This weekend my wife harvested about six pounds of green beans and we set to the task of making my world famous pickled green beans. One pound of vegetables typically makes one quart of pickles. In the past I've used pint jars for my green beans, but this year we opted for the big quart jars. My wife loves them so much that one pint doesn't last long. Now that they're packed into larger jars they may last more than a day when opened.
|This week's harvest|
As long as you keep the basic recipe constant -- the vinegar, water, and salt ratios -- you can have fun modifying the other flavors. I take the basic recipe for pickled green beans that is published in a Heinz company pamphlet and add spicy red peppers. The pickled green beans then have a hot bite to them. It's a hit and a favorite of my wife and daughter.
Add sugar to the vinegar and you end up with a sweet pickle. Dill is prevalent in pickled cucumbers, but you can add other savory spices to get extravagant flavors. Add garlic or peppers and you have a spicier taste. Fresh ginger is unique and creates a slightly exotic taste. I like to eat the pickled garlic and pickled ginger after the rest of the jar's contents is consumed.
You don't have to follow the heating process to make pickles. Refrigerator pickles are very easy and often give the pickles a toothier bite... think Vlasic. Take a plastic container or jar, cut up your veggies, pour in vinegar and water with salt and your choice of herbs and spices, put it in the refrigerator overnight, and enjoy delicious pickles the next day. The only downside is that if you don't eat all of the pickles (which rarely happens because they're so tasty), they'll only last about a week or two in the refrigerator. Pickles processed in the heated canning method will last months on the shelf before being opened.
There are many recipes available on the internet and in books. I recommend using a recipe approved by the USDA, or a state extension office. They know what they're doing and the resulting product will be safe to eat.
I became a certified Master Food Safety Advisor through Colorado State University's Extension office a few years ago and have taught many pickling classes. Check with your local county Extension and see what they offer. Canning and pickling classes are happening this time of year and don't cost much to attend. Once you try it you'll likely do it every year.
You can purchase fruit and vegetables from a farmer's market or grocery store to pickle. I like using my own garden's production because it seems to taste a little better knowing I've put my own labor into the result. My favorites are pickling my green beans and asparagus. My cucumbers usually become refrigerator pickles because they're so easy and so delicious and can be made day after day when the cucumbers are being picked.
Now is a great time to act. Check out some recipes, take some of your produce, and make a pickle. Believe me, you'll be hooked.