Summer In A Jar

Extend your enjoyment of homegrown produce into the winter months by pickling some of your summer bounty.

By Jan Wiese-Fales

Homemade pickled vegetables and fruits add a special dimension to meals and snacks, preserving a special taste of summer for cold winter days. And jars of pickles sparkle like treasure on pantry shelves. Here are some ideas and tips for pickling your bounty.

Beans, asparagus, carrots, okra, zucchini, beets, onions and peppers join the traditional cucumber as excellent choices for tangy, taste-of-summer treats that may be pickled separately, together or as relishes, all with the addition of vinegar, salt, sugar and spices. Ketchup is the happy “pickled” result of pureed tomatoes.

Fruits such as peaches and apples also make delicious pickles, and fruit chutneys lend a sweet-sharp accompaniment to meat and vegetable meals.

Vinegar’s high acidity helps protect pickled produce from harmful microorganisms and allows you to skip the pressure cooker in favor of water-bath canning. Whether you choose white or apple cider vinegar (which adds a gold tone and slightly fruity flavor to pickles), the vinegar should be labeled as 5% acetic acid. Use pickling salt or raw sea salt crystals; the anti-clumping additives in table salt can make the pickling solution cloudy.

Other supplies you’ll need: a canner or other large enamel or stainless-steel kettle with a lid; canning jars, corresponding self-sealing lids and screw bands; a wide-mouth funnel; and wide-grip tongs to handle the jars.

Pack Cold or Hot

With cold-pack (also called raw-pack) canning, jars are filled with fresh, blemish-free raw veggies—whole or sliced—then hot pickling solution is ladled into the jars, leaving a half-inch head space. Wipe off jar rims before screwing lids and rings on tightly and lowering into a boiling water bath that rises 1 inch above the jars. Processing time (per your recipe) is measured from the time the water begins to boil again.

Fresh or dried spices can be added into the pickling brine solution as it is heated, either loose or in a cheesecloth bag. Alternatively, place them in the jars along with the veggies or fruits. Pop in a clove of garlic or a hot pepper for increased zest.

In hot-pack canning, ingredients of things such as relishes, chutneys and ketchup are cooked together before filling the jars with the hot food and processing in a water bath.

Successfully canned pickles will make a small pop sound as they cool, a sign that the pressure has sealed them, making the lid slightly concave. Jars that do not seal within 12 to 24 hours after removal from the hot bath should be refrigerated for immediate use.

Follow your chosen recipe carefully, as the proportions of fruits and vegetables to other ingredients may impact flavor and food safety. Your pickles will be ready to eat in just a few weeks!