The July Can Jam stumped me. It wasn’t so much the trans-Atlantic translation problem of “marrows” as the fact that my favorite pickle, a just barely tangy half sour, isn’t acidic enough to can. Then I found a jar of cornichons in my basement (Linda Zeidrich’s recipe, of course). I’m usually fairly diligent about labeling my jars, but this time, I apparently forgot, and I frankly have no idea how long it’s been there. My best guess? 2007. Please don’t tell the USDA. I opened it anyway, and let me tell you: those pickles were DIVINE. Having been stewing in vinegar and spices—no sugar—for at least two years, those things were so tart that I believe they may have stripped some enamel off my teeth. Tart, but delicious.
So, that did it. This year, I have decided, will be the year of vinegar pickles. Sure, I’ve got a quart or two of half sours in various stages of fermentation floating around my kitchen, but I’m hoping to can at least half a dozen pints of pure pucker pickles for my winter enjoyment. This is a mixed batch of random vegetables, including the obligatory cucumbers and zucchinis, but the recipe is fairly flexible. You could certainly add cauliflower, beans, celery, asparagus…you get the idea. Ziedrich recommends a 20-minute water-bath processing time for a version that includes mostly easily pickled things (cucumbers, peppers, onions) plus just a few carrots. If you’re planning on using lots of carrots, you’ll probably need to increase the time, but not necessarily by much. Remember, even the sturdy pickled beet only need 30 minutes. In any case, I’m not a carrot-canning expert, so change the vegetable proportions at your own risk. Please, please, please do not change the ratio of water to vinegar, but feel free to add sugar to taste.
Stuff the following things in a pint jar, in more or less the amount recommended:
3 kirby-size cucumbers
About half of a 5″ zucchini or yellow squash, cut into spears
One medium garden carrot, cut into thin spears
2 hot wax peppers, slit down the side
4 jar-length pieces of fennel, with feathers attached
1 clove garlic
1/4 t. peppercorns
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig tarragon
Combine 2 3/4 c. vinegar (I used cider vinegar) with 2 c. water and 1 1/2 T. kosher salt. Bring to a boil. Pour this over your vegetables. You’ll have canning liquid leftover—just stash it in the fridge until the next time you’re ready to assemble another jar of garden delights. Adjust two-piece canning lids and process 20 minutes in a boiling-water bath. You don’t have to wait three years to open them, but do give them at least three weeks to let the vinegar do its work.