My kitchen has smelled glorious these past few weeks. I mean, what could smell better than the aroma of fresh dill and garlic? In fact, I can’t believe that some company that manufactures air fresheners hasn’t yet marketed this tantalizing aroma. (It definitely would be a big seller in Ukrainian communities.)
That smell wafting through the house means that it is pickling season and nothing gives me greater satisfaction than seeing the jars of dills lined up on the counter before being transported to the cold storage room. There they will keep until needed. When we built our home I made sure that one corner of the basement would be properly constructed to house my canning and preserves.
Now some of you are probably thinking that it is far easier to just head to the local grocery store to pick up a jar of your preferred pickle. But for anyone who has ever taken the time to grow, pick, clean and prepare cucumbers, and then to jar and prepare a brine for them, the reward of a tangy dill is completely worth the time and effort.
However, pickling can be an exact science where a number of factors come into play. Too much sugar, too little salt, too strong a vinegar, too weak a brine, too stale a cucumber – all of these (plus a myriad of other technicalities) can result in a less than desirable finished product. Almost every year a jar or two does not measure up and has to be dumped.
But sometimes it’s a complete mystery as to what went wrong. For instance, a few years ago I agreed to supply all the coldwater dills (aka sour dills) for a local fundraiser. I took great care preparing the dills as I wanted them to be perfect.
A few days before the event I decided to bring up a few jars to taste-test them and make sure they were good. The moment I opened the first jar and there was no lovely fizz or enticing aroma, I knew something was wrong. When I went to pick up the top dill, my fingers were met with a gooey, mushy mess!
“Oh no!” I thought. “This can’t be good.”
And it wasn’t! It was the same for every jar I opened and I opened them all and proceeded to dump them all! To this day I am not certain what went wrong, but whatever it was it affected every batch I had made.
Since that time I always cross my fingers when I open a jar of dills. The other repercussion of this incident is that instead of the 15 jars that I promise myself to make, I end up dilling about 25-30 jars – just in case. Talk about being in a pickle!
*The phrase “in a pickle” was first used by Shakespeare in his play The Tempest.
*Cleopatra ate pickles because she believed they were one of the things that helped her stay beautiful.
Pickle Fun Facts courtesy of Mobile-Cuisine.com.