I have never submitted an instructable before, but when I heard about this here contest I figured it was high time to give Elverna Bradshaw a run fer her money!! (I'm from Alabama, so yes, I can say it that way; and if you don't know who Elverna Bradshaw is, Granny would be very sad.)
I am entering Bread and Butter Pickles; they are sweet, but not too sweet and kind of twangy at the same time. If you get it right they should be crisp and not smooshy. You can cheat on the amount of sugar that you use, but I will not guarantee the results.
This recipe can be made in a water bath canner or even a plain stock pot with a wire rack in the bottom (although be careful - if your jars knock together they may break). Pickles, tomatoes, or jams can be canned in a water bath. Everything else MUST be canned in a pressure cooker or canner.
Step 1: Step 1 - the Ingredients
3 1/2 lbs pickling cucumbers (about 14 small to medium)
2 1/2 cups vinegar (5% acidity) - don't cheat on this one, anything less than 5% and your out of business!
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup Ball Bread & Butter Pickle Mix (found in most stores)
Ice water (optional) - I like to soak mine overnight, I find it makes them crisper
This is enough to make 2 - 32oz Quart jars or you can make 4 - 16oz Pint jars. I have made up my own bread and butter spice mix in the past but have either gotten a smooshy pickle or not quite the flavor I was looking for. This mix saves time and effort, and with all the trouble you are going through with picking, washing, cutting, canning, curing, and the like. I like to have a recipe I can depend on. (No, I'm not getting paid). You can cheat on the sugar content, but I would not. After all, why do ALL this work and end up with the something you CAN'T EVEN EAT!!! Find a low sugar or diabetic pickle recipe and run with it, I am sure they are out there.
If you are doing a big batch or you are unsure like you have 25 cucumbers, double this up. It will keep in the fridge for next time.
Step 2: Y'all Need Some Cucumbers??!!!
So grab your farm hand and head to the garden and pick some cucumbers. Just make sure your farm hand has "hands". I made the mistake of hiring one this years with paws, but he keeps the hogs out and he's cute!
If you don't have a garden you can go down to your local farmer's market and buy just about any produce you want there. Make sure you buy from the local trucks and not from the bigger year round buildings. The year round buildings bought their stuff from the folks with the trucks and then they marked the price up and passed the cost on the you!!! Besides if you get to know your local farmers you will get the better deal and they will start to save stuff back for when they know you are looking for something specific like black eyed peas, or okra, etc...BUT GO EARLY they usually get their at really early and will tell you what time to meet them. You can find just about anything you want at your local farmers market as long as it is in season.
If you do buy your cucumbers from the grocery store, make sure you do not get the ones with the wax one them. The spices will not infiltrate into the flesh of the cucumber.
Your local cooperate extension agency is a GREAT RESOURCE, every county in the nation has one. http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/ They will give you information on gardening, proper food prep, and canning techniques as well. They will also be specifically prepared for your area.
Step 3: Making Pickles
Wash and if you have time soak your cucumber overnight in ice water if not for a couple of hours (it seems to make them crisper). It is not necessary, you can pack them the same day they are picked or bought. Then make sure that all of your jars are clean. You can buy jars at the store, but I buy most of mine at garage or estate sales. Just make sure they have no nicks or cracks and the openings are smooth. They cost about $0.25 each. You can reused lids and rings (there is a big argument in the canning community about reusing lids). I will reuse rings, but I never reuse lids. Make sure your rings have no rust or spots and your lids have a smooth waxy surface to them, if not they won't seal.
1. PREPARE canner, jars, and *lids according to manufacturer's instructions. (Fill your canner (see picture), wash your jars and lids)
2. CUT ends off cucumbers. Cut into 1/2 inch slices, or **spears, cubes, whatever you like .
3. COMBINE vinegar, sugar, and 1/4 cup of mix in a medium saucepan. Heat to a boil.
*NOTE you should simmer your lids at a low temp until them get small bubbles on them (it's on most instructions)
**NOTE if you change your pickle shape or size - double your mix and increase your number of jars.
Step 4: Pack the Jars/Placing Them in the Canner
4. PACK slices into jars. I will try and soak the jars in hot water until they are packed (see picture #3) . Ladle hot pickling liquid over slices leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars. Apply bands and adjust to fingertip tight. (I usually tighten as much as I can)
If I have 6 large jars going into the bath I will use even less water say 1 2/3 way up ring #2. Also I will fill the sink with hot water and place the jars in while they wait so they are not shocked going into the bath.
5. PROCESS in boiling water canner for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude*. For best flavor, allow pickles to stand for 4-6 weeks.
*Increase processing time: 5 minutes for 1,001 to 3, 000 ft; 10 minutes for 3,001 to 6,000 ft; 15 minutes for 6,001 to 8,000 ft; 20 minutes for 8,001 to 10,000 ft.
I have never lost a jar in a canner, and do not plan to start now.
If you like my Instructable, please vote for it in the Canning Contest! Thank you!!