasional odd spicy one

Kicked Up Veggie Pickles

1 head cauliflower
1 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1 lb baby carrots (or regular carrots, peeled and sliced)
2 ears fresh corn
2 onions
3 bell peppers or other peppers of your choice*
3 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
yellow mustard seeds
garlic cloves
dried cayenne peppers*

*Instead of bell peppers I bought a couple handfuls of shishito peppers and used them whole. If you use a spicier pepper you can omit the cayenne pepper. I used dried Serrano chilies instead of the cayenne since I have so many.

Cut the cauliflower into good sized florets. You need about 3 cups. Cut the bell peppers into strips. I used whole shishito peppers so I just cut slits in them to allow the brine to get inside the peppers. Clean the corn with a veggie brush to remove all the silk, then cut it into one inch chunks, then cut into halves. Cut the onions into wedges. 

Fresh corn on the cob makes an interesting addition
Bring a stockpot of water to boil. Add the veggies and boil for one minute. Remove from water and into a large bowl. DO NOT use an ice bath!!

Bright veggies make beautiful jars of pickles
Meanwhile, in another pot, combine the water, vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the salt (or you can add a teaspoon of salt to each jar). 

Pack the hot vegetables into hot canning jars. Add a teaspoon of mustard seed, several peppercorns and 2-4 cloves of garlic (smash them a little to release the flavor) and a cayenne pepper (or half) to each jar. Pour the hot brine over to 1/2 inch headspace. Fix the lids and rings, place in boiling water bath canner. Process for 10 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 pints.

Make it easy on yourself- use the wide mouth pints for this pickle recipe. The brine is great for all different kinds of pickles so use your imagination. The brine acts as a preservative and the heat of processing in the boiling water bath seals the jars. Remember, you can also make the pickles and just pop them in the fridge instead of processing in the canner. I chose to make them a quick pickles this time because of the vibrant color of the cauliflower- I wanted to preserve that stunning purple as much as possible.

NOTE: This recipe has not been tested by the NCHFP. If you are not comfortable canning untested recipes, please do not use this one.

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