Last week, students from the beginner and advanced Community Teaching Garden courses joined forces to learn about pickle making. Guided by Vermont Community Garden Network’s Executive Director, Jess Hyman, students learned some basic principals of pickle making, then worked together to process 48 pints of pickles using fresh vegetables from their gardens including cucumbers, beets, beans, and squash. This cooking adventure was made possible by the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, who very kindly offered us use of their well-equipped kitchen for the evening!
Before getting to work, we sampled some delicious pickles, relishes, and ketchups that Jess brought from her pantry. Jess gave an overview of pickling basics, then discussed some of the benefits of pickling, including maintaining a high nutrient content in your preserved foods and reducing food waste. Most student questions centered around food safety, and students were reassured that by taking some simple steps to sterilize their equipment and properly seal their jars, they could happily enjoy their pickles long into the future. If you are interested in pickling, but concerned about safety, there are extensive online resources available to get you started including this illustrated guide to water bath canning and the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.
After our lesson, we got to work creating making a sweet and a sour pickle brine, washing, cleaning, and chopping our vegetables. Students then packed their jars with their desired vegetables and used herbs and spices to re-create some of their favorite pickles like dilly beans or bread and butter cucumbers, or to invent their own creative pickles. Some students canned their pickles for later consumption, while others made refrigerator pickles to be eaten in a shorter period of time.
A favorite recipe from past pickle nights is Jess’ Zucchini Relish, which we did not make on pickle night, but did relish in tasting! We hope this recipe will serve you well as you harvest your zucchinis this season.
Jess’ Zucchini Relish (Adapted from Wendy Quarry)
- 10 cups finely chopped zucchini (pulse chunks in food processor)
- 4 cups finely chopped onion
- 2 finely chopped red or green peppers
- 5 Tbs pickling salt
Mix together and let stand overnight. Drain, rinse in cold water, and drain again. It’s okay to skip this step, but your relish will not be as crisp.
Put vegetables in a non-reactive pot with:
- 2 1/2 cups white vinegar
- 4 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 Tbs each nutmeg, dry mustard, turmeric
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp celery salt
Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally.
Fill sterilized jars and process for storage using the following steps:
- After filling jars, use a (sterilized) chopstick or knife to remove air bubbles,
- Wipe rim with damp paper towel.
- Put lid on and ring “finger tight.”
- Return jars to water and simmer for 15 minutes, making sure there is at least 1 inch of water over the jars.
- Remove the jars and gently place on towel to cool. Listen for “pop” and do not disturb for 12 hours.
- Check for seal and refrigerate any jar that has not sealed.