Pickle-o-rama

Also known as “Biting off more than you can chew”…

I had grand, grand plans for Saturday. I had a box of cucumbers and zucchini to despatch, and I was armed to the teeth (to the teeth!) with awesome canning recipes thanks to my friendly local librarians, who had suggested The Complete Book of Year Round Small Batch Preserving. I was planning to can some beer mustard, zucchini lemon marmalade, lemon cuke pickles, cuke & ginger pickles, and a “winter salad pickle” (which is basically a combo of summer veggies in a sweet-ish brine). Big, big plans!

So I dropped the hubster off at work and ran to the farmers market to pick up peppers, cauliflower, long beans, red onions, and a few herbs. Epic fail. Apparently no one has successfully planted cauliflower this year, because there was not a head to be had that didn’t look like it had recently survived a nuclear blast. So no cauliflower. The long beans looked really dried out, so I subbed wax beans instead, and the only peppers I could find were “gypsy” peppers, light yellow bell-shaped peppers billed as mildly spicy. This might have been a sign. (On a side note, I ended up being really happy with the mysterious peppers, they were super crisp and fresh and had very good flavor!). So instead of getting everything at the farmer’s market, I detoured to the co-op for the rest of the stuff I still needed.

Then I headed home, where I realized that my plan to make the marmalade while the beer mustard was processing would not work. Because marmalade apparently takes 90 minutes of cooking before it sees the inside of a jar! Ooops! Reading comprehension was not up to par when I read that recipe! So I started the marmalade and put my giant pot of water on to heat (takes forever to boil that huge pot for processing…I’m sure my gas bill is going to be atrocious this summer!).

Then, as I set my 4oz. jars into the jar lifter to put into the hot water to sterilize, I made a horrifying discovery…they were too small for my jar lifter and slipped right out!! Eeeeek! That would not do! So I called around looking for an 11″ round rack to put in the bottom of my kettle (since everywhere I read said jars absolutely cannot sit on the bottom of your canning kettle or they’d break!). Finally I found a kitchen store that had a 9″ or a 12.5″ rack (apparently 11″ is not a standard size). So I ran out to pick those up (marmalade simmering happily away…so not cool, I know!) and was able to squeeze the 12.5″ one into the bottom of my kettle. I don’t think it’s coming out ever, but that’s OK.

Finally, the marmalade went into the jars and the jars went into the kettle and I started on the mustard. Basic beer mustard, a recipe I found via here. Tasted awesome and was super super simple to whip up and process.

I started to hope that things were turning around, and started gathering stuff for the lemon pickles, only to discover that in the two days since I’d inventoried my veggie box and decided what to make, most of the veggies in the box had grown fur coats…eeew. So out went the moldy icky stuff and I was left with one sad slicing cuke and 2 large-ish zucchini. So much for the lemon cuke pickles and the ginger pickles…sad. I still had lots of veggies for the winter salad pickle, so I threw the remaining zucchini on that pile and started on those next. They went pretty well…lots of veggies to clean, and I ended up getting 5 jars instead of the 4 I was expecting (I think there’s a knack to packing jars that I just don’t have down yet), so I had to make more brine–no biggie though, as I’d anticipated messing something up and had stocked up on vinegar last time I did pickles!

So for a solid 8 hours of effort, I had 17 jars of stuff! And aching feet. Canning is work! And after all the mess was cleared away and the jars were resting, I realized if I’d made two more batches I’d probably have fallen over out of exhaustion…so lesson learned. Max 3 canning projects in one day!

My hard-won results:

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