Friday, July 22, 2011

Dill Pickles and an experiment

The thing about canning, just like anything else is, there are soooo many different ways of doing it and different recipes for getting it done. And everyone is right and everyone else is wrong.

I like to think of it like a whole new world of possibility. But, it's a little scary when you're talking about trying something new on something like canning.

So much time and effort has gotten you the product to be able to can in the first place, and you would be devastated if things didn't go right during canning, and you had to throw the whole batch out!!! So you want to make darned sure, what you're doing is at least safe, but better yet, will produce the best tasting ...... whatever you just canned.

Which brings up my latest concern: ALUM

I'm trying new ways to keep my pickles and peppers crisp after they are canned. I've heard lots of different ways to accomplish this....pickling lime, alum, grape leaf(this is a new one on me!!)

Today, i'm trying..........Alum

Google says this is the definition for it:

noun /ˈaləm/ 
alums, plural 

  1. A colorless astringent compound that is a hydrated double sulfate of aluminum and potassium, used in solution medicinally and in dyeing and tanning
    • Any of a number of analogous crystalline double sulfates of a monovalent metal (or group) and a trivalent metal
    If you look across the internet there are hordes of folks that say "Stay away from it!", and hordes of folks that say "My family has been using it for 75+ years and we ain't dead yet!"

    decisions, decisions......

    The NFSA says this:
    Alum may be safely used to firm fermented pickles. However, it is unnecessary . Alum does not improve the firmness of quick-process pickles. The calcium in lime definitely improves pickle firmness. Food-grade lime may be used as a lime-water solution for soaking fresh cucumbers 12 to 24 hours before pickling them. Excess lime absorbed by the cucumbers must be removed to make safe pickles. 
    But lime has its hazards too. Excess lime neutralizes or removes acidity and so must be washed out to make safe pickles, and the cucumbers must be rinsed and re-soaked in fresh water.

    and I found this too... 
    Alum is used as an ingredient in baking powder and is used as a crisping agent in the production of pickles and maraschino cherries. It is used only in a soak solution and is washed off thoroughly before completing the recipe. It is also used to harden gelatin. Alum's medical uses are as an astringent, a styptic and an emetic. Some people say that placing a small piece of alum on a cold sore causes healing to take place much faster,( but I wouldn't do that myself).
    So what did I do? I'll give you 3 guesses..... and the first 2 don't count.

    Well! I was tired of my pickles and peppers being soggy and I tend to sway towards the "old timers" tried and true methods. (within reason) Besides, would "McCormick", a world renowned spice distributor, sell it in their spice section, if it was bad??

    Thats what i'm going with anyway.

    Anyway...I say all that to say this: I got my first batch of dill pickles for the year done last night.

    Its a simple recipe I've been using for years, except one addition this year.

    You take your cukes and wash them, slice them long ways, for pickles to grab and munch, or across, for pickles you put on your burgers and such.

    Grab you a pot and put a 2-1 mixture of water and white vinegar in and get that to boiling.

    Get your water for your waterbath to boiling too.

    Then you put some fresh dill heads on the bottom of the prepared jar, then put about half the cucumbers in and put some more dill heads in, then finish filling the jar and put some more dill on top, followed by 1tsp of mustard seed, and 1/8tsp of alum.

    Pour your hot water/white vinegar mixture in the jars and make sure there's no air stuck somewhere in the bottom or somewhere, wipe the top of the jar, put lids and rings on and put them in the waterbath canner. After the water gets to a rolling boil again, set your timer for 20 mins.

    And when thats done, you should have something that looks like this.....

    See that jar over on the left that looks like its just chunks? Well it is just chunks. When i'm fitting the cucumbers in the other jars, sometimes they are to long for the jar, and I have to cut a little bit of the ends off. I don't want to waste the cuttings so I just make a jar of "chunks". Just as good and, they are bite sized!!

    Put these away so you can resist the urge to crack one open...they won't actually be pickles for about 6 weeks. Its hard to resist I know, but if you bite into one before its ready, it wont taste like a pickle.

    So just wait, it will be worth it, trust me!!

    Hopefully, my using alum, will make them crispy! Ill report back in six weeks.

    UPDATE: Im not gonna use alum made the pickles tasteless. Back to the ol drawing board I guess. 


    1. I pickle mine this way and they turn out awesome!! You can also put dried peppers in them and get hot dills! They look beautiful!!

    2. Thank you!! Do yours come out crispy?