It’s coming on that time of year— canning season.
There are two main kinds of canning that result in shelf-stable canned goods: pressure canning and hot water bath canning. Pressure canning requires some specialized equipment, and I have a tiny, overachieving kitchen. As a result, I use hot water bath canning, and I can’t just can plain green beans or tomatoes— the things that I can must balance acids and sugars carefully or risk spoiling. If they spoil, I risk spreading food-borne illness to all the people I give my canned goods. And many of them know where I live. So I mostly stick to pickled things, fruits preserved in syrup, and jams and jellies.
I’ve always preferred fresh fruit to canned, and I’ve always found jams a little sweeter than I like for the same reason. My favorite, of the aforementioned, is pickled things.
I’ve always been a sucker for pickles— sweet, dill, kosher, beets— whatever. I’m a vinegar lover from way back! In college, I tried to make “vinegar chicken,” for my roommate and me, on my night to cook dinner, in which I sauteed chicken breast in white vinegar. I ate it, but I think I might have bought my roommate takeout that night. That was also the era when, for my birthday, I’d get a Costco-sized jar of pickles, in addition to my other gifts. The only kind that I never really loved was my mom’s green tomato pickles. Somehow, they were sour without being bright. Maybe an opportunity to tinker with that recipe.
I think what I love is the brightness a good pickle adds to a dish. It cuts through the heavy fattiness of barbeque, or Thanksgiving dinner and brings a bracing clarity that enlivens everything else.
So naturally, I’ve tried quite the variety of pickles. To name a few:
- sweet pickles
- dill pickles
- pickled crabapples (think spiced apple rings, to get an idea for the flavor)
- dilly beans
- pickled vegetables (you know, with the carrots and celery and cauliflower)
- pickled carrots with Indian spices
- zucchini relish (sweet relish)
- pickled collard greens
- chutneys (you can argue that these are preserves, but they have vinegar in them, so I’m classing them as an almost-pickle. I’m leaving my balsamic-basil strawberries in the jelly category, though)
- pickled beets (my favorite kind of beets, though I haven’t tried to can them)
This year, I think I’m going to add pickled onions and possibly mustard pickles to my repertoire.
I even like the brine from pickles—I use the brine from my carrot pickles as the base for a salad dressing, and I’ve done the same with my bread and butter pickle brine.
What do you think? Are you in the pickle camp or one of those jelly fans? Got a pickle I should try? Share your thoughts in the comments!