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Cooking articles

Pickles-a-Plenty

Good spices are essential to good pickling. If you have fresh spices in the garden, like stalks of graceful dill, include those for visual interest and fresh taste. But dried spices — whole, ground, and crushed — are really all you need.

pickling cucumbersFor ease and dependability, you might want to keep a ready-made pickling blend on hand. There are a variety of these—including Frontier’s Mild and Sweet and Original Spicy options. But have some fun concocting your own custom spice combinations, too. One person’s favorite pickles might highlight the warm sweetness of cardamom and allspice, for example, while another cook’s favorite blend might pop with chili peppers and garlic.

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Get-You-Started Pickling Spice Blend
Use this recipe as a rough guideline, but vary amounts and spice choices according to taste. Simply combine all ingredients to make about 1/4 cup of blend. Make small batches of several blends and use your assortment on pickling day.

one 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken up
3 bay leaves, torn into small pieces
2 small dried chili peppers cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seed
2 teaspoons dill seed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seed

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Bread and Butter Zukes
Cucumbers aren’t the only produce with bread and butter pickling potential!

2 pounds of small zucchini, sliced
1/2 pound small pearl onions
1/4 cup pickling salt
ice cubes, slightly crushed
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard seed
2 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. turmeric seed

In a small bowl, toss zucchini and onion with salt. Cover with ice cubes. Let stand for two hours, then drain. In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, and spices and bring to a boil. Add the zucchini and onions, reduce heat, and simmer 6-7 minutes. Pack the vegetables loosely into canning jars. Pour the liquid over the vegetables, leaving 1/2 inch space at the top. Cover jars and process for ten minutes in a boiling water bath. Place the cooled jars in a dark cupboard for about a month before opening. Makes about 2 quarts.

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Ready-for-the-Picnic Pickled Cukes
Choose fresh, crisp cucumbers for this recipe. Assemble in the morning and serve at your picnic lunch or dinner.

8 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 1/3 cup white vinegar
8 Tbsp. water
1/2 cup honey
2 tsp. pickling salt
1 tsp. pickling spice blend
2 Tbsp. dried parsley

Place cucumbers in a bowl. In another bowl, combine vinegar, water, honey, salt, pickling spice and parsley. Pour over the liquid and weigh down with a plate. Refrigerate for three hours and serve. Makes about 8 servings.

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Wine Pickled Beets
Red wine gives pickled products a rich, full-flavored taste. It also enhances the color of the beets nicely in this recipe.

3 pounds of beets
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. pickling salt
1 cinnamon stick, broken
1/2 tsp. allspice whole
1/2 tsp. cloves whole

pickling cucumbersBoil the beets until just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and plunge in cold water. Slide the skin off the beets. Cut beets into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices and pack in clean canning jars. Place sugars, wine, vinegar, and salt in a pot. Place the cinnamon, allspice and cloves in a muslin teabag or a piece of cheesecloth and tie closed. Add to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring, about 8 minutes. Pour the syrup over the beets, leaving 1/2 inch space at the top of the jars. Cover jars and process for half an hour in boiling water bath. Place cooled jars in a dark cupboard for about a month before opening. Makes about 2 quarts.

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Pickled Broccoli and Cauliflower
Most any produce can be pickled. Broccoli and cauliflower florets make a nice combination. Here they’re spiced with Indian flair.

1 small head broccoli florets
1 small head cauliflower florets
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
2 chili peppers
1 tsp. turmeric seed, lightly crushed
1 tsp. cumin seed
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
2 tsp. pickling salt


In a medium bowl, toss together the broccoli, cauliflower, spices, and oil. Pack into a canning jar. Combine the water, vinegar, and salt in a saucepan and heat, stirring, until the salt is dissolved. Pour the liquid over the vegetables, leaving 1/2 inch space at the top of the jar. Place the jar in the refrigerator for about a week, to allow flavors to meld. Makes about 2 quarts.

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Tips for Creating the Perfect Pickle

A symbol of both thrift and abundance, the pickle jar is a staple in every well-stocked pantry. Putting up your cucumber bounty with Grandma’s dill directions maintains an important link with the past — and a promising future. If growing your own pickles doesn’t strike your fancy, you’re still a pickler if you enjoy mixing up that lively relish recipe or gourmet side dish of spicy pickled mango. Using an array of spices and a variety of produce (think outside the cucumber patch), you too can easily make your own signature pickles. You’ll find it easy to experiment when making pickles, because the basic ingredients and processes are similar.

There are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Use soft water, or distilled »»or bottled water. Hard water interferes with the curing process.
  • Use vinegars—cider, white, or others—with 4 to 6 percent acetic acid. Commercial vinegars meet this requirement, and you can buy a ph meter to test homemade vinegars.
  • Use pickling salt—not table salt that contains iodine or anti-caking agents or sea salt, which contains trace minerals. Pickling salt (and kosher salt) is free of additives that might discolor ingredients.
  • Use pots, pans, and bowls that are unchipped enamel, stainless, or glass. Galvanized, copper, brass, or iron pans or utensils can react with the salts or acids and change the color and taste of the pickles or even form toxic compounds.

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