Concord Grape Preserves - ☺♥
I well remember the taste of Welch's® concord grape preserves from when I was a child. It was certainly superior then to any grape jelly. These many years later I create that type of high quality product from my own supply of concord grapes from my grape arbor. Actually, that grape arbor is a pergola that the grape vines take over each year, even with careful pruning, and thus I have a large crop of grapes at an inconvenient height that require me to use a ladder to harvest them! It is actually pretty simple.
Having looked at a lot of Internet recipes for grape preserves I did my typical method of combining and modifying the recipes to produce what I figured would be a superior product. In this case, that means retaining the maximum taste from the fruit, which means limiting the amount of sugar to only what is needed, and also making a product that is preserves, not jelly.
My good friend Loren and I made a test batch that turned out well but still required a few improvements. What I learned from yet another Internet search was that the grape skins should not be processed through a colander with the grape pulp, but reserved and added to the processed grape pulp right before the long simmering process that thickens the preserves. I also learned that the lemon juice called for in some recipes was not necessary as the concord grapes have plenty of natural acids (tartaric and malic acids). Thus, to avoid having to add additional sugar to overcome acidity I simply eliminated the lemon juice from the recipe. The goal was/is to have a product that tastes like grapes instead of purple sugar glop.
Note that I use concentrated sodium benzoate solution in this recipe to create a product with a long shelf life that does not require conventional canning procedures once the very hot final product is ready to be put into canning jars. You can buy the sodium benzoate solution from a company named Koldkiss® online, or, you can do conventional canning, which to me is a pain in the butt!
Have fun ... this concord grape preserve is very tasty and attractive. The yield from this recipe is essentially one pint of grape preserves for every two pounds of grapes used. You can scale up the recipe based on your supply of grapes and the size of the pot you will use during the simmering process. You might also decide to bottle the product in half pint jars instead of pint jars.
8 pounds of stemmed ripe concord grapes
1 cup of water
6+ cups of granulated sugar
1 tsp. of butter (to reduce foaming)
2 boxes of Sure-Jell® pectin
1/10 of 1% sodium benzoate (by total weight of product)
Put a small plate in the freezer before starting to test the preserves thickness later on.
Remove the grapes from the stems. Wash the grapes in cold water. Discard any grapes that are not perfect.
Remove the grapes from the water in batches of about three cups each, putting them into a large shallow bowl for mashing. Put the grapes into a two gallon stainless steel pot after crushing them with a potato masher and removing the skins and putting them into a large bowl.
Add the water and the butter to the pot and cover the pot with a lid. Heat the mixture over medium high to high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring often with a large wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to low or medium low and boil gently for about 15 minutes.
Process the grapes and water mixture through a colander in batches to press out the pulp into a large bowl and leave the seeds behind. Discard each batch of seeds.
Weigh the processed pulp and the grape skins to help determine the amount of concentrated sodium benzoate solution to add. Adjust the weight upwards by the weight of the 7 cups of granulated sugar. See the Food Nirvana "Dabbling in Science" discussion to determine the exact amount of concentrated sodium benzoate solution to add. Then reduce that amount by 30 percent to allow for later water loss during simmering and thickening of the grape preserves. Weigh the right amount of concentrated sodium benzoate solution out with a reloader scale.
Bring the processed grape pulp and skins to a simmer (low boil) on high heat and stir in the sugar, sodium benzoate and pectin. Reduce the heat to low or medium low and simmer for two hours or more, stirring thoroughly every ten minutes.
After the first hour, test the thickness of the concord grape preserves about every twenty minutes by smearing a small bit across the chilled plate from the freezer. If it gels/sets up it is ready/completed and it will thicken even further later. If not, wash the plate and return it to the freezer and continue simmering and stirring the concord grape preserves.
Note that as the water evaporates and the temperature rises that the preserves will go from fairly liquid to becoming thicker. Once the mixture starts to become thicker the stirring is increasingly important to avoid burning the product onto the inside bottom of the pot. Do it at five minute intervals.
Test for taste. Add one cup of sugar if necessary, then mix and simmer for 5 more minutes. Repeat the chilled plate and taste steps until the preserves have the desired degree of sweetness and thickness. Mostly this is a matter of personal taste. One of the Internet recipes indicated that the temperature of the concord grape preserves will be around 220 degrees F by the time the right degree of thickness is achieved.
