Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Canning Pickles and a Word about Skillshares

At the skillshare in September, we also made pickles and pizza, in addition to beer. We followed a recipe for canned garlic and dill pickles that Sarah learned at a pickling class at the Brooklyn Kitchen led by Bob McClure. I thought I didn't like fresh dill in my pickles, but I was wrong, because these were great and tasted simply as pickles should. In fact I liked them so much that I was willing to join a daring round of shots of pickle brine when we found ourselves snacking on the finished pickles a week later.

I'd only ever made lazy refrigerator pickles using storebought pickling spice mixes, which is easy and quick for making a jar at a time. Canning is a longer process, but worth it if you want to stockpile pickles. Afterward, we worried that the cans didn't sealed properly and decided to store them in the fridge, but it turns out they had indeed sealed. We put them in the fridge too early, but you should leave your cans out overnight to completely cool before testing the seal. Click here for more on how to know if your cans sealed.

As for skillshares, they have been popping up as a cheap alternative for learning new skills and trying new activities without having to pay for classes. Brooklyn is now home to its own annual Brooklyn Skillshare day each fall with classes ranging from composting to yoga to bike repairs. Skillshares can also be a great way to spend time with friends or get to know your community better. Ours was smallscale with just three people and three food-related skills, but even so, I have a few tips.

* Figure out ahead of time what you will need to bring with you. We got a late start because our host didn't have all the kitchen tools on hand (tongs, etc) we assumed he might, so there were some runs to pick up supplies.

*Plan complementary activities. For example, beer brewing and canning both require long periods of boiling in a giant pot, and there was only one giant pot, so it probably wasn't the best idea to do them in the same day. It all worked out okay, it was just a late night by the time everything was finished.

*You might also want to make plans for food or breaks. Originally I was going to bake bread as my skill, but I am really glad that I made pizza instead so that we were able to have a meal during the long day.

What skill would you teach if you organized a skillshare with your friends?

McClure's Garlic and Fresh Dill Canned Pickles

3 lbs small pickling cucumbers (Kirby)
6 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of dill
1 1/2 cups of water
1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar (5%)
little less than 1/2 cup picking or Kosher salt
crushed red pepper (optional)
6 canning jars

1) Wash cucumbers and place in a large deep bowl with ice. Cover and put in fridge.
2) Wash dill and chop off roots
3) Place minced garlic in a small bowl and pour hot vinegar over it. Let stand for 1 minute then pour vinegar out.
4) Fill a large pot with water. Place a jar in the pot and make sure the water is at least 1 inch above the top of the jar. Remove the test jar and bring water to a boil.
5) In another large pot, combine the vinegar, water, and salt. Bring the brine to a rapid boil. Stir the salt to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot
6) While pots are getting up to a boil take cucumbers out and quarter them. Make sure cucumber will stand 1/4 to1/2 inch below the rim of the jar.
7) After water is boiling, submerge mason jars and lids in pot and sterilize for about 90 seconds. Remove carefully with jar tongs.
8) In each jar, place garlic, dill and then enough cucumber spears to fill the jar, making sure cukes are below the “neck-line”.
9) Fill jars with hot brine and add an optional pinch of crushed red pepper.
10) Cap and seal jars. Turn them over to make sure you have an adequate seal. Repeat until all jars are complete
11) Place jars back in boiling water pot. Process sealed jars in boiling water for 10 minutes.
12) Let cool. Wait a week to two weeks before eating. Pickles will keep up to 1 year if stored in a cool, dry place.


  1. Yum. I love the taste of fresh dill. Really, everything else just pales in comparison. I use it in spanakopita. It makes all the difference.

  2. I don't really like pickles, but those jars are so cute and the process of bottling fresh produce up to see you through the winter so appealing that I think I could just be tempted...

    I love the skillshare idea btw - thanks for that; got me thinking about what I could do now.

  3. I'm still trying to perfect pickles. Last time my boyfriend and I made a batch, we followed the instructions meticulously, but ended up with mushy pickles. The only ones that turned out nicely were the bread and butters. Maybe I'll try your recipe next, better luck?
    Oddly enough, while we were in NYC, we ran into a friend on the street who was carrying a bag from the Brooklyn Kitchen, saying he had just taken a pickling class there. I was jealous that you've got such a thing; maybe once I perfect my pickles, I'll start one here in Chicago :)

  4. LK - if you end up doing a skillshare i'd be curious to hear what you did!

    melina - that's funny that you ran into a friend who had taken the pickle class at brooklyn kitchen. if you are still on the lookout for future careers, i will say that the business model created by brooklyn kitchen (offering classes from local artisans, selling high quality eclectic rather than mass produced kitchen products) really took off and maybe that would be a great addition in chicago!