Sunday, September 15, 2013

Spicy Dill Pickles

Before summer's deluge of rain destroyed my cucumber crop, I canned about a dozen pints of pickles.  Ever since I bought a pint of spicy pickles at the farmer's market, I've been trying to replicate the recipe.  I think I've finally gotten it right after tinkering with a few batches last summer.   The trick is that I prefer my cucumbers sliced vs. in spears, and the vinegar brine can break down thin slices of cucumber and make them mushy which is just not appealing.  That's where pickle crisp can save the day.  

Since I like to flavor my pickles with heat vs. a homemade pickling spice, I take a shortcut and use Ball's Kosher Dill Pickle mix and add hot peppers to the brine.  Here's what works for me and my preference for a kick of heat.  As long as you keep the basic brine recipe the same, you can play with your add-ins trying garlic, any pepper variety, or both.   I do find that fresh peppers add the most flavor vs. dried peppers.

Courtney's Spicy Dill Pickles
3 1/2 lbs (about 14 small to medium) pickling cucumbers, sliced to between 1/8" to 1/4" thick, or speared, your preference
2 cups water
- 1 cup white vinegar (5% acidity) - 1/4 cup Ball Kosher Dill Pickle Mix (found in the canning aisle of your grocery store)2 tsp. crushed red pepper, assorted hot peppers (habanero, jalapeƱo, Serrano, etc.) pierced several times each with a sharp knife.   You can also use dried peppers, but they will yield a milder heat.
- Approx. 4 pint or 2 quart jars, prepared for canning.

1.  Combine water, vinegar, and Ball Kosher Dill Pickle Mix in a medium saucepan. Heat to a boil. 
2.  Put 1/2 tsp. of crushed red pepper in each sterilized pint jar or 1 tsp. in each quart jar.  Pack cucumbers into hot jars, then insert 1-2 hot peppers per jar.  
3.  Pour brine over cucumbers, leaving 1/2" headspace.
4.  Seal jars with lids, then process pint jars 10 minutes for pints, 15 minutes for quarts.  Turn heat off canner after initial time, remove lid from pot, and let the jars rest 5 min. before removing from the canner.
5. Allow pickles to cure 3-4 weeks before you try them.   This will allow the heat from the hot peppers to permeate the jars.




Sunday, November 11, 2012

Skillet Corn Bread

I discovered the following corn bread recipe in my grandma's recipe box.   I've now made it twice, and both times it's been completely devoured within hours of baking.   Maybe it has something to do with the bacon drippings...

Corn Bread

2 eggs, beaten
1 can creamed corn
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream (I use Light)
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. sugar
1 ½ cups corn meal (if using self-rising, then omit baking powder)
2 TBS bacon drippings

Combine first 7 ingredients, whisking well.   Add corn meal and stir well.   Heat 2 TBS bacon drippings in a a cast iron skillet in the oven until hot.   Pour batter over bacon drippings and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.   I used an 8" skillet and baked mine for 40 minutes.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

English Muffin Loaf Bread....Perfect with Jam

I've been cooking my way through my late grandma's recipe collection, and gave this recipe for English muffin loaf bread a try.   Not being much of baker, I was sure it would be a fail, but it actually turned out great.  It makes two loaves and would be the perfect complement to your homemade jam.  
English Muffin Loaf Bread:
6 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 packages of dry yeast
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 TBS sugar
2 cups milk
½ cup water

Combine 3 cups flour, yeast, salt, baking powder and sugar.   Heat milk and water until warm (120-130 degrees).  Add milk to dry mixture, beating well.  Stir in remaining flour making a stiff batter.   Grease 2 loaf pans and sprinkle the bottom with cornmeal.   Spoon in batter topping with cornmeal.   Cover pans and let the batter rise until doubled in size.   Bake at 400 for 25 minutes.   Remove from pans to cool.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Dilly Beans

On my most recent trip to the farmer's market, I picked up some green beans so I could try the dilly bean recipe from Sherri Brooks Vinton's "Put 'Em Up."  I halved the recipe below because I prefer small batches the first time I try a recipe.   We haven't tried these yet because I do like my pickles to cure for a few weeks, but I can't wait, and neither can Greg.  Apparently, these are a Wisconsin delicacy.   Who knew?