Dispense the hot product into clean half pint or pint canning jars that you first washed with very hot water, and immediately seal them. Check the jars when the product has cooled to room temperature to make sure the caps sealed.
Note: The addition of the sodium benzoate to the concord grape preserves, combined with immediate processing of the very hot preserves into canning jars, is intended to result in a product that can be stored in a food pantry like other canned goods. Refrigeration should not be required until a given jar is opened for use. Use the concord grape preserves within one year.
Ray's Corn Pudding - ☺♥
This recipe is of my own making based on memories of Marie's corn pudding, what I found across various Internet recipes, and my own ideas. It is excellent and different from other corn puddings due to my inclusion of bacon and small pieces of bell peppers.
I'm getting hungry just thinking about this dish. Enjoy!
4 strips of bacon
1 cup of finely chopped sweet onion
1/4 cup of freshly diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup of freshly diced sweet red bell pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
3/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1 cup of grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
5 extra large eggs
1/3 cup of butter, melted
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of milk
1 cup of light cream
4 tablespoons of cornstarch
1, 15 oz. can of corn kernels, drained
2, 15 oz. cans of creamed corn
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Fry the bacon in a skillet on medium heat until it is crisp but not burned or overcooked.
Remove the bacon from the skillet and set it aside on a paper towel to drain.
When it is cool break up the bacon into small pieces and set them aside.
Sauté the chopped sweet onion in the hot bacon fat for about five minutes on medium heat, or until it is translucent.
Remove the skillet from the heat and put the onion pieces on a folded paper towel on a saucer to drain excess bacon fat.
Lightly butter a 9" by 13" by 2" glass baking dish.
Whisk the eggs until they are well mixed in a large, 3 quart bowl.
Add the melted butter, sugar, cream and milk to the bowl gradually while continuing to whisk.
Whisk in the cornstarch, the salt and the pepper.
Stir in the onion pieces, the bacon pieces, the diced raw green and red pepper pieces, the corn and the creamed corn.
Stir in the grated cheddar cheese and mix well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
Bake for 1 hour, but check after 45 minutes to make certain the top is not becoming too dark. If it is already a golden or light brown color then cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and continue baking for the last 15 minutes.
Serve the corn pudding or keep it in a 160º F warming oven until the meal is served.
Processing Fresh Corn - ☺♥
Depending on where you live fresh local corn may be available at roadside vegetable markets, nurseries, farmers markets, farms, etc. from June through August. This corn is typically very superior in quality/freshness and ear size to the so-called fresh corn sold by supermarkets. If you want to enjoy delicious corn year round you have to buy and process the local corn while it is readily available. Also, the price charged will vary depending on where you buy it and especially how early you buy the corn, for it tends to be most expensive early in the harvest period. Thus, I buy corn in August.
I am writing this recipe for processing corn in the month of August in New England. I found that the best local nursery/vegetable market is selling fresh corn for $6.50 per dozen for stunningly large perfect sweet ears. Coincidently, that price is exactly ten time higher than when I was a teenager during the latter 1950's and early 1960's. Simultaneously a local supermarket chain is selling ears of corn at the price of five for a dollar, but you should see what stale, ugly little runt ears they offer at that price. It is a come-on for fools. My point is that the more expensive corn at the nursery/vegetable market is vastly superior in quality, in particular freshness, which means sweet ears instead of older ears where the corn sugar has mostly turned into starch. In this instance you surely do get what you pay for.
Assuming that you, like me, demand the best the $6.50 per dozen corn is what you buy and process. The only way to achieve real taste and tenderness quality in preserving corn is to freeze it. Canning and drying both seriously degrade the quality in taste and in tenderness. Thus this recipe describes how I process fresh corn and then freeze it. As you might guess, I certainly do vacuum seal packets of blanched corn kernels prior to freezing, for vacuum sealing is the perfect way to avoid any future freezer burn. Thus, the product when used later is most like the original corn in taste and tenderness. And though it might be hard to believe, you can open a pack two years later and have excellent corn.
