Due to potential health hazards while canning, you gotta use real recipes. At least until you are a true expert, and not just flying by the seat of one’s pants.
I figure for a first go-round with water bath canning, pickles should be an easy target. After all, lots of vinegar and high acid content. I picked up a kit. I’ve been wanting to can for ages — freezer space is at a premium here even though I have a separate small stand alone freezer. Besides… what if the power goes out? In summer? For an extended time?
Okay, here I go: I got a good deal on the kit, and decided to use it. Unfortunately, all the Ball recipes in the starter kit pamphlet want you to load in the SUGAR. Yes, only 1/4 cup for their dill pickles, but it’s the principle! The rest required much more. Anyhow, I did some surfing and found a good recipe for dill pickles sans sugar (or sweetener).
Check it here: http://www.ehow.com/how_5311380_make-pickles-easy-basic-recipe.html. By the way, don’t just do any ole Internet recipe; check around first. Not when something like canning improperly can cause, say, botulism. Oh, and yes: the first four jars were made without garlic, the last four jars were made with it (peel and bruise a large clove, then add in…)
I discovered after buying my pickling cukes that the recipe called for gherkin-sized cukes. Despite the photo at the site. I had regular-sized. So, I cut them down to gherkin-size. I also live alone, so I wanted these guys packed in half-pint containers, not full-pint. I read online at the Ball forum that scaling down is do-able (for pickles, still keep the 1/2 inch headroom). Not recommended to scale up, according to them.
I used the apple cider vinegar, not the white. (I associate white vinegar with the stuff I use for cleaning, say, the coffee maker. Not food.)
The recipe says best flavor develops in a week. Well, I got impatient, and about 5 minutes ago, I popped a lid, and dove in. (I think this is day 4 or something.) Awesome! I love them, and they are even sufficiently crispy, even without sugar. Which I read somewhere is essential for crispiness, apparently. Eh, I am happy.
By the way, I also noticed a good sugarless recipe for dill pickles on the back of the pickling salt package, made by Mrs.Wages. It’s similar to the one I used; but I think this is something slightly spicier to try.
When I made this recipe I didn’t have a magnet to pull the lids out of the hot water for canning purposes. If, likewise, you don’t: I suggest you use a shallow pan, and put some water in it, set it to simmer lightly, and up-end a saucer in it. Layer your lids around the saucer, so you can use your tongs to collect them without ill effect. It will mean another pot of hot humidifying water, but at least you will be able to retrieve the lids.
Future water-bath canning plans (all without added sugar):
More pickles. Perhaps a spicy okra pickle?
Apple sauce and/or butter, using cinnamon and two or three different varieties of apples depending on the batch.