Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sweet n' Savory Hot Pickles

I'm not sure where it came about that I liked pickles. I can't remember even what age I started eating them.  To this day my kids won't touch pickles.  I love 'em, dill, sweet, sour, hot and it doesn't even matter what the veg is in there with the cucumbers.  For me its all good.

I do remember my Grandma Jasovec made all sorts of cucumbers.  The one that stands out in my mind the most are the "watermelon pickles" she made every summer.  The rinds were saved and trimmed then canned in a sweet clovey brine that I just loved.

I do remember my Mom's friend Kay Ropelle used to have tons of cucumbers and every summer they would spend a couple of days slicing them with onions and stuff for "Bread and Butter" pickles, but damn that is a  lot of work and the store bought are just as good.

I got a wild hair a couple of years ago for fresh dill pickles and decided to learn how to make them.  I can't even say for certain where I got the bright idea to steer off the recipe and add a jalapeno or two every jar to make them "hot dill pickles" but I did it anyway.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  Turned out nicely if I say so myself.

This recipe takes some inspiration from the Watermelon pickle and the hot dill pickle.  Don't let the name fool you, the heat is extremely subtle, more of a slight warmth and tingle in your mouth.  The clove and other spices are subtle against the very light sweetness.  What you get is the veg flavors coming through with the rest just a nice back ground.  Tried them at breakfast and could have had the whole jar.  I think I did pretty good on this one.

Sweet n' Savory Hot Pickles
  • 36-40 small cucumbers
  • 1/2 non-iodized salt
  • 2-3 cups ice cubes
  • 6-8 1/2 pint canning jars with lids. - washed and sterilized.

  • 3 c water
  • 2 c vinegar
  • 1/4 c salt
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 T Pickling spices
  • 1 t celery seed
  • 1 t red pepper flakes

Remaining pickle items
  • 1 1/2 large red bell peppers
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • mustard seed
  • whole cloves

Trim cucumbers at least 1/4" from each end so they fit into jars within approx 1/2" of the jar top.  Slice cukes in half lengthwise.  Layer 1/2 cukes in colander and cover with half of the salt.  Repeat.  Place colander in a larger bowl. Layer with ice, cover entire package with aluminum foil.  Refrigerate over night (at least 12 hours).

At end of the refrigeration period rinse cukes well.  Leave in colander. Put a plate on top of the rinsed and layered cucumbers.  Add a weight such as a large bowl of water or a brick on top of the plate.  Let it drain and squeeze out the water for 1/2 hour.

Combine brine ingredients in a non-reactive pan and bring to a boil.  Simmer covered 15 minutes.

While brine is simmering prepare the remaining pickling items. Trim ends of the bell peppers to fit into jars within approx 1/2" of the jar top.  Cut it into 1/4" inch strips. Remove paper from onion.  Trim off enough of the blossom end to fit into jars within approx 1/2" of the jar top.  Cut just enough for the root end to remove roots but leave enough so onion won't fall apart when cut into wedges. Cut onion into 1/2-3/4" wide wedges (about 16 wedges.

Divide cukes, pepper and onions to fit into the jars.  Bundle loosely in your hand and pack into the jars.  To each jar add 3 cloves whole cloves and 1 teaspoon mustard seed.  Ladle the hot brine into each jar.  (You will pick up some of the pickling spices which is fine, just be careful to not overload the jars with that mix).  The brine needs to be added until the veggies are just covered and within 1/2" of the top of the jar.  Clean rims and add the lids and seal tightly.

Bring large pot of water with canning rack to a boil. Process the jars in a hot water bath up to about 1/4/1/2 inch of the top.  When water is back to a gentle boil start timer for a 10 minute water processing.  At end of time remove jars, wipe down and re-tighten each of the rings.  Cool at room temperature and allow them to sit 1 week before using to allow all flavors to meld and pickling to be completed.

It pays to be uniform length in advance and have it all set mis en place ready to pack the jars.  The prep goes fast and can be done while the brine simmers.
Pack the jars tight enough so they don't float and wiggle about, but not so tight that the brine can't get into and around all of the vegies.
Bring the water for the bath to within 1/2 inch of the top.  Just at the level of the band is perfect. Boil gently so the jars don't bounce on the rack or into each other.  There is nothing worse than a jar hitting another and it all breaking making a giant mess in the canning pot.
Of course the absolute hardest part is waiting for the pickles to sit a week before sampling.

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