The Wide Angle: The prickly case of canning pickles

Published 5:56 am Saturday, August 17, 2019

There was never any intention to write a sequel to the runaway smash column from last week on pickles.

Critics raved: “It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve read,” and “At least he’s not playing those garsh darn videah games.”

With those kinds of accolades, how can I not write a follow up to “Pickles?”

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Unofficial title.

Besides, there’s information there that’s critical to the understanding of my garden and kitchen endeavors, in case you’re one of the new readers who haven’t come to understand that things I do rarely go smoothly. Instead, they chop along in an irregular pattern of vaguely planned out steps.

I’m the Charlie Chaplain of the kitchen.

A bit of background in case you are one of the readers who didn’t see the opening weekend release of “Pickles.”

I have had a lot of cucumbers this year, thanks in large part to the ridiculous amount of rain we received earlier in the season. Far more than two people could ever eat despite our love for cucumbers.

In a calculated move I decided to can pickles. A bold move considering the only thing I have done up until this point was cut some up, pour some vinegar into a jar, dump in sprigs of dill and throw them in the fridge. Pretty easy all told, but we had far too many cucumbers to go that route.

So I went to town on the canning, not entirely a foreign concept. I started last year with tomatoes, so I had the basics, which often in my mind equates to being an expert.

Usually a mistake.

The process itself, for once, was uneventful aside from the penetrating smell that pretty much overtook everything and essentially ruined one of my pots.

Not a huge loss, just kind of annoying.

A couple days later, I came to realize two things. Understand the type of cucumbers needed to can, and REALLY understand the recipe you’re using.

My girlfriend Janeen opened the first jar in those couple of days. I noticed the open jar in the fridge and asked her later what she thought. She’s always been marvelously up-front about what I do in the kitchen and this time wasn’t any different.

Photo of a jar of pickles that won’t eat away your tongue. I.e. not my pickles.

They’re a bit strong, and not very firm she related. I frowned, or probably frowned. More than likely I uttered a word or two.

I tried one. Pulling one it was pretty evident I didn’t make pickles. I made dill-flavored pasta.

Taking a bite, you just kind of gummed your way through the pickle and I’m guessing this is all because I was using the bigger cucumbers, not the pickling cucumbers.

Okay, not the end of the world, but that doesn’t mean the taste is that bad right?

Well, that’s pretty wrong, though not because I was eating kosher fettuccine. You see, I was using a recipe from the Kerr website as it called for a controllable amount of canning that fit the amount I had to can. That being said, I couldn’t find any Kerr seasoning in town, so I used a different brand, whose own recipe called for a LOT more cucumbers.

This caused a certain level of trepidation, but I plowed ahead anyway, adjusting the seasoning to meet what the Kerr recipe was asking for.

Now at this point, you would think I would come to understand the potential problem here, wouldn’t you?

Well, you would be wrong and have come to expect way too much from me.

My initial guess, in the face of the evidence, was that this other brand had WAAAAYYYY too much spice for the Kerr recipe. It never dawned on me that the recipes might be different, even though you would think that would be pretty obvious.

The first bite caused me to lose taste for all things in the world. In the second bite, I lost my tongue to the caustic forces of the pickles I created.

Janeen has been awfully patient insisting she doesn’t want to waste the food, but as a particularly big fan of pickles, even she’s eating one at a time, because that’s pretty much all anybody can handle.

They make pickled herring look like a proper ingredient for angel food cake.

The important thing here I suppose is I’m learning new things each and every time I can or do something in the garden.

Like living life after losing your tongue to a pickle.