13 August 2011

Tickled...er rather "Pickled"...pink!

Today's favorite sound: the "POP!" of canning jar lids.  Today's favorite smell?  The sinus-clearing blast of just-boiled vinegar and salt as you ladel it into jars of dill and fresh green beans.  And of course, today's favorite color is...chartreuse.  In the world of canning, pickles are easy enough to be considered a "gateway" project.  If you are new to canning, we recommend you also read this post about canning basics.

To begin, there's really nothing pink about pickles (aside from optional red pepper flakes).  At least, there shouldn't be.  In all seriousness, if you ever have a jar of home-preserved food that has turned pink, don't eat it! For more about canning and food safety concerns, read our canning basics post.  
We always use recipes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  This center is part of the Extension Services System (a cooperation of universities across the U.S.), and all their recipes have been lab-tested and adjusted to maximize food safety.  

Even better, their recipes are tasty, simple, and can easily be multiplied to meet the scale of your project.  For example, today's project involved a 20-pound bargain sack of green beans.  Given the concerns associated with low-acid food canning (i.e. vegetables, meats, etc.), we opted for pickling our beans.  Although the dill-pickled beans recipe is written for 4 pounds, it did not require complicated math to scale it up.  

The most complicated element of the whole effort turned out to be the attempt to locate fresh heads of dill (see photo to the right).  Our garden dill didn't do well this year, so we had to find another source.  Ultimately, we went to three grocery stores and two large farmers markets before finding one vendor who sold dill heads.  Evidently the majority of folks making pickles around here prefer the more subtle flavor of the dill greens over the PUNCH of the heads.  In fact, one farmer told us we'd have to purchase his entire 10-gallon bucket of dill (at a cost of ~$50) in order to get all the under-developed heads sparsely scattered throughout the greens!

The final equation:
Green beans ($9) + dill ($4) + vinegar ($2) + garlic ($4) + 24 lids ($3.98)  + 2 gals & 3 hours in the kitchen = 24 pints of pickled beans!

Now, pickled beans are not a typical grocery store item.  So, let's say you'd have to find them in a specialty grocery (épicerie), where you might be lucky to find them on sale for $4-$8/pint.  At an average of $6/pint, that's $144.00.  In comparison (excluding the cost of water and electricity), our beans cost a whopping $0.95 /pint for a total of $22.80.  So, if you have time for it, homemade pickles are definitely an exceptional way to manage both the quality of your food and your budget.

1 comment:

Kasia said...

Looooooved your pickles. Devoured them in one sitting (reluctantly shared a few beans with JS) and pined for more. Out of this world, your pickles! Thank you!

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