Quick & Easy|
By Beverly Barbour
It isn't that the art of pickle making has fallen by the wayside, it is more that there seems to be less time in each day to practice the fine and fun art. Then, too, there is less space for storing of jars.
That being said, pickles are not only very healthy to eat but they have been around since 2030 B.C., when the cucumber first came to rest in a vinegar solution. Cleopatra is said to have believed that pickles made her healthier and more beautiful, and Columbus supplied his ships with pickles to prevent sailors from getting scurvy. If they worked for Cleo and Chris, maybe we should give them a try.
Tips for pickles
1. You can safely use either white (clear) vinegar or brown apple cider vinegar. White will not discolor the finished product, while cider may do so.
2. Avoid using iodized salt in pickles, as you may be able to taste the iodine.
3. Avoid over-the-hill, mushy produce plus cucumbers and zucchini that have outgrown their intended size.
4. Rinse clean jars with boiling water just before filling. Or, better still, fill pint jars with water and place them in the microwave. Process at high for 3 minutes. (Be very careful not to burn yourself when you remove and empty the jars.)
5. If you are freezing pickles, be certain to allow expansion room in the containers.
6. Always refrigerate leftover pickles.
7. If the pickles mold or change color or odor, remember the old adage: When in doubt, throw them out!
Easy Pickled Beets
Both red and yellow beets can be used. You can cook the beets as suggested here or in the microwave. Either way you have to peel the pesky skins off. If you don't leave some of the stem and the tail on the beets while precooking them, they will bleed and lose some of their color. While you are in the cooking and messy peeling mode you may want to double the recipe. This one makes about 4 to 6 servings.
1 pound (about 7) small beets
Leave root and 1-inch stem on beets; scrub with a brush. If they're from your garden be sure to remove all of the dirt that nestles between the leaves. Place in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 30 to 45 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Cool until you can handle them. I usually pick them up with a 2-tined fork and hold them with the fork while slipping off the tail, stem and skin with a paring knife. Thinly slice the beets and put them in a sterile jar. While the beets are cooking, combine vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in salt, peppercorns and bay leaves. Pour this mixture over the sliced beets; cover and chill. You can fish the bay leaves out before serving.
Okra has a mild flavor similar to green beans. Use smaller, more tender okra, less than 4-inches long. They should be firm and blemish free. Both pickled okra and pickled beans take kindly to martini's--cheaper than olives. Makes about 5 cups.
2 1/2 cups white or cider vinegar
Combine vinegar and next 7 ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until sugar and salt dissolve, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in dill, jalapenos and okra pods. Cool completely; pour into containers. Cover airtight and chill.
Spicy Pickled Vegetables
Great with Mexican food. The onions will peel easily if you drop them into boiling water for 15 to 30 seconds. Makes about 7 servings.
6 cups water
Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil. Add carrots; cook 2 minutes. Add onions; cook 1 minute. Add peppers; cook 1 minute. Add beans; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar. Let stand at room temperature about 1 hour. Pour into a large container or jars; cover and refrigerate 24 hours. Store in airtight containers, in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Sweet Zucchini Pickles
These pickles are pretty to look upon as well as being good keepers--up to 6 weeks in the refrigerator. You may want to add extra color by using one red and one yellow or orange bell pepper. Makes about 6 cups.
4 zucchini (about 1/4 pound each)
Trim and discard zucchini ends. Thinly slice zucchini. Peel onion and cut in half lengthwise, then cut each half vertically into thin slivers. Mix zucchini, onion and salt. Let stand 30 minutes. Rinse well and drain. Meanwhile, stem, seed and cut red bell peppers into thin slivers about 2-inches long. Over high heat bring vinegar, sugar and pickling spice to a boil. Add bell pepper slivers and zucchini-onion mixture. Remove from heat and mix well. Spoon into jars, cover and let cool. Chill at least 24 hours before opening.
Pickles make everything on the plate taste better!