Summer has finally summered, here. Translation? I’ve made pickles … and cocktail cherries. Also, perhaps, I’ve turned into a spiritualist, or a tarot enthusiast, or a believer in the numbers? Perhaps not.
It’s just, as things so happened, I made 24 jars over the course of two days: 12 quarter pints of sour bourbon cinnamon cocktail cherries, six pints of bread and butter pickles, and six pints of spicy dill pickle spears. The number, 24, wasn’t particularly on plan, per se. Only, the two baskets of pickling cucumbers and the two sweet wooden baskets of fresh Ontario sour cherries, combined with their sweet or spicy syrups and vinegars exactly filled my jars.
I suppose I’m enthusiastic because this Monday is our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary. Not the kind of number that usually sounds the hoots and hollers or gets the restaurant staff into “bring out the champers” mode – as next year better be! But the serendipity of canning was joy enough for me this year. As will be the relative tranquility of sticking it out at home on this first bustling weekend of “stage three” reopening in Ontario and making our own cocktails [with said cherries] and ordering way too much food [to eat with pickles] and watching whatever film-fest my partner has planned for us this year.
So, yes, I’m taking them as sign and symbol, my perfectly wonderful twenty-four jars, of the fabulous years we’ve had and the many good things to come.
You’ll find the recipes below.
[I’ve also included them as separate blog posts for the Cooking section of this website.]
Boozy Sour Cocktail Cherries
- 3 Pint, 6 Half-pint, or 12 Quarter-pint Mason Jars, or a mixture thereof, sterilized and warm, with clean rims, and new lids
- Canning Equipment: Large Canning Pot, Metal Rack, Tongs, Funnel, Ladle
- Cherry Pitter
- Heavy Bottomed Non-Reactive Pot and spoon for making syrup
- 6 cups Sour Cherries stemmed and pitted
- 2 1/4 cups Sugar
- 3 3/4 cups Water
- 1/2 Cup Maple Syrup
- 1/4 cup Lemon Juice [bottled is acceptable]
- 3/4 cup Spirits [I use Bourbon or Rye]
- 6-8 OPTIONAL: Cinnamon Sticks [2 for the boil, 4-6 for the jars. I divide the sticks into halves for the half-pint jars and thirds for the quarter-pint jars.]
- Sterilize the mason jars and warm the lids. [I like to keep my sterilized jars in a slightly warm oven so that when they are filled with the hot liquid, they do not suffer shock.]
- Clean, stem and pit the cherries.
- In a pot over medium heat, combine the sugar, water, maple syrup, and lemon juice, and 2 cinnamon sticks [optional].
- Stir this mixture hard until the sugar dissolves and then bring up to a gentle boil.
- Add the cherries to the pot, bring to a simmer and simmer on low for 5-7 minutes.
- Remove the boiled cinnamon sticks from the liquid and compost.
- Add 1/8 to a 1/4 cup spirits and 1 fresh cinnamon stick to each pint jar, 1/16 to 1/8 cup spirit and 1/2 cinnamon stick to each half-pint jar, or 1 tbs spirits and 1/3 cinnamon stick to each quarter-pint jar. [Cinnamon sticks are optional.]
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the cherries from the syrup, and pack them into the jars fairly firmly but without crushing, leaving about 3/4 in headspace in the top.
- Top the jars with the remaining sugar-syrup, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace at the top of each jar. [1/4 inch is find for the quarter-pint jars.]
- At this point, if you don't want to properly can your cherries in a boiling water bath, allow them to sit on a counter and cool. Then, refrigerate for two weeks before opening. Consume within 6-8 weeks after opening.
- Seal the jars with lids and rims and process in the boiling water bath for 25 minutes. [20 minutes is fine for the quarter-pint jars.]
- Take the top off of the canning bath, turn off the heat, and leave the jars to sit in the canner for 5 more minutes.
- Remove the jars upright from the canner, place on wire racks or a protected surface, and allow to cool completely. Check for a good seal on the lid. Gently remove screw caps. Wipe and dry the jars and replace the rims [not too tightly.]
- Label and store in a cool dark place. Leave the jars for at least 2 weeks before sampling. Properly canned, they will last for 1-2 years on the shelf before opening. Once opened, store in the refrigerator for 4-6 weeks.
SSJ’s Best Bread and Butter Pickles.
- 6 Pint, 12 Half-pint mason Jars, or a mixture thereof, sterilized and warm, with clean rims, and new lids
- Canning Equipment: Large Canning Pot, Metal Rack, Tongs, Funnel, Ladle, Large stock pot for making the pickling liquid and warming the vegetables.