The best way to process fresh ears of corn is to husk them immediately, before the corn sugar converts to starch, and blanch the ears for exactly four minutes in already boiling water that has salt in it at the rate of one teaspoon per gallon. That means you have a large pot with about 1 1/2 gallons of boiling salted water on high heat and you introduce only four ears of room temperature corn into the boiling water at one time. The lower temperature corn will reduce the boiling for about a minute. Ignore that. What you do is simply cover the pot with a lid when you first put the corn into the boiling water and then set a timer for four minutes. You may/will have to partially remove the lid after about a minute to keep the water from boiling over.
After four minutes the blanched ears of corn are removed with tongs and immediately put into a large bowl of very cold water, for that will quickly stop any further cooking and also allow you to hold each ear comfortably to cut off the corn kernels. Allow the ears of corn to cool in the water for two minutes, and change the water after two four ear batches of corn have been processed, so as to have cold water all the time, not water heated above room temperature by the hot corn.
I own a corn kernel removal tool that is supposed to make the cutting of the kernels from the cob fast and easy. It is my experience that the best way is still to use a sharp heavy knife and simply make about six or seven vertical cuts down the ear of corn while you hold the top of the ear at the small end and rotate the ear partially after each cut. The special purpose tool works okay only if you have an auxiliary piece of equipment, a board with a long nail sticking up through it from the bottom, so as to allow you to impale an ear of corn on the nail to hold it stationary while using the kernel removal tool, which requires two hands to use. It also wastes/fails to remove some of the corn. Frankly that is too much effort for little gain in time saved, unless you are processing hundreds of ears of corn.
The size of your family and the individual appetites should be considered when deciding how much corn to put into one vacuum sealing bag. I suggest a minimum of one ear of corn per person, which is fairly generous if you start with the great large ears of corn I discussed earlier. Whatever you decide you vacuum seal the package of corn to a vacuum level of 28 inches of mercury. It is not necessary to go beyond that vacuum level. After the vacuum sealing the contents of each bag should be distributed evenly to form a block of corn of even and minimum thickness, for that will aid in efficient storage and later thawing for use.
I recall as a child that my mother would sometimes add butter to the corn prior to freezing it, so that when the corn was used later it was ready to serve immediately. I prefer not using the butter as how I might want later to use the corn, like in making vegetable soup, it can be inappropriate to have butter in the corn.
My preferred way to cook a packet of frozen corn is to defrost it in a microwave oven and then, if appropriate, place the corn in a serving dish, add butter and salt and possibly pepper, cover the dish with plastic wrap and set it aside until the last few minutes before the meal is served. At that point I microwave the corn only to the point of making it hot, where the plastic wrap starts to swell from internal steam pressure. Recall that the four minute blanching period pretty much cooked the corn, so the reheating later need not entail a long period of cooking for the corn to be perfect.
Follow the above instructions and you can have delicious corn year round.
Giardiniera - ►
This giardiniera recipe is a combination of Internet recipes, my changes to ingredients and my method of pickling and preserving the product by pasteurizing, vacuum sealing and refrigeration. If you want you may choose to can the final product, but the vegetables, if canned, will not be as crisp as they are when they are vacuum sealed without any boiling period. I use a small amount of food grade calcium chloride to enhance crispness. The combination of pasteurizing and using the calcium chloride will produce nicely crisp vegetables instead of limp canned product for some of the ingredients, especially the peppers.
The recipe as shown should make about 10 cups of giardiniera.
You use this type of giardiniera as an appetizer or a snack in combination with cheese and crackers and possibly some Italian salami, and also wine, or as part of an Italian Antipasto.
For the pickling liquid:
4 cups of distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
2 cups of water
3/4 cup of sugar
2 tbsp. of kosher salt
1 tbsp. of pickling spice
2 tbsp. of yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. of dried hot red-pepper flakes
¼ tsp. of food grade calcium chloride
For the vegetables:
1 head of cauliflower (2 lb), trimmed and broken into 1- to 1 1/2-inch florets (6 cups)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 green bell pepper cut into 1-inch pieces
2 carrots cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices (2 cups)
4 celery ribs cut into 1-inch-thick slices (3 cups)
1 cup of drained bottled whole peperoncini (4 oz)
1 cup of large brine-cured green olives (6 oz)
Prepare the pickling liquid:
Bring the pickling liquid ingredients to a boil in a 2½ gallon nonreactive pot (either non-stick or stainless steel) over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Make the Giardiniera:
Add the processed vegetables and peperoncini (but not the green olives) to the pickling liquid and mix well.
