Pickled Salad

More vacation, more pickling. And oh, my gosh, have my few cucumber plants suddenly produced a bounty! What else to do besides eat a few, share a few and turn the rest into pickles. I like this recipe, adapted from a recipe called Toby's Pickled Cucumbers in a cookbook titled Preserving by Oded Schwartz, because the ingredients come together like an instant salad: Just add lettuce. You can use some of the vinegar from the jar to finish off a vinagrette dressing, while you're at it. The original recipe, which is tripled here to net eight pints, didn't call for the asparagus -- I just added it because I had a bunch left in the fridge.

3 pounds cucumbers (about 3 large cucumbers), sliced 1/2-inch thick
6 tablespoons pickling salt
1-1/2 pounds onions, sliced into thin rings
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into smallish pieces
1/2 pound asparagus, cut into smallish pieces
12 garlic cloves, sliced
3 teaspoons black peppercorns
9 cups water
4-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
12 tablespoons sugar
fresh dill (16 small sprigs or 8 large sprigs)

Prepare canning equipment (wash, sterilize, etc.). Put sliced cucumbers in a colander and sprinkle with half the salt. Mix well and let stand for about 20 minutes. Rinse the cucumbers under cold water and drain well. Mix the onion rings, carrots and asaparagus in a bowl, pour boiling water to cover then drain well. Arrange a layer of cucumber in the bottoms of the hot, sterilized jars. Add some garlic, dill and peppercorns. Cover with a layer of the remaining vegetables. Repeat until vegetables are used up and the jars are almost full, but loosely packed. Place the water, vinegar, sugar and remaining salt in a noncorrosive saucepan and bring to a boil for a few minutes. Pour the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving 1/4-inch headroom. Poke the vegetables with a wooden skewer to make sure there are no air pockets. Then seal the jars. Cool and refrigerate. The pickle will be ready to eat in 2 days and should keep in the fridge for a couple of months.

What really happened: I actually went ahead and processed these in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes to seal 'em up for the long haul. Well, sure enough, all the bold, beautiful colors went bland and boring. Everything may still taste good (we'll know in a couple days), but it looks sad and pathetic. (sigh). Next time: Just close 'em up, refrigerate and eat before they go bad.

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