- 8 heaping cups sliced pickling cucumbers
- 1 very large white or sweet yellow onion sliced
- 1/3 cup pickling salt
- 4-6 cups of ice
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- 4 cups sugar
- 3¼ cups cider vinegar
- 2 tbs mustard seed
- 2 tbs turmeric
- 2 tsp celery seed
- 1-2 tsp peppercorns [optional]
- 1+ tsp spices of your choice [optional] [I've used cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. The batch depicted above did not include these options.]
- In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, onions, pickling salt, and garlic. [I often use a metal bowl so it retain the chill.]
- Cover with several cups of ice cubes.
- Refrigerate for 3 hours. [I often just set the bowl of pickles on the counter, as I never have room in the fridge!]
- Make sure your mason jars are sterilized. Warm the jars and the lids. And start bringing your large canning pot of water to a boil.
- Rinse the vegetables very slightly and drain.
- In a large stock pot, combine the sugar, vinegar, and spices.
- Bring this mixture to a boil, ensuring the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the cucumber mixture to the liquid and return to boiling.
- Reduce the heat and simmer low for 5 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cucumber and onions equally between your hot, sterilized mason jars.
- Spoon the pickling liquid the jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims, apply the lids with some firm pressure, and secure the rings without making them lock-tight.
- Process in a boiling water canning bath for 10 minutes.
- Allow cans to cool completely.
- Properly sealed cans will rest on the shelf for at least 2 years. Once opened, refrigerate and enjoy pickles within 6 weeks.
Spicy Dill Pickles
- Canning pot, tongs, and accesories, pint jars, lids and rings for hot water bath canning.
- 6 lbs Pickling Cucumbers As close to 4 inches as possible, or trimmed
- 8 cups white vinegar cider vinegar works, too
- 8 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup pickling salt plus extra for optional crisping period
- ice for optional crisping period
- 12 fronds fresh dill optional, 1 per jar
- 12-48 cloves garlic optional, 1-4 per jar
- 4 tbsp dill seeds 1 tsp per jar
- 4 tbsp whole peppercorns 1 tsp per jar
- 4 tbsp mustard seeds 1 tsp per jar
- 2-4 tbsp red pepper flakes optional, 1/2 – 1 tsp per jar
- Scrub the cucumbers in clean, cold water.
- Slice the top and bottom tips off of each cucumber and discard. [Pay careful attention to those point where the cucumber grew from the plant. That's where dirt and bacteria can hide!]
- Quarter each cucumber lengthwise into 4 inch spears, or slice into thick coins, or otherwise slice so cukes may be packed to fit below the entire height of the screw-top area of the mouth of a canning jar. NOTE: I usually end up with several undersized cukes which I place in a separate pint jar whole or chop into finer slices and place in a half or quarter pint jar for charcuterie plates.
- OPTIONAL: For extra-crisp pickles, if desired, soak sliced cucumbers in ice water mixed with several tbs pickling salt for 4-5 hours before, rinsing, draining, and moving on.
- Bring a hot water canning bath to a boil.
- In a large pot, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and 3/4 cup pickling salt to a boil over high heat, so that the sugar and salt dissolve. Leave to simmer on the stove.
- In sterilized warm pint jars, add the spices and optional fresh dill, pepper flakes, and/or garlic, divided evenly.
- Pack the first six jars tightly with sliced cucumbers.
- Fill those jars with the hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
- Seal with lids and rings, making sure the rings are not too tight.
- Place the first six jars in the boiling hot water bath and process, covered for 10 minutes, counting from when the water has come back to a full boil.
- In the meantime, fill the remaining spice-filled clean hot jars with cucumbers and then the vinegar mixture and seal with lids and rings.
- Remove the first batch of cans from the water after 10 minutes and allow to cool completely on a rack.
- Process the second batch of cans as you did the first – that is, for 10 minutes, once the pot has come back to a rolling boil, cooling afterward on a rack.
- Check to insure that all lids have properly sealed and tighten rings.
- If any have NOT properly sealed, just pop them in the fridge and eat them first, or share with friends with the instructions to refrigerate promptly. As is, the pickles should last in the fridge for at least 8 weeks.
- Properly sealed pickles may last years in your pantry. Refrigerate after opening. And consume within 8-12 weeks.
- Hot tip: Flavours sharpen over time. Pickles may be eaten right away. But you'll get a better kick if you let them cure in their brine for a week or two at very least.
- Hot tip 2: Make sure to label the pickles, especially the spicy ones! The red pepper flakes might clue folks in, but not everyone can SEE the spice before they taste it!