Increase the temperature to 180ºF on medium heat, stirring every few minutes. Covering the pot with a lid will reduce the waiting period. Use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature and lower the heat as the temperature approaches 180 degrees F so the pot contents do not go above that temperature.
Pasteurize the mixture for 30 minutes at 180ºF on low to medium heat, stirring every five minutes to equalize the temperature of the mixture. Monitor the temperature with a candy thermometer and adjust the heat as necessary to hold but not exceed the 180ºF temperature.
After 20 minutes of pasteurizing add the olives, mix well and continue for the remaining 10 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and cover it with a lid.
If you plan to vacuum seal the giardiniera then let it cool to room temperature.
Alternatively, you may can it immediately under boiling water for 10 minutes in one pint canning jars and then store them in a food pantry.
If you decided to vacuum seal the giardiniera then chill the pot and contents in the refrigerator overnight, covered with a lid.
Vacuum seal the giardiniera in one pint vacuum sealing bags and store them in the refrigerator.
The vacuum sealed product should last for at least six months refrigerated and unopened. If you canned the product it should be good for up to a year. Once opened the contents of the bag or jar should be used within one week and kept refrigerated.
If any bags of vacuum sealed giardiniera start to swell (that should not happen) during the refrigerated storage period then discard them.
Processing Fresh Green Beans - ☺♥
Depending on where you live fresh local green beans may be available at roadside vegetable markets, nurseries, farmers markets, farms, etc. from June through August. These beans are typically very superior in quality/freshness to the so-called fresh green beans sold by supermarkets. If you want to enjoy delicious green beans year round you have to buy and process fresh local products while they are readily available. I grow my own regular green beans and pole beans and it is very easy. Thus, I pick them at their peak and process them in small batches.
The only way to achieve real taste and proper tenderness and texture in preserving green beans is to blanch and vacuum seal and freeze them. Canning seriously degrades the quality in taste and in texture. Thus this recipe describes how I process fresh green beans and then freeze them. And I certainly do vacuum seal packets of blanched green beans prior to freezing, for vacuum sealing is the perfect way to avoid any future freezer burn. Thus, the product when used later is most like the original green beans in taste, texture and tenderness.
The best way to process fresh green beans is to wash them thoroughly and cut off the stem ends. Then blanch small batches, like two adult servings, in boiling water for three minutes and remove the beans to a very large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. After a minute or two the now cold green beans can be put into a vacuum sealing bag, vacuum sealed, and put directly into the deep freeze.
That means you have a large pot with about 1 gallon of boiling salted water on high heat and you introduce only two servings of raw green beans into the boiling water at one time. The lower temperature beans will slightly reduce the boiling for about a minute. Ignore that. What you do is simply cover the pot with a lid when you first put the beans into the boiling water and then activate a timer for three minutes. You may have to partially remove the lid after about a minute to keep the water from boiling over. After three minutes the beans are removed with tongs and immediately put into a large bowl of very cold water that has ice cubes in it, for that will quickly stop any further cooking. Allow the batch of blanched beans to cool in the water for two minutes, and change the water and add ice cubes if/when the water is no longer cold due to doing multiple hot batches of blanched beans.
The size of your family and the individual appetites should be considered when deciding how many green beans to put into one vacuum sealing bag. I prefer to stick with two adult servings per bag and simply use more bags if more than two people are eating at a given meal. Whatever you decide you vacuum seal each package of green beans to a vacuum level of 28 inches of mercury. It is not necessary to go beyond that vacuum level.
My preferred way to cook a packet of frozen green beans is to defrost it in a microwave oven and then, if appropriate, place the beans in a serving dish, add butter and salt and possibly pepper, cover the dish with plastic wrap and set it aside until the last few minutes before the meal is served. At that point I microwave the beans only to the point of making them hot, to where the plastic wrap starts to swell from internal steam pressure. Recall that the three minute blanching period pretty much cooked the beans, so the reheating later need not entail a long period of cooking for the beans to be perfect.
Follow the above instructions and you can have delicious green beans year round.
Green Bean Casserole - ▲
There are two recipes for this dish provided below. First, one cook's idea of an improved recipe. Second, the traditional recipe.
