How could I talk about the long and short of things
without mentioning the kosher dill pickles I’m putting up?
A good year is a good year, in cucumbers as in grapes, in pickles as in wines,
so I’m putting up enough to have some left over, just in case.
—from My Vegetable Love by Carl H. Klaus
I’m not a homesteader, nor do I pretend to be one. With a quarter acre lot, (much of it given over to house, garage, and the intense shade cast by ancient oaks, black cherries, and pines) I can’t ever hope to have a garden that can produce enough to “put up” or “put by” a year’s worth of fruit and vegetables. Still, I like to learn new things. I like to do old-fashioned things that older generations are probably glad not to have to do anymore—not to make light of how hard they worked, but to get a glimpse of how and why they did it. I dabble in the homely arts, but nothing is ever done with any great intensity around here.
This year I wanted to try preserving something that we grew in our garden. Not because I have to—and, believe me, I am grateful for that—but, just to learn something about how things are done. I definitely knew I did not want to mess around with any hot water baths or the like, so I kept it simple: Frozen green beans, cherry tomato jam, and refrigerator pickles. I thought I’d share the recipes with all of you because, seriously, if I can do it, you definitely can do it.
Zane, of course, was my constant companion and assistant throughout, although I think he was a little skeptical about how it would all turn out. This afternoon he crunched down on a powerfully delicious refrigerator pickle and, with a gleam in his eye, exclaimed, “These are handmade!” Any aggravation (See also: A royal mess) was well worth it just to witness that moment—the pride in his face at having made something.
Three Easy Ways to Preserve the Summer Harvest
Kitchen Note: I sterilized my jars, just to be on the safe side, but these “preserves” are really meant to be consumed within a month or two. The pickles won’t last long, anyway—they are really, really tasty!
FROZEN GREEN BEANS
No need to blanch! Just trim off the blossom end of the beans and rinse thoroughly. Spread beans out in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and freeze for 30 minutes to an hour. When the beans are frozen, tuck them into a Ziploc bag and label with the month and year (if desired). That’s it! You can warm them up by steaming or boiling later in the year when you’re craving a taste of summer. Folks claim that green beans can last up to a year or more in the freezer using this method.
CHERRY TOMATO JAM (adapted from The Magic Onions)
Makes 2 half pint jars
5 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
Combine the tomatoes, ginger, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer until jam thickens (about 1 ½ to 2 hours, perhaps more). You will know that the jam is done when it drips from the spoon in large, thick droplets that have a tendency to stick to the spoon. Spoon into sterilized jars.*
*Sterilizing half pint jars is really easy. Fill the jars half full with water and then microwave for three to four minutes. The metal lids can’t be microwaved but they can be boiled, fully immersed in water, for about ten minutes.
ZANE’S FAVORITE REFRIGERATOR PICKLES (adapted from This Homemade Life)
2 large cucumbers, sliced into rounds or quartered into sticks
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp salt
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 Tbsp dried pickling spice
1 Tbsp sugar
1-2 tsp minced garlic
Combine cucumbers with 2 tablespoons salt and chill for one hour in the refrigerator, then rinse and drain. In a quart jar, combine vinegar, water, salt, pickling spice, sugar, and garlic. Stir until salt and sugar have completely dissolved. Add the cucumbers and chill in the refrigerator overnight. These pickles will last up to a month in the refrigerator, but I guarantee they won’t even last a week because they are so delicious!