Every fall, my husband and I take our big roadtrip to Chicago, for our favorite annual convention. It’s something we very much look forward to every year – a great event, loads of friends, and an anniversary – we first fell in love at the event! There is pretty much nothing that would stop us from going, and the entire thing is wrapped up in tradition for us.
|Every year, we plot out our trip weeks in advance, and look forward to it in the way that children look forward to Christmas. All year, we save our spare change in a jar, and a few days before the trip, we cash it in – this becomes our “cheese budget”. We DO have to pass through Wisconsin, afterall – and this has the double duty of motivating us to not just leave change everywhere! We wake up FAR earlier than we plan to on the morning we leave, because we can’t sleep – we just want to get on the road! We have our traditional stops along the way, etc etc.
Anyway, the year before last, we bought something else along with the cheese – a jar of mixed dill vegetable pickles. We plowed through most of the jar in no time, only saving the last bit so that we could figure out how to pickle it. Then we bought a house, moved, and got hit by a tornado. That jar survived all of that, sitting in the back of the fridge just waiting to be replicated.
While my source material is probably not edible anymore, I was able to use a combination of memory, listed ingredients, and appearance of the bottom of the jar contents to create a very similar recipe from it. I went a bit nuts with it – the recipe below is only half of what I made, that first batch! There was a fair amount of prep work involved, but it paid off – these are pretty much exactly what we remember from that jar we bought – and cost probably 1/10th of what we paid for it at that little tourist stop!
A few notes about pickling:
1. The amount of brine you’re going to need will vary widely depend on the shape and size of your vegetable slices, the size of jar you use, and how well you pack them into the jar. Have a lot of extra vinegar on hand, and either make more brine than you think you’ll need, or be prepared to make more as you go. As a general idea of scale, the recipe below made about 6 pint jars plus 3 quart jars of pickles, packed VERY tightly. Your mileage will likely vary!
2. Pickling salt is usually available with the canning supplies in any grocery store. You’ll want to use this, rather than regular table salt – the anti-caking additives in table salt can make your pickle brine go murky and ugly.
3. While you can use previously-used jars for canning (when WELL washed and sterilized!), you need new lids for each new batch. Safety first!
Homemade Mixed Vegetable Pickles
2 heads cauliflower
2 lbs broccoli
1 stalk/package celery
1-2 lbs baby carrots
8 cups vinegar
8 cups water
1 cup pickling salt
Per pint jar (2x for quart jars):
1/2 – 1 tsp dill seed
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1/4 tsp black peppercorns
1/4 tsp mustard seed
Jalapeno slices (optional)
Clean, sterilized canning jars & rings
New, never-used, sterilized canning lids
LARGE pot to process them in
Jar lifter (nice to have, not necessary if you can handle pain!)
Wash all vegetables. Cut cauliflower and broccoli into bite sized florets, slice celery into 1- 1.5″ long pieces. Mix all vegetables together in a large bowl or pot, trying to more or less evenly distribute each variety.
Fill your LARGE pot with at least 6″ of water, put on medium or high heat to bring it to a boil as you prepare your brine.
In another pot (NOT the canning pot!), combine vinegar, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring well to dissolve the salt. As the brine heats up, measure your “per jar” ingredients into your sterilized jars. Arrange your prepared vegetables into the jars, packing them tightly – seriously, try to cram as many pieces into each jar as you can!
Once brine comes to a boil, use a canning funnel to pour brine into prepared jars, leaving about 1/2″ head space. Wipe off the top edges of the jar with a clean, wet towel, top each with a new, sterilized lid, and carefully screw on a clean lid ring. I like to use a kitchen towel for this, the jars are HOT! Carefully place your jars of pickles into the boiling water pot, allow to process for 15 minutes. CAREFULLY remove them, allow to cool overnight.
The next morning, check to make sure that all of the jars achieved a proper seal – try to push down in the middle of each lid. If it “pops”, it did not seal. Any jars that didn’t seal should be put in the fridge and used in the next few weeks.
Leave the jars alone for at least a few days, to allow the flavors to permeate the pickles. Store in a cool, dark area (ideally) for up to 1 year, chill well before eating.