Monday, March 14, 2016

Canning Series - Pickles and Relishes

I have a confession to make.  I can not make good dill pickles.  I have tried and tried over the years to no avail.  I even begged my Auntie Em's recipe.  My Auntie Em made the best dill pickles in God's whole creation.  Whenever I went to her house I would whine until she opened a jar of them.  Knowing how much I loved her dill pickles she even gave me a jar of them for Christmas one year.  With a big red bow on top.   But even using her recipe, mine were a total fail.  So now I use this.

Yep, that's Mrs. Wages Dill Pickle Mix.  Youngest Son and his kids had canned dill pickles a couple of years ago and shared them with me.  He is the one who told me about Mrs. Wages mixes.  I used it last summer when Oldest Son brought me some little cucumbers and dill from the Farmer's Market to make baby dills.  They are wonderful.  Just follow the directions on the package.  Easy.

But if you are feeling adventurous, here is my Auntie Em's dill pickle recipe.  I'm copying it exactly as she wrote it down for me.

Auntie Em's Dill Pickles (7 quarts)

8 cups water
4 cups cider vinegar
1 cup canning salt
2 heads dill per quart jar

Pack cukes and dill in jars.  Boil the brine - pour over cukes in jars - put on lids and rings.
Set jars in canner of hot water to jar rings.  Bring to boil.  Shut off heat and let stand in water until sealed.
You can put in some onion or garlic if you want to.

That's it.  Short and to the point.  Maybe you will have better luck than I did.

I do make really good Bread and Butter Sweet Pickles.  Mrs. Wages has as mix for those, too, but I haven't tried it yet.  Here is my Mom's recipe that I have used for many years.  I usually double the recipe for 7 - 8 quarts.

Mom's Bread and Butter Pickles

15 cups cucumbers, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup canning salt (NOT table salt)
4 cups cracked ice
2 1/2 cups cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon mustard seeds

Combine cucumbers, onions, salt and ice in a large bowl.  Mix well.  Let stand 3 hours.  Rinse and drain well.
Combine vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed and mustard seed in a large pot.  Add drained cucumbers.
Place pot on medium low heat.  Bring almost to a boil.  Remove from heat.
Ladle cukes and brine into jars.  Wipe jar rims and top with lids and rings.
Process 10 minutes in a Boiling Water Bath.

I maybe should have mentioned before that with a Boiling Water Bath, the time should start when the water begins to boil.

My Dad loved beet pickles, so when I was still at home we raised some beets in the garden to can as a vegetable, but always made sure to plant enough for beet pickles.  I may have to see if I can lay my hands on some beets this year because I get a craving for these pickles every now and then.

Beet Pickles
3-5 pint jars

Enough smallish beets to fill 3-5 pint jars.  (5 pints for me are not worth the bother, so I at least double the recipe and maybe more, depending on how many beets I have to work with.)
2 cups white sugar
2 cups water
2 cups vinegar
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Wash the beets well.  Leave the root and about one inch of stems on them.  Put them in a stock pot, add enough water to cover and boil until tender.  Drain the beets and let cool a bit.  Trim off the root and stems - the skins will slip right off.  Leave the beets whole or slice 1/4 inch thick - your choice.
Make the syrup of the sugar, water, vinegar and spices. Pour over cooked beets and simmer 15 minutes.
Pack into hot jars.
Process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

There was a crab apple tree growing in the small orchard by the house I grew up in.  The fruit was wonderful.  As kids we ate crab apples until we couldn't any more and Mother always made some into jelly.  But she made sure there were enough to make several jars of crab apple pickles.  We weren't allowed to open those jars because they were just for special occasions or holidays or for when company was at our house for a meal.  But they were a treat worth waiting for.

Mom's Crab Apple Pickles

3 lbs. firm crab apples, with stems
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick

Combine the vinegar, sugar, cloves and cinnamon in a pan big enough to hold the crab apples.  Bring to a boil over high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the fruit and cook until barely done, about 5 - 6 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, pack crab apples in hot jars.
Ladle in hot syrup, leaving 1/4" headspace.  Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes.