4 lbs. green beans, washed, topped and tailed
6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh dill weed
2 Tbs. dill seed (caraway or celery seeds are acceptable substitutes if you have trouble finding dill seed like I did)
1 Tbs. black peppercorns
4 cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. sale

  1. Cut the beans into lengths 1 inch shorted than the pint jars.   Divide the garlic, dill weed, dill seed and peppercorns among the jars.  Pack the beans vertically into eight clean, hot jars, somewhat tightly.
  2. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt into a medium nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil.   Pour the hot brine into the jars to cover the beans by 1/2 inch.   Leave 1/2 inch of head space at the top of the jar.   Process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes to seal jars. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sweet Stickles

My paternal grandmother was a very experienced canner, best known in her circle in Lexington for her pickles and chutneys.   When I took up canning in the summer of 2011, I asked her about her canning recipes, and she mentioned one of her favorites was Sweet Stickles.   I asked for the recipe, but a thorough search of her apartment didn't uncover it, and she no longer remembered the proportions.   I did look through canning books at the library and searched the web, but it seemed this recipe died with it's generation.

While helping clean out Grandma's apartment after her recent passing, I had my eye out for the Sweet Stickles recipe.  Our search yielded four overflowing recipe boxes and Southern Living's "The Canning and Preserving Cookbook," published in 1972.   After the recipe boxes didn't contain the recipe, I turned to the cookbook and it's well worn pages.   I finally found what I was looking for on a page splashed with green food coloring, and I can't wait for the next cucumber season to try this well-loved recipe.

Sweet Stickles (Southern Living Canning and Preserving Cookbook)

7 lbs. cucumbers sticks
1 cup slaked lime
1 gallon water
1 ½ quarts white vinegar
7 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ TBS celery seed
1 ½ TBS salt
Few drops green food coloring

  1. Peel pickling cucumbers, cut lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with spoon. Cut into strips the size of your finger and cut to desired lengths. Soak cucumbers overnight in lime and water. 
  2. The next morning, wash cucumbers until water runs clear. Soak in clear water for 3 to 4 hours then drain. Heat vinegar, sugar, food coloring and spices to a boil. Pour over cucumbers and let stand overnight.  
  3. Put cucumber and brine mixture over low heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until cucumbers are clear, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon.
  4. Pack into hot sterilized jars leaving 1/2” head space. Adjust lids, then process in a boiling water bath 15 minutes.   Yield:  10 pints.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cherry Pepper Relish a.k.a. Lenny's Hot Pepper Relish

I’ve aspired to knock-off Lenny’s Subs Hot Pepper Relish ever since I enjoyed my first #5 sub combo.  Of course, first, I had to plant some cherry pepper plants.   We planted in late April and I've been waiting all summer for these peppers to ripen.   This weekend, it was finally time!   I decided to give the following recipe a try after adapting it from one I found online.  The ingredients below can be doubled, tripled, etc. depending on your cherry pepper crop.   I only had enough to yield one half-pint jar.
Cherry Pepper Relish:
2 cups of diced red cherry peppers
1 heaping tablespoon of canning salt
1 cup of white vinegar
Several tablespoons of white sugar
1 half-pint jar, sterilized
Two cups of diced peppers requires about a dozen cherry peppers, depending on their size.  Discard the stems and cores of the peppers, keeping as many seeds as desired.    The sugar isn’t essential to the recipe (and isn't in the Lenny's version) but will temper the heat of the peppers, so add as little or as much (up to a half a cup) as you like.
  1. Combine the diced peppers and the salt in a small saucepan, combining well to distribute the salt.   Let the mixture sit for at least one hour.
  2.  Add vinegar and sugar (if using) and bring the mixture to a simmer.  
  3. Cook on low about 20 minutes, or until the relish is at your desired consistency.
  4. Cool and store in the fridge to use within a few weeks, or to preserve, ladle the relish into the hot jar, leaving ¼” headspace.
  5. Process the jar in a water bath canner for 10 minutes, allowing the jar to cool in the water bath for 5 minutes after the burner is turned off.   Let the jar sit on the counter for 24 hours and check for a seal. 
The Results:
We tried this relish on burgers tonight.   It had just the right amount of heat for me and was close enough to the Lenny's version that I'd have to taste them side by side to tell the difference..   I will definitely make this again when the rest of my cherry peppers ripen!