It’s August. Yes I realize that it’s the last month of summer, but why does everyone want to rush into extra long work hours and short daylight hours? It just doesn’t make sense to me. You know how some people complain about rushing the Holiday season, right? Not me. Not even a little bit. I love the sugary baked goods, rich buttery comfort foods, shopping (naturally), presents and all the good cheer and Christmas music that the holiday season brings. You’ll never catch me complaining about bringing Christmas in “too early” because that doesn’t exist in my world of chaotic craziness. There’s no such thing.
But, rushing summer is just downright wrong in my honest opinion. I like summer. Did you know that they have set up Halloween candy at my local supermarket? HALLOWEEN CANDY! IN AUGUST! And it’s not just a little display. There’s a six by six square foot area completely designated to bats, snickers bars, ghouls and peanut butter cups. I love bats and peanut butter cups as much as the next girl, but not in August. Halloween is three months away and the sun is still blisteringly hot here. Chocolate would melt, anyway.
While I’m at it, I might as well complain in passing about being inundated with all the back to school commercials on the collective media outlets. Sure, some kids get out of school in May and go back in August (or so I hear, according to my Facebook page responses when I ranted about this). I don’t know why they even call it “summer break” if it starts in spring. May is spring, right? What’s the deal with that?
Then again, maybe I’m just too far north to really understand why. My vegetable garden is still ripening as late August and early September will be the big payoff for my little container garden. They’re right on schedule, according to my seed packet calculations. In a couple weeks my tomatoes and peppers will be bright and cheery, rather than pale and green.
They’re still working on themselves. I would like to give them the freedom to rock at that and not rush their process.
When I have a cupboard filled with roasted peppers and multiple jars of homegrown tomato sauce, I’ll be ok with summer being over. When I can go get apples and bake pumpkin pies, I’ll be ok with summer being over. But right now, I can still take a picture of the sunset at eight o’clock at night.
That means summer definitely isn’t over.
So, now that I’ve ranted and gotten that out of my system, it’s time to celebrate summer. I decided to make some pickles as I stared at the wide array of options in the cucumber department of my farmers’ market. It was a logical yet deliciously seasonal & local choice. And, according to Emeril’s notes, I had found the perfect pickling cucumbers. They had lots of grooves and bumps on the flesh, no wax on the outside and were not big and bloated, which can yield soggy pickles. The cucumbers I found would make perfectly crisp beautiful pickles according to him, and he was right! These are not any ordinary pickles. They taste sweet at first and then spike your tongue with a bit of tang and zippy spice. They’re also good on pretty much everything, in my opinion. They’re my perfect little protest against people thinking that summer ends in August. It doesn’t. Now, if anybody needs me, I’ll be at the pool because it’s hot outside in the summer. By the way, in two weeks when your pickles are ready, it will still be summer. Go outside and enjoy them with a really good burger.
Sweet and Spicy Pickles
- 3 pounds pickling cucumbers, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
- 2 cups sliced onions
- 1/2 cup pickling salt
- 6 cups water
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 3 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 4 whole cloves
- 10 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic
- 24 dried cayenne peppers
- 2 teaspoons 100 percent Natural Pickle Crisp, optional
Place cucumbers, onions, pickling salt, and water in a large, non-reactive bowl. Cover and allow cucumbers to soak for 2 hours. Drain the water from the onions and cucumbers. Rinse well for 5 minutes. Drain again and set aside.
in a medium saucepan over high heat, combine the vinegars, sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric, cloves, garlic, and peppers. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and add the cucumbers and onions. Next, bring to a simmer then remove the saucepan from heat.
Fill each of the hot sterilized pint-size preserving jars with the pickle mixture, dividing them evenly, and enough of the liquid to come within 1/2-inch of the top. Add 1/2 teaspoon of Natural Pickle Crisp to each jar, if desired. With a clean damp towel, wipe the rim and fit with a hot lid. Screw on the metal ring just until the point of resistance is met. Process the jars in a hot-water bath for 15 minutes.
Using tongs, remove the jars, place on a towel, and let cool. Test the seals by allowing the jars to stand at room temperature overnight or until the lids pop. Tighten the rings and store in a cool dry place. Let the pickles age for at least 2 weeks before using.
Some Notes On Sterilizing Jars:
Properly handled sterilized equipment will keep canned foods in good condition for years. Sterilizing jars is the first step of preserving foods.
The jars you’re using should be made from glass and free of any chips or cracks. Preserving or canning jars are topped with a glass, plastic or metal lid, which has a rubber seal. Two piece lids are best for canning, as they vacuum seal when processed.
Before filling with jams, pickles or preserves, wash jars and lids with hot, soapy water. Rinse well and arrange jars and lids open sides up, without touching, on a tray. Leave in a preheated 175 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Or boil the jars and lids in a large saucepan, covered with water, for 15 minutes.
Use tongs when handling hot sterilized jars, to move them from either boiling water or the oven. Be sure tongs are sterilized too, by dipping the ends in boiling water for a few minutes.
As a general rule, please note that hot preserves go into hot jars and cold preserves go into cold jars. All of the items used in the process of making jams, jellies and preserves must be ultra-clean. This includes any towels used, and especially your hands; Be diligent about this.
After the jars are sterilized, you can preserve the food. It is important to follow any canning and processing instructions included in the recipe and refer to USDA guidelines about the sterilization of canned products.
Recipe from Emeril Lagasse 2005