All of the traditional recipes I have seen for green bean casserole use cream of mushroom soup as one of the ingredients. This recipe did not, originally - but it does now. It also uses sour cream, and grated swiss cheese, which are not typical ingredients for a green bean casserole.
When I watched this dish being made on a TV show I was intrigued as it sounded like it would be delicious and different. Thus, I put the recipe into Food Nirvana and we tried it for Thanksgiving dinner.
We were not impressed at all with the dish using the given recipe and it has been modified below considerably. There was too little sauce, it was bland and without character in flavor, and the beans should have been French cut first, and the good flavor from the traditional cream of mushroom soup was missing. Moreover, additional herbs and pungent cheese were needed to give the dish "zing."
If you want a totally traditional recipe for green bean casserole you can look at the second recipe shown below, but what I provide first is my present recommendation to capture the better parts of the initial imaginative TV recipe and then supplement it as needed. It needed a lot of help! But all that means is no source of recipe information is to be trusted implicitly. We try recipes and then modify them to suit our tastes, or discard them.
3 cups of French’s® Fried Onions (or make your own)
2 tablespoons of flour
4 tablespoons of butter
1½ cups of sour cream
1, 8 ounce can (drained net weight) of sliced mushrooms, drained
1 cup of light cream
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
3/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1, 10 ounce can of Campbell's® Cream of Mushroom condensed soup
½ pound of swiss cheese, grated
3, 16 ounce cans of french cut green beans, drained (or use the equivalent amount of blanched frozen french cut green beans, thawed and drained)
Set the oven at 375ºF.
Coat the inside of a 9"x13"x2" glass baking dish lightly with butter.
Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter on low heat in a small saucepan and then add the flour and mix well as if you were making a roux.
Once the "roux" is thickening then add the sour cream and mix well, then add the cream of mushroom soup and the light cream and again mix well.
Add the salt and pepper to the mixture and stir it in, then add the Dijon mustard, the nutmeg and the swiss cheese and mix well.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and set the sauce aside.
Toss/mix the green beans and the canned mushrooms and the Parmesan cheese and two thirds of the fried onions in a large bowl to make a uniform mixture, then put the mixture into the casserole.
Pour the sauce over the casserole ingredients evenly. Make sure the sauce coats all the casserole contents and is evident on the underside of the casserole.
Bake the casserole for 20 minutes. Check it to make sure it is bubbling slowly due to boiling. If not, bake an additional 5 or 10 minutes.
Sprinkle the rest of the fried onions on top evenly and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
Remove the casserole from the oven and put it into a 160ºF warming oven until it is time to serve the meal.
Traditional Green Bean Casserole Recipe:
1 can (10 1/2 ounce) of Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Mushroom
1/2 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
1 dash of black pepper
4 cups of cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 cups of French’s® French Fried Onions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions together in a 1 1/2 quart casserole.
Bake for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling.
Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle the top with the remaining onions.
Bake for 5 additional minutes or until the onions are golden brown.
Hot Garlic Dill Pickles - ☺♥
My mother used to make dill pickles, sweet pickle spears and bread and butter pickles every year. I never thought about making pickles of any kind because I had so many varieties available to me from family, supermarkets and delicatessens. After starting a large garden some years ago I decided it was time for me to try my hand in making pickles to see if I could compete and perhaps develop something better than what I had before.
I decided to make garlic dill pickles, hot garlic dill pickles and bread and butter pickles, using recipes I found and modified to suit myself. I did not use any family recipe. I decided not to make sweet gherkins, even though I love them and use them in various recipes, because I didn’t want to have to deal with growing or buying tiny cucumbers. What I had to do was identify good types of cucumbers for what I wanted to make and also find seeds to grow seeded heads of dill.
The difficult part was finding the dill seeds, and I looked far and wide before I got what I wanted. I can provide some of them for you to get started if you decide to grow the dill. The best idea is to grow the dill yourself while your cucumbers are growing, or, have a friend or relative grow it/them. Typically you grow a bed of dill in the same garden location every year from seeds dropped the previous fall, though you can be extra smart and harvest a few dill heads when the seeds are mature and dry for planting the following spring, or for passing on to your friends and family for them to grow dill also. Note that virtually all recipes found on the Internet for making dill pickles use either dried dill seed or the type of dill that does not form seeded heads. Do not follow that stupid practice, for the seeded dill heads are robust in dill flavor while the dried seeds and "fronds" from the other type of dill are very weak in flavor.