I don't make relish much any more and I'm afraid that the few recipes I used years ago have vanished.  I do can the following recipe every year.  It is good eaten as a relish and it can be drained and mixed with a little mayonnaise for a coleslaw.  The recipe says it may be canned or frozen, but I haven't tried freezing it.  I can it in pint jars and in half pints.  The half pints are just right for a meal for one.

Coleslaw to Can or Freeze
Makes 3 to 4 pints
Note:  I usually double and sometimes triple the recipe.

1 medium head cabbage
1 large carrot
1 green pepper
1 small onion
1 tsp. canning salt

1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. mustard seed

Shred the vegetables and mix together.  I don't have a food processor so I just chop them up in my blender.
Stir in the salt. Let stand 1 hour.
Drain water from vegetables.
Boil syrup ingredients together for 1 minute. Cool.
Mix the syrup with the vegetables. Pack into jars and process (half pints, pints and quarts) in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, or put into freezer containers and freeze.

Cabbage is on sale this week for 9 cents a pound (5 pound limit) and I have ordered 5 pounds to make into this slaw.  I'm out of the half pint jars of it and I really like the stuff.  Hamburger is on sale this week at about half the normal price so I have ordered 12 pounds of that to can as well.  I wish the stores didn't put limits on the amount one can buy of some sale items, but there it is.  I may have to ask Son to stop at the store to get more hamburger.  Looks like toward the end of the week I will be writing less about canning and doing more of it instead.  That's a good thing for me!


  1. Will have to look for cabbage on sale. Your recipe looks really good.

    I don't make pickles since I've never been able to get them to come out well. And I have a store brand that I like that goes on sale regularly. I do make pickle/zucchini relish however. The recipe varies with what has grown well in my garden and/or with sales.

    I grew beets last summer and ate almost my whole crop as they came in. I will have to try your recipe this summer.

    Nice find on the sales this week. I,too, get frustrated with store imposed limits on the really good sales. I'm lucky, though, in that I am able to drive to two of my favorite stores easily.
    Cheers, SJ in Vancouver BC

  2. SJ...I have had good luck with pickles except for dill. Don't know what I do wrong, but the ones I made using the mix are really good. I don't make pickles much any more because even at the Market, cucumbers are kind of spendy. I am going to have to invest in some beets come summertime. I'd like to can some as a vegetable and also make a couple batches of beet pickles. The homemade are so much better tasting than store bought.

    It irritates me to have the sales limited as to the amount one can buy because at 9 cents a pound, I would buy a lot more than 5 lbs. of cabbage. Getting to the store has become problematic for me due to health issues, but luckily my kids are willing to do a store run if I ask. I may ask Son to pick up more cabbage as I have ordered enough of the other ingredients to make several batches of the slaw. It really is good. :)

    I have a couple of recipes for both pickles and relish using zucchini, but what I can depends a lot on availability at the Market or sales at the store. Ah, the joys of apartment living without a garden!

  3. I really love my community garden plots for the very reason that I have limited space with full sun at my apartment. I love to experiment here at the apartment for the fact that the community gardens are very prone to loss. If/when things get tough, I can only imagine the losses will be even bigger. With grocery store prices being so high, it will be interesting to see what happens this summer.

    I have a few berry bushes, some herbs, green onion and rhubarb growing well in buckets here. I think kale or other greens would also do well and will try those this year. I've also read about buying a turnip at the store and planting it in a pot. I may try that as well. I started my green onions from the 'root' end of store bought onions and they're growing like crazy.
    In any case, it's fun to try new things and see what works. SJ in Vancouver BC

  4. SJ...I have not seen any community gardens here although I know that other Minneapolis suburbs have them. I expect that thievery would be a problem, especially with rising food prices. Youngest Son and his family gave me a BIG bag of potting soil and some pots for Christmas, so I'm going to do a little experimenting with my own small container garden on the deck of my building. There are only 7 apartments in this building and I know everybody so I doubt there will be a loss problem. I think tomatoes for sure, maybe some greens and peppers. I saw somewhere that you can grow celery by putting the root end in a bowl of water, but I haven't tried that as yet. I love growing things. :)