In restaurants, when Husband orders a sandwich, moments after his plate arrives he removes the pickle spear and steers it toward my plate like an incoming torpedo. In some cases I have ordered pasta, or another dish similarly unsuited to a pickle accompaniment. But his unwanted pickle lands welcomed on my plate nevertheless, and I eat and enjoy it, confident that pickles go with anything. Indeed, last night, at home, I snacked on some pickles while sipping a glass of red wine. Which I'm sure would not be kosher to a sommelier. But it's OK, the pickles weren't kosher either.
I suppose I have inherited this pickle-love from Dad, who has been known to eat a jar of pickles for dinner. (This normally only happens when Mom isn't home and he can't be bothered to cook for himself.) In fact, there have been many a four-letter word exchanged between Mom and Dad over pickles, the former scolding the latter to try and control himself and leave a few pickles for her. One recent evening I was sitting on their back porch relaxing when Dad sadly moped, "You know, we have pickles in the refrigerator, but your mother won't let me eat them." Then, from a distant place inside the house, comes a snappy retort: "That's right. The bastard needs to leave the pickles alone." I don't even know how she heard him.
The summer's garden bounty is giving me many, many great excuses to make a lot of homemade pickles, which will satisfy everyone's briny cravings except, I suppose, for Husband's. Seeing as how he doesn't have briny cravings. His loss! Anyway. My garden is yielding a nice crop of cucumbers and more fresh green beans than I could possibly eat. Luckily, both cucumbers and green beans make easy, excellent pickles.
Just put yours on my plate, please, and move on. Nothing to see here.
QUICK DILL PICKLE SPEARS
Adapted from Everyday Food
Please note: these pickles are not shelf-stable. Keep refrigerated and use within 2 weeks.
4-6 Kirby cucumbers (about 1 lb.), quartered lengthwise
1 c. white wine vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
3 T. pickling salt
1 t. dill seed
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 c. water
Place the cucumbers in a medium bowl.
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, dill seed, garlic and water. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar and salt dissolve. Pour over the cucumbers.
Use a small plate the submerge the cucumbers in the liquid. Refrigerate until cool, at least 2 hours.
Transfer the pickles and brine into an airtight container (a Ball jar works well). Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Makes 1 quart.
From the most excellent Food in Jars
An important safety message from Marisa, the knowledgeable author of Food in Jars: "One thing to note about string beans. They are perfectly safe to can in a boiling water bath when you’re making pickles out of them. They are NOT safe to can without the brine unless you’re using a pressure canner. One of the few documented cases of botulism that occurred last year was because a family ate some poorly preserved green beans. So if you want to preserve your beans but you don’t want to pickle them, either get yourself a pressure canner or blanch and freeze them."
Also, be sure to spend some time at Food in Jars; Marisa has a plethora of delicious canning recipes as well as informative resources. Her site is the first place I go when I have a canning question or am looking to do something new and yummy with produce and a Ball jar.
One other note: the night I made these, I harvested only 1 lb. of beans from my garden. This recipe works well halved, just FYI.
2 lbs. green beans, trimmed to fit your jars
2 1/2 c. white vinegar (5%)
2 1/2 c. water
1/4 c. pickling salt
1 t. cayenne, divided
4 t. dill seed, divided
4 cloves garlic, peeled
Prep your canning pot by inserting a rack to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot (I use a cooling rack for this). Place 4 wide-mouth pint jars in the pot and fill it with water. Bring the water to a boil to sterilize the jars.
Place the lids in a small saucepan of water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow the lids to sit in the simmering water for about 10 minutes, which will soften the sealing compound.
Wash and trim the beans so that they fit in your jars.
Remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot. In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, water and salt and bring to a boil. While this brine is heating, pack the beans into the sterilized jars, being sure to leave about 1/2-inch head space (the distance between the tops of the beans and the rim of the jar). To each jar, add 1/4 t. cayenne, 1 t. dill seed and 1 clove garlic.
(Pay no attention to this photo; I had to go back later and trim the beans for the required 1/2-inch head space. But still, I liked the look of this photo.)
Pour the boiling brine over the beans, making sure to leave that 1/2-inch head space. Wipe the rims of the jar with a paper towel or a clean tea towel, then apply the lids and rings.
Process the jars for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath in the canning pot (don't start timing until the water has come to a rolling boil). After 5 minutes, remove from the water and place on a tea towel on the counter. Allow the jars to cool. When they are cool, check to make sure that the lids have sealed (if they are sealed properly, the lids will not "pop" when pressed down). If you get a rogue non-sealing jar, don't worry. Just store it in the refrigerator and eat the beans within 2 weeks.
If you can manage to wait, allow the properly-sealed jars to hang out at room temperature for 2 weeks, to allow all the flavors to mingle. Then, bust open your dilly beans and enjoy!
Makes 4 pints.