Mistake Pickles, or Why You Should Always Read Directions

This is part two of my post about canning, for part one, please click here!

So in this post I promised some more beginner tips on canning. Perhaps the biggest tip I can give is always always ALWAYS read the directions, and follow them. And then read them again just to be sure. Last summer I made quite a few batches of dill pickles, which are easy and fast and a great beginner canning adventure. Last week I linked to the fabulous book Food in Jars, which has a straight forward pickle recipe that is nearly foolproof.

Unless of course, you don’t read the directions.

I DID read them, the first two times I made the pickles. The third time I was distracted, no doubt by the twenty other canning projects I was attempting to juggle simultaneously, and I neglected to thoroughly read them again, bolstered by my many many hours of expertise in the pickle making department. (I’d made like two batches. I was totally a pro.) So I boiled my vinegar and spices, except I forgot the part to add water. So when I went to put the brine in the jars, it only filled two of the four… and then I remembered. I hadn’t COMPLETELY filled my jars yet, so perhaps all was not lost; I quickly boiled some water in the kettle and added it to the remaining brine in the pot and tried to top off the half filled with vinegar jars. (I also attempted to spoon some of the vinegar out of the jars.) Not only did I royally mess up the brine, but I added some little tiny mini cucumber things we found at the farmers market, instead of just regular pickling cucs, so a year later when we were finally brave enough to test these pickles… we were disappointed. The mini cucs turned into slimy mushy blobs of grossness. The regular cucs have a definite bite, while not UNedible, they are not what you expect. I imagine we opened the too much vinegar jars, who knows what the maybe not enough vinegar jars will hold. Sigh.

The moral of the story is, READ THE DIRECTIONS!! And do what they say! Now, I will say that I HAVE had success filling out my pints with a few lemon cucumbers when I just didn’t have enough picklers, but don’t go crazy with substitutions. Also, remember how I was juggling so many recipes? Probably don’t do that either, although I really didn’t learn. If you DO plan to can many things in one go, reading the directions is even more vital for timing. It’s more than frustrating to get ready to start making some delish carrot relish (from Preserving by the Pint, seriously these books are so great) only to find that your shredded veggies need to sit for a couple hours before you can continue.

Another tip which I mentioned briefly last week, is to take it slow. You aren’t attempting to exclusively feed your family with this stuff (or maybe you are, more power to you), so you don’t need to devote a spare bedroom to house your canned goodness. I was feeling pretty spectacular about the 50 jars I put up a couple weeks ago, until we visited some older friends of ours and she was telling us about the days when she would can something like 1500-2000 jars EVERY YEAR..! Bubble burst. But then she added that for $50 she could fill the back of a pickup with side rails with produce. I can’t do that. I don’t know anyone who can. Unless you own your own farm, but even then you probably pay more to water it that $50. So find recipes you like, for food you will definitely eat, READ THOSE DIRECTIONS, and figure out how much is doable for YOU. And soon you’ll end the summer with a cabinet or two JAM packed (snicker snicker canning pun) with the tastes of the season for you to enjoy deep into winter and early the next spring.

Tune in next time for a recipe for Spiced Blackberry Brandy!!

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3 thoughts on “Mistake Pickles, or Why You Should Always Read Directions

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