Between weekend travels, house decorating, and loads of work, I somehow tried to squeeze in some last of summer pickling. I happen to have a special place in my heart for dill pickles. They were a constant in my home growing up as my brother LOVED pickles as much as a dog loves bones. So, by default, I had them a lot too.

This year I decided to give pickling some cucumbers a go. I did not realize that it was so simple to pull together, and quite honestly, it took about 15 minutes hands on time! That's my type of canning! I will most certainly be pickling more next summer as it is really easy, and maybe I'll even try sweet pickles, as Jack likes them.

I have not tried my pickles yet, but if they are anything like all of the other recipes in Put 'Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton, then I have no doubt they will be tasty. If you are a newbie to home canning, this is a terrific book to have. I love it because the recipes are all super simple, and are more current than those in the Ball Canning Book. Try it out!

Dill Pickles from Put 'Em Up

5 lbs cucumbers, ends removed, and cut into spears that will fit into the jars you are using
1/2 c salt
2 c of ice cubes
4 c distilled white vinegar
2 c water
2 tbsp sugar
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp dill seed (or use fresh dill, which I did)
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp peppercorns

1. Layer the cut cucumbers with salt in a large bowl and cover with ice cubes. Set aside for at least 2 hours. Drain rince, and pack into already hot jars. I suggest to start boiling your jars at the 1.5 hour mark. This way your jars will be hot just as your cucumbers will be done draining.

2. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, dill seed (or fresh dill), celery seed, and peppercorns in a medium nonreactive saucepan, and bring to a boil. When at boiling stage, pour the brine over the spears which are in the jars already. Leave about 1/2 inch of headspace at the top of the jar.

3. To can using the boiling water method, release the trapped air, wipe the rims clean, and put the lids and screw bands on the jar. Process in the boiling water for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat source, remove the canner lid, and let the jars rest in the water for 5-10 more minutes. Remove the jars from the water and let sit, undistrubed for 24 hours. Check the seals and then store in cool, dark place for up to a year.


Canning Craze

With summer on its last legs, I have been trying to save away the best of it by canning loads of fresh veggies. You'll have to forgive my absence, as most weekends have been spent blanching, chopping, and stewing tomatoes, pickles, and peaches. This of course, is not to say I mind spending time now in the kitchen so as to save for later, rather, I do enjoy it, but it just gets Hot, Hot, and more Hot! The only thought that helps me get through it, is knowing that come January, I will have fresh peaches and tomatoes whenever my heart desires.

This year, I tried a few new recipes, including canned pizza sauce and peach butter. The pizza sauce was incredibly time consuming, but I believe it will be totally worth it as it will save both time and money later in the year and early next. The reasoning for the lengthy recipe time was really the de-seeding and de-juicing of the tomatoes. Who knew tomatoes had so much liquid and seeds?!

Canned peaches for winter eating

While the pizza sauce was extremely tasty, what I really want to share is the recipe and method for making peach butter. I was inspired to make it when my best friend gave me a jar of it from Lancaster County (PA), and then Jack unfortunately dropped the jar and broke it before I even had a chance to try it! I decided that it looked and smelled tasty enough to give it a try, and I am very glad that I did.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can actually use peach "seconds," or those peaches that might have a small blemish or hole which would otherwise be unappetizing. I purchased a 20lb basket of peaches, and used some of it to make the fruit butter. The first step is the blanch the peaches to rid of the skin. Next, dice peaches and put into a non-reactive pot along with a variety of spices. Lastly, you will need to use a stick blender or potato masher to rid of any remaining chunks, and then process in clean cans.

Fortunately, this recipe can be scaled down if you would like, and none of it has to be canned at all. You can make a few jars to just store in your refrigerator, however, it will only last about 6 months at most.

Peach butter, while a little time consuming, is a great way to put away fresh peach flavor for a cold, snowy day. The butter certainly gives you a taste of summer on a piece of toast. I highly recommend making it, if you can score some peaches!

Peach Butter
from Ball "Complete Book of Home Preserving"

4.5 lbs peaches- peeled, pitted, and coarsely chopped
1/2 c water
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 c sugar

1. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine peaches, water, lemon zest, and juice. Bring to boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until peaches are soft- about 20-25 minutes

2. Using stick blender, puree peaches, but do not liquefy. Measure 8 cups of peach puree.

3. In a clean saucepan, combine peach puree and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, stirring frequently. Be careful not to burn or scorch. Reduce the heat, and boil gently, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and holds its shape on a spoon.

4. If canning, prepare the canner, jars, and lids. If not, put into jars and let sit out to cool. Put in refrigerator when cool. Store for up to 6 months.

5. When jars and lids are ready, ladle the hot butter into the hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe the rim, center the lid on the jar, and screw the band tight.

6. Place jars in canner, and make sure they are covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove the canner/pot lid and let stand for 5 minutes. Remove jars and then cool and store.