After all the success we enjoyed with our first, small foray into the world of gardening and the concept of urban homesteading, we had to do things with all of that awesome produce we harvested!
The first, most obvious choice was to eat it immediately, both cooked and raw, but we also wanted to preserve some for enjoying later. The freezer is an option, of course, and some things went in there, like blanched turnip slices and rhubarb. Another option is canning! In particular, pickling, which I had never actually done before, but with the advice of my dear grandmother (and her amazing pickling recipe) I decided to take a crack at it.
Since we had such a bumper crop of turnips, they were an obvious choice. Carrots were my second choice because my grandmothers pickled carrots are the stuff of legend, and I hadn’t had them in many years. Hoping to be able to at least partially replicate the magic, I selected as many small carrots as I could round up, along with dill, and garlic (for the turnips, not the carrots).
I found a recipe for pickled turnips online that was Asian-inspired (it involves kelp and rice vinegar) and decided to attempt it, along with my family dill pickles recipe, so that I could see which flavor was more popular.
I acquired a canning set up, which conveniently comes with everything you need. Armed with many jars, the knowledge I had gathered, and lots of supplies, I got down to it.
Canning is actually ridiculously easy. Don’t believe all of the scary stories that involve explosive pressure cookers and whole families dying of food-born illness. There are a few easy ways to ensure your canned goods are still, well, good.
1. The lids are still sealed. Check the center of each lid. Does it pop down when you push on it? No? Still sealed. Yes? Not sealed. Do you need to pry it off with effort? Yes? You had a good seal.
2. Smell the contents. Does your mouth start watering? Does it smell like something you want to eat? This may seem too simple or not very accurate, but as a species we don’t put enough stock in our own sniffers, which is what almost every single land mammal uses to decide if something is edible or not. Seriously, watch animals inspect potential food. They smell it, sometimes a lot, and then some will lick it for a taste test. If you smell something home canned and you immediately start salivating, it’s probably your nose saying “EAT THAT WHOLE JAR RIGHT NOW!!!!”
3. Look at the contents. Do they look like they should? Is their evidence of mold growth or other decomposition of the product inside? If bacteria have indeed infiltrated your glass jar of awesome, you will probably see the signs.
Anyway, first I did the dill carrots and turnips. I ran my clean jars, lids, and rings through the dishwasher with no soap (or other dishes) on sanitation cycle with extra heat. You can also keep them simmering in a pot of water like my grandma used to, but I decided to take advantage of the appliances I have. While that was going, I mixed the brine in a saucepan and got it boiling. I also got my canner, which was 3/4 full of water, boiling in preparation. Once the jars were good and hot, I cold-packed them (meaning the vegetables were not in the brine) as tight as I could, and then poured the boiling brine over it. If you were doing open-kettle method, you could simply put the lids and rings on and let the jars seal as they cool. I had mixed results with that, however, maybe because you loose a lot of heat from the jars with the cold-packing. I think it would be fine for jams or preserves with hot-packed jars.
Anyway, I put the lids and rings on and then put the jars in the canning rack and submerged them in boiling water for 15 minutes or something (I don’t actually remember, I just sort of guessed) and then pulled them out, let them cool a bit, wiped them down with a dry cloth, and set them on the shelf where they were undisturbed for 24 hours. The lids popped almost immediately, which was pleasing, since it meant they sealed!
If your jars don’t seal, you can still save the contents without re-processing. Just keep them in the refrigerator as “fridge pickles” and try to eat those jars first, before the shelf-stable ones.
Pickles have to sit for two weeks at the very least before they are considered pickled enough to be palatable. Longer is better, as it gives the brine more time to be absorbed all the way through the food. Naturally, I couldn’t wait any longer than the minimum time to at least TRY some of the fruits…err, vegetable of my labor.
The moment of truth!
The pickled carrots turned out AMAZING! The entire jar was gobbled up by Mike and the kids and I only moments after it was opened. Clearly the remainder need to be hidden, because I only had enough carrots for half a dozen jars.
The pickled Asian-style turnips, and the dill turnips, were both tasty, and quite different from each other, which is nice. They aren’t really delicious enough for a stand-alone food (although I am admittedly not a turnip-lover) but they are perfectly sliced and shaped for use on sandwiches or burgers! They definitely have a nice texture and flavor.
Here’s the recipe for the Asian pickled turnips that I used:
1 pound turnips, peeled and sliced paper thin
2 (4-inch-by-2-1/2-inch) pieces kombu (also known as konbu or dashima)
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
I doubled it, since I had a lot of turnips to use up. I also used as much kombu as I felt I wanted, without paying too much attention to how many or big the pieces were. They are actually also quite tasty post-pickling, so you can eat that part too.
I also pickled some sausages, using a different recipe entirely, but I will save those details for a different post. They did turn out perfectly as well, and I see a lot more canning in the future, now that I’ve discovered how simple and rewarding it is!