As for the cucumbers, aside from the fact that certain types are superior for pickling, the types are normally identified regarding eating or pickling on seed packets or in young nursery plants available each spring. Similarly, pickling cucumbers can be purchased in bulk (1/2 peck) at roadside vegetable markets for about 90 cents per pound. I have nothing to say except that cucumbers should always be picked while young, fresh and crisp. Nothing is worse than a pickle made from old, limp, seedy cucumbers. Enough said.
The cucumbers and dill are harvested over a period of many weeks during a growing season, each individual item picked or cut at it's peak and washed and stored in one gallon plastic Ziploc® freezer bags in a refrigerator. You will know when you have about 10 lbs. of cucumbers harvested and ready for pickling, and also enough dill. The dill is often ready to start harvesting before the cucumbers, thus refrigerated or frozen storage is used until sufficient cucumbers are ready. I recommend growing at least eight cucumber plants to provide sufficient cucumbers in a relatively short period of time so that accumulating ten pounds of harvested cucumbers can be done within one to two weeks. Wait any longer and the older cucumbers will turn soft and rot. Similarly, grow around thirty or more dill plants to keep a good supply of dill heads available through the growing season. I recommend multiple plantings. Each plant may provide up to three nicely seeded large dill heads. A dill head is ready to harvest when the seeds have completely formed, following the yellow blossom stage, and are light green in color. Do not wait to harvest the heads individually at that point for they are at their maximum goodness/intensity in flavor.
This recipe is very simple and the results great per the folks who’ve eaten the pickles and requested more ASAP. Ditto the bread and butter pickles, but I provide that recipe separately in Food Nirvana. The ingredient list for hot garlic dill pickles is short, and the processing so simple there is almost nothing to it. You do, however, have to have a few supplies and equipment to do the job.
I have suggested adding a bit of calcium chloride to my original recipe here to enhance crispness. You may choose to use or not use the the calcium chloride, but now I do. Also, if you want to make plain garlic dill pickles, skip the red pepper flakes. I found food grade calcium chloride at www.BulkFoods.com and purchased it inexpensively. Just remember that using too much of it makes the pickles poisonous. Follow the instructions exactly.
Supplies and Equipment:
One white plastic five gallon bucket with a lid (I buy them at Home Depot® in the paint area)
A dinner plate and something to use as weights to hold it under the brine, like two drinking water bottles filled with water and tightly capped
Canning jars, screw-on lids and inserts, or vacuum sealing bags and a vacuum sealer
A long wooden spoon for stirring the bucket contents
10 lbs. of fresh young pickling cucumbers each about four to six inches long, washed and dried
6 to 8 large heads of fresh seeded dill
1 quart of white distilled vinegar
1 1/2 cups of Kosher salt
Up to 1/2 cup of red pepper flakes (Use at least ¼ cup)
15 to 20 large cloves of fresh garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons of food grade calcium chloride (Never use more than 3/4 teaspoon per gallon of brine. Less is fine.)
Pour two gallons of water into the bucket and add the quart of vinegar, one and one half cups of kosher salt and the calcium chloride and mix well.
Cut 1/8th of an inch off the ends of each clean cucumber. You can leave the cucumbers whole or cut them in half lengthwise. Put the cucumbers into the bucket.
Add the seeded dill heads and the red pepper flakes to the bucket.
Peel and then cut the garlic cloves into thin slices and add them to the bucket.
Add enough water to bring the bucket contents to about four gallons. The idea is to leave enough space above the brine and cucumbers for adding a dinner plate and some weights, such that you can still cover the bucket with it's lid. Stir the contents thoroughly.
Place a weighted plate on top of the cucumbers to force them down into the brine. I typically use a dinner plate and weigh it down with anything non-metallic, like plastic water bottles filled with water, tightly capped, or a stack of ceramic tiles.
Put the lid on the bucket to keep out foreign matter, insects, etc.
Ferment the pickles for about three weeks in a room that is 60º F to 70º F. Try to avoid higher temperatures, though fermentation can be done slowly at lower temperatures, like 55º F.
