...if you have a backyard and a kitchen, this blog might be for you!

a chronicle of tips and recipes on everything from gardening to canning and baking your produce, even if you're planted in suburbia...in fact, especially if you are planted in suburbia.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Brining "Lite" with Cucumber Chunks

This  has been the Year of the Cucumber in my garden.  Quarts and quarts of cucumbers, such that I'm running out of ideas for ways to use them.  (For instance, look for a post on cucumber face masks sometime soon.)  With so many of them on hand, the shelf of staple dill pickles, bread and butter pickles and sweet pickle relish was quickly restocked, and yet the blooms keep coming and the bees keep buzzing.  So I'm going outside the box a little and trying some new things.
 While the pickle relish was cooling on the kitchen windowsill alongside the ripening tomatoes, I put a bowl of cucumber chunks on the following three-day brining and seasoning process. 

Chunk the cucumbers. (I goofed right off the bat because I didn't use a "clear pickling container" for the first phase of the process.  They brined just fine anyway.) Dissolve 1 1/2 cups of canning salt in 4 quarts of water and pour it over the veggies.  Cover this container after weighting down the cucumbers into the water.  Let it stand in a cool place for 36 hours.  (I call this brine "lite" because a true brine involves fermentation, bubbles and scum over the course of four weeks.)
Drain off the brine water and discard, then rinse the cucumbers and drain again. Now pour a quart of vinegar over the cucumbers in a pot and add water enough to cover.  Simmer the vinegar and cucumbers for 10 minutes, then drain and discard the liquid again. 

Next, combine 2 cups of sugar, 5 cups of vinegar, and 3 cups of water in the saucepot. (The cucumbers are draining to the side.) Put 2 tablespoons of pickling spice on a square of cheesecloth and tie it up with twine--also known as a spice bag, Add this to the pot and simmer 10 minutes.  Put the cucumbers back in the pickling container and pour the vinegar mixture--along with the spice bag--over the cucumbers.  Once again, cover and let stand for 24 hours. 
Drain again, but reserve the liquid this time. Add 2 to 3 more cups of sugar, depending on your taste preference, to the liquid, bring to a boil, pour over the cucumbers, cover, let stand 24 hours...you know the drill.
The big day! Fill the canner and set it over the burner. Pitch the spice bag (I wring mine out over the bowl because I hate to waste flavor.) Take the liquid--after removing the cucumbers--and bring it to a boil one last time. Meanwhile pack the pickle chunks in hot jars. If you are like me, you're recycling jars by now, so check your rings for rust and count out your caps for this round of canning.
 Pour the liquid over the pickles, leaving 1/4 inch head space.

Wipe the rims and remove air bubbles by running a spatula around the inside of the jar.
Adjust the caps and process in the boiling water for 15 minutes. If you have a sharpie, you can label the tops of the caps with the type of pickle and the date preserved. I find it easier than putting a label on the jar.  No glue to clean off when the jar is empty, just toss the lid in the trash and wash the ring and jar.

This time around, I had extra vinegar mixture leftover, so I made a bonus bowl of cucumber vinegar salad.  Who wants to waste a precious drop of that liquid after all the time and effort invested in it! 
Happy mini-brining!

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