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Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

How to Make Crispy Crunchy Dill Pickles

Backyard Homesteading, Dangerous Kitchen Experiments, Dill Pickles, Gardening, Home Canning

Since September of 2011 readers from all over North America and beyond have been visiting WauwatosaNOW to learn about how to make crispy crunchy sweet pickles.  Lest you doubt that claim check out the lower right-hand corner of the home page under the category:  Most Popular.  Usually right around the start of July that old blog post finds its way to the list and is frequently at or near the top.  There is a remote chance I may have become one of the World Wide Web’s foremost authorities on crispy crunchy sweet pickles. 

Of course search engine optimization does play a role but I would submit that it is an exceedingly reliable and tasty-good recipe formulation.  Try it yourself - à la carte, on a burger or a hotdog, or on a toasted cheese or Smucker’s Natural Chunky Peanut Butter sandwich.  Yum!

Nevertheless, the staff here at Gas Pains rarely sleeps.  Product development and refinement is our motto.  After years of floundering around the pickle universe with year after year of mediocre dill product I do believe that I have stumbled-upon what might possibly be the gold standard of home-grown, home-canned, crispy crunchy dill pickles.

I unveiled them at the Saturday evening Schützenfest Bloody Mary bar and they received rave reviews.  Plunk one of these dill spears in your cocktail and you will think you have died and gone to heaven.  Just the right balance of salt, dill and garlic.  Tangy and with a refreshing crunch

The secret ingredient?  Ca(OH)2 – calcium hydroxide – commonly known as Pickling Lime.

Here’s the recipe.

Start with a sink full of freshly-picked, scrubbed and rinsed pickle cukes.  I grow my own organic cukes but you can purchase them at the Tosa Farmers Market.

Fetch your pickle barrel.  Everyone should have a five gallon bucket.  They are indispensable.  My bucket might have originally held cat litter.  Nevertheless, it also appears to be food-grade since it doesn’t stain or absorb odors.  I use it to brine meats and fish, haul butchered venison and assist in pickle-making. I even made sauerkraut in it one year.  In a pinch you can sit on it in your deer stand and keep your thermos, lunch and toilet paper inside where it won't get wet.  Like I said - they're indispensable.

Slice your cukes and toss into your plastic bucket.  I like to make spears and cut my cukes accordingly.  I also use a mandolin because you can make slices of a uniform thickness with cool-looking ridges on them. 

Be careful with this device and don’t do like I do and slice-off part of your thumb with the first use.

The secret to really crunchy pickles is liming them.  Combine one cup of pickling lime with two gallons of cold water and mix thoroughly.  Add to the bucket.  Add additional lime and water until your cuke chips float freely in your pickle barrel.    Snap-on the lid and put it in cool place like the cellar overnight.

The following day drain your limed cukes in the sink.  They'll be nice and crispy because the calcium reinforces the cellular structure of the cucumber.  But you have to soak them to remove the excess lime.  This is an exceedingly important step.  Lime is alkaline and if you have residual lime in your pickles it might neutralize the acid in your brine causing your pickles to go bad.  Be diligent about the chemistry and you probably won’t die from botulism.

Fill the sink full of slices with cold tap water and let them soak for an hour.  Drain and repeat this two to three more times.  For a total of three to four hours.  Sure, this is tedious but you can waste precious bandwidth on Facebook while you're waiting.  Although I recommend reading a real book or working in your garden (weather allowing.)  

Following the rinse cycle drain in a colander and start your brine.

Basic brine.  In a non-reactive pot combine one quart of white vinegar with two quarts of water with ¾ cup of canning salt.  (Canning salt is not iodized).  This should be sufficient for a dozen quarts of pickles.  

Bring your brine to a boil.

While the brine is heating pack your jars. 

Into each jar place one peeled garlic clove.  Add dill seed.  I am partial to Penzeys dill seed but any will do.  3 t of seed for quarts and 1 ½ t for pints.  Pack the jars with your pickles.  Pack tightly but don’t force the slices. 

Fill the packed jars with the boiling brine leaving a half-inch of head space.  Add your lids and bands and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool.  When the lids pop your jars are seated properly.

Home grown and canned:  Uncle Dick's tomato juice, pepperoncini (also new this year) and crispy crunchy dill pickle.  Stir with a smoked venison stick.  Gotta figure out how to make vodka from my potatoes, eh? 

Cheers!

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*A word about the jars and lids.  Sterilize your jars by immersing them in boiling water or running them through the dishwasher on the 'sanitize' cycle.  Lids are easy - heat a Pyrex measuring cup of water to a boil in the microwave and drop the lids in the hot water to sanitize them.  Fish them out with a tongs.

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