I’ve been a pickle making machine lately. My grandma gave me several cucumbers from her garden so I turned them into several jars of bread and butter pickles (above). Then I visited my parents several weekends ago, and my dad had well over ten lbs of cucumbers. So we got to work and spent a good portion of the day Saturday pickling. We made a batch of sweet, bread and butter, and dill. I’ve tried some from each recipe and have found them all to be quite tasty!
I’ve canned a few different things and keep being surprised how easy it is. It takes some time and a bit of reading to make sure you know how to properly process your jars, but it is not rocket science. Honestly it doesn’t take all of the fancy tools either. I use my biggest soup pot with a steamer basket fanned out in the bottom for processing my jars. My mom did buy my dad the special jar tongs and they are really handy, but I don’t own a pair and my regular tongs do the job.
If you’re interested in some recipes check out Putting Food By. My grandma has a 1970s copy that I have a couple of recipes photocopied from. It also includes lots of great instructions and tips on canning, so it might be good to check out from the library if you’re going to give canning a try.
Sweet Pickle Chips – This is the updated recipe of the one I used. I generally don’t care for sweet pickles, but I didn’t mind these. The addition of the Allspice gives them a bit of a different flavor than a store-bought sweet pickle.
Bread and Butter – (pictured above) I couldn’t find a copy of this one online, so you’ll have to buy or borrow the book. It includes turmeric, celery seed, and mustard seed. The cucumbers in this recipe are put on ice before canning. I may be wrong but I think that it helps keep the pickles crunchier. Next time I make the dill recipe below I think I’ll add a similar step to the beginning of that recipe.
Dill – This recipe was recommended by my friend Shannon. They’re incredibly easy, and I wish we’d made more because I’m down to just a few pickles left! I like that the recipe is very basic, so it leaves room for tweaking the spices. I actually emptied a jar a few nights ago, and decided to make some refrigerator pickles with the left over juice.
I had two more pickled pepper recipes I wanted to try out after the first one that I’m told wasn’t bad, but wasn’t the best.
Several months ago I made a few jars of each with the last of the garden’s peppers. The first recipe is from Love.Peace.Happiness.Cooking for Pickled Cayenne Peppers. I used mostly Cayenne the first time I made the recipe, but I made a few more jars for gifts at Christmas with store bought Jalapenos, and as far and I know it didn’t hurt anything.
The second recipe is from My Kitchen Addiction for Pickled Jalapenos. I begged Nate to pick a favorite of the two recipes, but he claims they’re equal. I did love the idea in this recipe to stick your spices in a tea ball though (since you throw them out before putting the liquid in the jars anyway).
We planted, I think, 12 pepper plants in the garden this year. Cayenne, bell, and jalapeno. As usual the cayenne and jalapeno produce a lot. I’m not a fan of spicy foods so I don’t eat any, but Nate throws them in everything from ramen to vegetable soup. In an effort to help him not let peppers go to waste I pickled a couple of jars worth.
The original site I grabbed the recipe from seems to be down but I found it here. You have to wait four weeks after canning to open them, so we just opened them last week. Nate says they’re pretty good, but a little sweeter and more vinegary than he prefers. We’ll have to try a different recipe out next time. They sure look pretty in their jars though.
My one tip: when they say wear gloves to cut the peppers they’re not joking! The pepper juices burn your skin and cause pain like a heat burn does!
Father’s Day weekend I went to Mangum, OK to visit the grandparents. They have a farm, and it has always been one of my favorite places to visit. There are just so many different things to do and experience in the country that we don’t have in the city. During my visit I had sand plums on my mind. I’ve only picked them a time or two and only had sand plum jelly a few times, but I thought it might be the right time of year for them. Saturday afternoon my grandpa (who refuses to ever eat sand plum jelly again after having so much growing up) was so sweet and took me to one of his pastures to pick a bucket full of plums. We got lucky and there were tons of ripe ones!
I ended up with over 7 lbs of plums!
I’ve never made jelly or canned anything before, but other than my small second degree burn mishap my jelly was a delicious success (16 jars of success worth!). If your going to make some jelly or jam check out Sure Jell’s instructions and amount charts. The instructions also come in their box of pectin, and it’s very detailed for all types of jam (bits of fruit) and jelly (fruit juice).
Sand Plum Jelly
Sand plums (5 lbs is what the Sure Jell recipe calls for)
A Box of pectin
New canning seals
8 oz canning jars
1. Pick your plums, remove the stems, sort out the ripe ones and put them in the fridge, put the unripe ones in a paper bag to ripen for a day or two, throw out the ones that are bad or holey.
2. When you’re ready to cook down your plums wash them all (throw out any more bad ones you find, and cut off any suspicious looking spots or holes) and put them in a pot. I read some things that said just cover them with water, some said don’t quite cover them, and the Sure Jell instructions said 5 lbs of plums to 1 1/2 c. of water. I didn’t quite cover mine (my grandma told me with Sure Jell you could probably make water jelly if you wanted) and mine all jelled properly.
3. Don’t boil the plums just let them simmer, and as they get hot mash them with a potato masher. I decided mine were ready when I didn’t see anymore whole plums.
4. Strain the contents of your pot to remove the skins and pits. A lot of what I read said you want to strain it really well so the juice is very clear (no scientific reason just for pretty, clear jelly). That seemed like a waste to me, so I just used a colander and let some of the pulp through. At this point you can store the juice in the fridge until you’re ready to make your jelly.
5. From here just follow the Sure Jell instructions! I’d recommend reading through them a time or two before you start so you know what you’re supposed to do and also have all your tools within arms reach and ready to go.
– I didn’t buy any special canning tools (other than the pectin, jars, and lids). You can do this with regular metal tongs, a tall soup pot (I stuck a metal veggie steamer deal in the bottom of mine to keep the jars from touching the bottom and sides), and a regular funnel.
– Do use a funnel! I’m not sure if the Sure Jell instructions didn’t mention the funnel or what, but I forgot to use mine until I ladled boiling hot jelly over my hand while trying to ladle it into the jar. Definitely not a fun experience.
– Test to make sure the water will cover your jars in your boiling water bath before you start.
– If you’re still feeling nervous Google for some jelly canning tips. I read this site through a couple of times and found the tips and instructions really helpful.
– Heat your jars in a 200 degree oven until you’re ready to fill them.
Happy jelly making!