Friday, October 2, 2009
Ruby's Mustard Pickles
I love, love, love Autumn. It's the perfect time of year for me - not too hot, not too cold, not as busy as summer, not as dreary as winter. I think the landscape is at its most gorgeous now, too. The first hard frost has hit, so all the low bushes have turned a deep red. And all the trees are starting to come out in their glory. You'd think we like our scenery best in Spring, during its rebirth, but no - it is in the height of nature's maturity when its beauty is paramount. Maybe we should remember that next time we see a white hair; we're not getting old, we're maturing! I'll try to remember that when my hair is snow white. ;)
Anyway, back to the frivolities. I'm most active in cooking in the Fall. Usually it's been too damn hot to cook anything elaborate in the summer, so now I make up for lost time. Also, it seems as though everything in the garden is ready at once, and you can't let it go bad....so preserves it is!
See that? That ain't no hothouse cuke - that monster is home grown, for sure. You try eating a garden full of these bohemeths before they go bad - can't be done! Enter mustard pickles, my favourite of all. I remember eating them since I was wee, and that gorgeous smell of pickles simmering is indelibly linked with Fall. And now I'm going to share my family recipe with you! (For those of you wondering, Ruby is my auntie. The recipe is hers.)
It's pretty easy, actually. Finely dice your cucumbers, red peppers, and onions. Add salt and water, and let sit 2-3 hours (or if you're lazy like me, overnight). Drain and rinse a couple of times, and then get your sauce ready.
There they are, all ready to go. I used the food processor for the onions, but don't use it for the cukes or peppers - it'll chop them into mush. I used 7 of those giant cukes pictured above, and it filled my biggest stock pot 2/3rds full. It's times like these I wish I had a minion or two.
Next, you make the sauce. It's simple, too - add a bunch of dry ingredients, including dry mustard, flour, and sugar - to a pot, dump in some vinegar, and let simmer until it thickens.
Combine the sauce with the pickles. Mmmmmmm. Just looking at it I can remember how good the entire house smelled. Keep these bad boys hot for at least 30 minutes, and then bottle them all while still hot - the jars will seal themselves that way. If you want to go through the whole canning procedure, knock yourself out, but my Mom never does and neither do I. And we're all still alive, so there.
I got 16 jars out of this batch, which is enough for me and enough for presents. If you don't have a lot of pickles or have a lot you want to give away, get the little decorative jars. That way, you still look generous and wow people with your mad picklin' skillz, but above all it's still more for you. ;)
Ruby's Mustard Pickles
4-6 cucumbers, seeded and diced
3 red peppers, diced
4-6 medium onions, diced
1 cauliflower (optional)*
1/2 - 3/4 cup table salt**
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 - 2 tsp celery seed
4 cups vinegar
4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup dry mustard
1 1/2 - 2 tbsp tumeric
This recipe will make around 8 jars, 2 cups each. Doubling or tripling works well, as long as you have a big enough pot.
1. Dice all your veggies and place them in a large pot. Do not use a food processor for either cukes or peppers.
2. Add salt to the veggies, and add enough water to cover them. Let stand 2-3 hours.
3. Drain veggies and rinse well, 2-3 times. If you skip the rinsing step, they will be too salty. Set pot aside while you make the sauce.
4. To make the sauce, add all dry ingredients to a large pot. Add vinegar in two stages, stirring well after each addition. If your sauce has any lumps, simply use an immersion blender or a hand mixer to beat them out. Everything should come out smooth, though, as it heats up.
5. Cook the sauce on low medium heat until it thickens, stirring occasionally. This may take as much as 30 minutes, so don't be alarmed if it doesn't thicken right away. Once it begins, the thickening process will happen quickly, so don't leave it unattended at this point.
6. Add sauce to veggies, and keep the whole pot hot on low heat for at least 30 minutes. Immediately fill clean jars with the hot pickles; they will seal themselves. If any jars don't seal, simply eat them first!
*My mom always puts cauliflower in her pickles, but I personally believe cauliflower ruins everything it touches. Feel free to use it if you want.
**Use the lesser amount of salt if you omit the cauliflower.
And once you're done, enjoy staging them in weird poses for your blog. WEEEEEEEEEEEEE!