Check the fermentation progress every three days. Remove any mold that might form on the top of the brine with paper towels. Then mix the contents thoroughly.
Replenish the brine if necessary to keep the liquid level above the cucumbers, using a mixture of 1/8 cup of kosher salt and 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar in one quart of water.
Check the pickles after two weeks by eating one. If it is pickled all the way through and tastes fairly intense and uniform in taste through the pickle then the fermentation process is completed. If the pickles need more fermentation time give them another three days and test them again. Repeat as necessary.
Process the completed pickles, garlic, red pepper, dill and brine by canning them, or by pasteurizing and then vacuum sealing them.
If you can them immerse six sealed pint or quart canning jars of pickles into a large pot of boiling water with a dish towel or two inside the pot to cushion the bottoms of the jars during canning, or, use a canning pot specially made for that purpose. Repeat as necessary to process all the pickles.
Once the covered pot of water again comes to a boil after inserting the jars of pickles, let the boiling continue on low to medium heat gently for five minutes. Then the jars can be removed and allowed to cool and seal. Remember to retighten the lids when the jars are removed from the boiling water. It is not necessary to can the pickles in the boiling water for any extended period due to the concentration of vinegar and salt in the brine. Canning in boiling water for too long will make the pickles soft instead of crisp.
The alternative to canning is pasteurization at 180 degrees F for 30 minutes for the pickles and the brine. Then you vacuum seal the pickles and brine, or bottle and refrigerate them and use them within three months.
If you vacuum seal the pickles remember to keep them refrigerated. Use the pickles within six to nine months for maximum flavor and freshness.
Enjoy … and I know you will.
Hot Mix - ►
I like to make this hot mix, for it has a lot of zing for folks who crave hot foods, along with some sweetness. You can vary the ingredients from no hot peppers whatever to what is listed below. The idea is that without the hot peppers you have a fine, milder version of a Giardiniera. The small amount of food grade calcium chloride helps to make the mix ingredients crisp, especially the cucumbers/pickles.
Have fun …
16 hot red cherry peppers, halved and cleaned (or some or none)
8 habanero peppers, sliced in half but not cleaned out (or some or none)
4 lbs. of 4- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers, washed, 1/8th inch cut off from both ends, and sliced lengthwise into 1-inch wide pieces
2 lbs. of peeled and quartered small onions, or equivalent sized chunks from large onions.
4 cups of cut celery (1-inch long pieces)
2 cups of peeled and cut carrots (1/2-inch long pieces)
2 cups of cut sweet yellow peppers (1/2-inch by 1 inch pieces)
4 cups of cauliflower florets
32 fresh garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
¼ tsp. of food grade calcium chloride
6 cups of white distilled vinegar (5 percent acidity)
2 tbsp. of canning salt
3½ cups of sugar
3 tbsp. of celery seed
2 tbsp. of mustard seed
½ tsp. of whole cloves
Prepare the vegetables as indicated above.
Put the vinegar into a 2½ gallon stainless steel or non-stick surface pot.
Add the following ingredients:
2 tbsp. of canning or pickling salt
¼ tsp. of calcium chloride
3-1/2 cups of sugar
3 tbsp. of celery seed
2 tbsp. of mustard seed
1/2 tsp. of whole cloves
Stir well and bring the mixture to a boil on high heat.
Toss in the prepared vegetables and mix everything gently and bring the pot contents temperature up to 180ºF on low to medium heat, stirring and mixing gently every three minutes. Cover the pot with a lid to shorten the heating time, but use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature every few minutes after you stir the contents.
Pasteurize at 180ºF for 30 minutes, stirring gently every five minutes. Use the candy thermometer to monitor the temperature and adjust the heat level as necessary to maintain the 180ºF temperature.
Remove the hot mix from the heat, cover the pot with a lid and let it cool to room temperature.
Chill the pot, lid and contents overnight in the refrigerator.
Vacuum seal the veggies and brine in one pint vacuum sealing bags.
Keep the vacuum sealed hot mix bags refrigerated.
Eat the hot mix any time after allowing two weeks for the flavors to mix and penetrate the vegetables.
If any bags swell up during storage, discard them.
Eat all of the hot mix within six to nine months for maximum quality.
Enjoy the hot mix with various other foods like cheese and crackers.