Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Cucumbers and Pickling

Gardening is one of my favorite things to do. I love researching and planning out ahead of time what I want to grow for the year. Creating a map of where I think things will grow best in our raised garden beds helps me to be prepared when it comes time to plant. Watching things grow from a tiny seed to a beautiful plant that my family can eat is hugely satisfying. I feel like the more years I garden, the less I really know. Gardening takes trial and error, patience, practice and not giving up but the rewards are addicting. Some years we'll have great success with tomatoes and then the very next year do the same thing but might end up disappointed. I love the problem solving aspect with trying to figure out which plants need the most sunlight or shade, best watering techniques, getting rid of pesky bugs, best times of year to plant depending on your growing season, and how to fertilize. One of my favorite aspects of gardening has always been with how to maximize smaller spaces to get the most produce possible.  We've been working on adding trellis's to our garden which creates an added dimension as you watch these beautiful green plants climb high into the sky.  

One of my favorite things to grow this year has been cucumbers. They are sneaky little buggers. Ive been watching on the trellis for weeks thinking we weren't going to get any and then all of a sudden they were there.....giants! Normally at this size my cucumbers would have a bitter taste but these Sweet Success Cucumbers have been fantastic. I would definitely recommend this variety! 

What is your favorite way to eat cucumbers?

One complication I have been working on is where my herbs can thrive. Some herbs are super temperamental in how much water and sunlight they like to receive each day. This year I have had a lot of success with keeping most herbs in individual pots on the west side of our garden. Other taller vegetable plants have given them extra shade and they have thrived on the extra hot summer days. This dill plant has been a god-send when we decided to can pickling cucumbers last week.

I have been hesitant to can pickles. Crunch is important to me and the more I read about preserving and other people's fails, the less confident I felt about the effort in canning pickling cucumbers and creating something my family would actually like and eat. Here are 2 recipes that were successful for us this year and the things I learned.

1. Stick with tried and true recipes which include recipes from the Ball canning book/website.
2. Use 1/8 tsp. xtra crunch pickling crisp granules for pint jar and 1/4 tsp. granules for quart jar. This helps the cucumbers not get mushy.
3. You can use dry dill but I prefer fresh. 
4. If you want to can and store vegetables long term you need to plant multiple plants that can produce higher yields in a shorter amount of time. Getting a couple cucumbers off 1 plant each week isn't going to be worth your time. This year I planted 3 plants and I'm still not getting enough pickling cucumbers to equal a batch worth processing. My brother planted 20+ pickling cucumber plants. This allowed him to process several batches each week and then share....because they keep coming! The first week I processed 25 pint jars of dill and bread and butter pickles. Last week with 4 gallon ziplock bags we processed 11 quart jars. 

Dill Pickles

8 lbs. 4-6 inch pickling cucumbers, cut to desired length
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. canning salt
1 quart vinegar
1 quart water
3 T. mixed pickling spices
green or dry dill (1 head per jar)
garlic cloves
1/4 tsp. xtra crunch granules per quart jar or 1/8 tsp. per pint jar)

Wash cucumbers. Slice off ends and cut to desired length. Combine sugar, salt, vinegar and water into a saucepan. Tie spices into a spice bag and put into the vinegar mixture. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add dill and a garlic clove to each jar. Pack cold and cut cucumbers tightly into hot jars. Ladle the hot liquid over cucumbers, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Add xtra crunch granules to top. Remove air bubbles and clean off rim of jars. Put on lid and ring. Process pints and quarts for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner.Turn off heat and remove jars. Let cool for 12-24 hours. Check lids to make sure they have sealed.

Bread and Butter Pickles

3 1/2 lbs. pickling cucumbers (about 14 small to medium)
2 1/2 c. vinegar
2 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. Bread and Butter Pickle Mix

Wash cucumbers. Slice off ends and cut to desired length. Combine vinegar, sugar and Bread and Butter Pickle Mix to saucepan and bring to a boil.

Pack pickling cucumbers tightly into a jar and then add liquid, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Add xtra crunch granules to top. Remove air bubbles and clean off rim of jars. Put on lid and ring. Process pints and quarts for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. Turn off heat and remove jars. Let cool for 12-24 hours. Check lids to make sure they have sealed.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Gardening Week 1

Have you started your indoor garden seeds yet for Spring? Now is the time! We are a little late in getting some things off to an earlier start but that's ok! It's all about trying. Some things we succeed at and other times it ends up being a fail. That's why it's super important to try again and again and if all else fails, then run to the local garden center for a plant! Just like artichokes. 

We should've started from seed around January 5th. Last year was our first try at growing artichokes. I found some beautiful plants at a local garden center and decided to give it a try.  Some things I learned.....they take up a lot of space! Artichokes have large beautiful green pokey leaves that require quite a bit of room to spread out and grow. Also, be patient. You get to look at those large beautiful green pokey leaves for quite a long time before an Artichoke will begin to emerge. Lastly, we got several artichokes off from each plant. I think we would've had more if our growing season was longer. Hopefully we will have success again this year!

It's important to find out what zone you live in so you can plant at the appropriate times and actually get a crop. I live in an area of USDA Hardiness Zones 6b and 7a so these are the things we planted from seed this week:

Bell Peppers
Poblano Peppers
Brussel Sprouts
Swiss Chard

Radish seeds can currently be planted in your garden outside. Also this week we will be trying to get Peas, Spinach, Carrots, Dill, and Pak Choi seeds in the ground.  I will keep you updated with our progress. What are your favorite things to grow? 

Ruth's Mile High Biscuits

2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3 oz. butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
3/4 c. cold buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 c. water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Using a pastry cutter or fork, combine flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and butter until crumbly. Add buttermilk, egg and water. Mix just until dry and wet ingredients are combined, don't over mix.

Put dough on lightly floured surface and form into a 6x6 square. Slice into 9 even squares. Move dough to a lightly greased 9x9 baking dish. Bake at 425 for approx. 15 minutes. Serve while warm!