Preserving Summer’s Bounty- Cucumbers

We have had a very hot and dry (not much rain, plenty of humidity) summer which began very early this year. This has put all the crops about 2 weeks ahead of schedule. My neighbor told me yesterday he was picking his sweet corn on the 3rd of July!! Strawberries came out when the kids were still in school, thankfully we were able to pick once before they were finished. Our first crop of raspberries have come and gone already and blueberries are in full swing. We still pick at Boughs & Berries here in Little Compton, and hope to get there this week. We do have our own bushes but this is their first year, and what they did produce the birds got.

What we do have a ton of right now is cucumbers! We love cucumbers, just cut up with a bit of Nakano seasoned vinegar- yum! But, one (or 6 in our case) can only eat so much, so I try to make time to get into the kitchen and can some for the winter. So far I have made bread & butter pickles and have plans to make sweet pickle relish, both from my tried & true Ball Blue Book of Preserving.
Cover of "Ball Blue Book of Preserving"

Bread & Butter Pickles
yield: 7 pints (you know I tripled it of course)
4 lbs 4-6 in cucumbers cut into 1/4 inch slices (about 7 med cucumbers, I leave the skin on)
2 lbs onions, thinly sliced (about 8 small, I found to be a bit much)
1/3 cup canning salt
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp mustard seed
2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp celery seed

1 tsp ginger
1 tsp peppercorns

3 cups vinegar

Combine cucumber and onion slices in a bowl, layering with the salt; cover with ice cubes. Let stand 1 1/2 hours. Drain; rinse; drain again. (keep going here- more is better) Combine remaining ingredients in a large saucepot; bring to a boil. Add drained cucumbers and onions and return to a boil. Pack hot pickles and liquid into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust 2 piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Sweet Pickle Relish
yield: about 8 half pints
1 quart chopped cucumbers (about 4 medium)
2 cups chopped onions (about 2 medium)
1 cup chopped sweet green pepper (about 1 medium)
1 cup chopped sweet red pepper (about 1 medium)
1/4 cup salt
3 1/2 cups sugar (I try to decrease this by about 1/3-1/2)
1 tbsp celery seed
1 tbsp mustard seed
2 cups cider vinegar

Combine cucumbers, onions, green & red peppers in a large bowl; sprinkle with salt and cover with cold water. Let stand 2 hours. Drain; rinse and drain thoroughly (make sure they are really rinsed!!) Combine sugar, spices and vinegar; simmer 10 minutes. Pack hot relish into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Adjust 2 piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

notes- I cannot stress enough the drain & rinse part of the recipe, nothing worse than too much salt.
If you have never boiled vinegar before, watch out for the smell, whew, it’s strong!
Put the water to boil for the canner on first. It always takes longer than I think.
Make time for this, I know there is nothing worse than a hot kitchen in the middle of the summer but what could be better than opening a jar of homemade pickles in the middle of the winter?

Since I have been away from blogging for so long, there has been some major changes over here at blogger central. One thing is the new share- it widget, I’m glad they finally figured that out. So please, share away. Also new was something called Zemanta assistant. It suggests pictures, links to other blogs and wikipedia in-text links as you go- what a huge time saver!! That is how I got the picture of my favorite canning book in here, and I will link to a couple of the blogs they suggested. As a funny side note, when I looked over at Simply Cooking’s blog, she linked to one of my favorites, Pam’s Sidewalk Shoes, even the blogger world is a small place!! It’s good to be back, but now I must go outside and give everyone a drink, it’s going to be another hot one!!

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