It’s summertime in Seattle. Any other year, I would be spending hours each weekend – and most likely some weeknights as well – turning whatever fruits and vegetables were at their ripest that week into jams, pickles and chutneys.
This is not any other year. This summer, I have no kitchen. We’ve turned our dining room into a makeshift kitchen – with refrigerator and microwave and the all-important espresso machine – but we have no stove. I may have complained about our 25-year-old electric stove, but its three working burners did the job.
(In the new kitchen, we will have a five-burner gas range with high BTU burners. We will have a good vent fan. We wll have a pot-filler faucet. The pot-filler is a little luxury that I would not have considered before I began making jam. Now I look forward to filling my canner on top of the stove, rather than in the kitchen sink, bringing many quarts of water quickly to a boil, and sending the resulting steam whooshing up and out through the range vent fan. And I’ll be able to do that around the first of October.)
Even though we have no kitchen, I’m buying more beautiful, ripe fruit than we can eat. I just can’t resist. Rather than making preserves, I’ve been freezing fruit. I’ve frozen cherries and raspberries and blueberries, all of which may become preserves when I have my kitchen back. I’ve not made preserves using frozen fruit before; we’ll see how that goes.
When I went to the farmers market on Sunday, I couldn’t resist Anselmo’s beautiful little cucumbers. While many fruits freeze well, cucumbers do not. No matter, I bought four pounds. Fortunately, our neighbor Janeen lent me her light-filled, south-facing kitchen for a little pickle-making. Janeen knows that there is payment in kind for such kindness; it’s definitely a win-win situation.
These are the same bread and butter pickles that I made last summer. My grandmother, whose bread and butter pickles were the first I ever tasted, and remain (in my memory) the standard for pickle excellence, pronounced them delicious. Last year, I was so busy making pickles that I didn’t get around to posting the recipe. This year, I have a little more time. Enjoy!
Bread and Butter Pickles
makes 5-6 pints
4 lbs small, unwaxed cucumbers
4 medium onions
2 red bell peppers
1/3 cup pickling salt
4 cups white vinegar
3 cups sugar
2 tsp celery seed
2 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp turmeric
Cut off and discard the ends of the cucumbers. Cut cucumbers, unpeeled, into 1/8″ slices. Peel and halve onions; cut into 1/8″ slices. Core, seed and halve peppers; cut into 1/8″ slices. Combine vegetables and salt in a large bowl. Cover with ice water; chill overnight.
The next day, drain the vegetables. Rinse very well.
In your preserving pan, combine the vinegar, sugar and spices. and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the vegetables, and return to a boil. Cook just until the cucumbers change color, about 1 minute.
Use a slotted spoon to ladle the vegetables into hot, sterilized jars. Fill the jars with the pickling liquid, leaving 1/4″ – 1/2″ of the rim. The liquid should cover all of the vegetables. Use a knife to release any air bubbles. Wipe the jar rims clean, top with caps and rings, and process in boiing water for 10 minutes. After removing jars from the canner, listen for the ploinks that indicate the jars have sealed.