Last year when Stephen & I interned at Jade Family Farm, we learned A LOT about farming. We also learned, thanks to Hannah, about canning. Hannah taught us how to make & can strawberry jam and it was all uphill (in a good way) from there. Last summer, we canned jam, tomato sauce, pickles, and peppers. It’s one of the most rewarding of kitchen activities. Taking the freshest, seasonal produce and capturing the pinnacle of its flavor & nutrition to eat anytime you want… MAGIC.
This particular recipe is a variation of the pickle recipe used by Hannah’s father. I can’t believe I’m sharing it with you.
The Story of Spicy Honey Pickles
Let me begin by admitting I’ve always disliked bread & butter pickles. I find them cloyingly sweet and bizarrely flavored. Dill pickles, on the other hand, won my heart long ago. With their crisp, savory, garlicky saltiness. Sliced up & layered on juicy black bean burgers. Cut into spears and laid next to a homemade sandwich. Stolen from the fridge as a late night snack. I was faithful to Dill Pickles for 23 years. It’s true.
But everything changed when we visited Hannah’s old place in Reedsville one weekend & tasted the WORLD’S BEST PICKLES ♥. Every year Hannah’s dad sends her a few jars of homemade pickles. He makes them with honey & hot peppers & pickling spice. And they are so amazing that I really want to use an expletive to describe them but that’s just not family friendly and whatnot. Not that that stops me in real life. I have a bit of a cursing problem. And now you know me a little better than you did yesterday. BACK TO THE bleeping PICKLES. She shared one of these jewels right out of the jar with me. She may even have let me eat two. I couldn’t believe her generosity. If her dad sent me only two jars of pickles, I would not be sharing them. I would be coveting them. I would be savoring them and using borrowed lab equipment to discover to the last detail the exact formula for making these AMAZING PICKLES.
So when it came time to use all the excess cucumbers that had grown in the fields last summer… naturally I wanted that recipe. I wanted it bad. And you know what Hannah did? She got it for me. Because she’s an angel. And her dad is a pickle genius.
So we made the pickles. Only about 6 jars. And we ate them so sparingly we only finally ate the last jar last week when Stephen had accrued a new abundance of cucumbers from this year’s harvest to turn into more pickles. To Hannah’s father, if you ever lay eyes on this, you are a pickle hero and I thank you.
Edit: These pickles were made from glorious, crunchy cucumbers grown at Quiet Creek Farm, the farm where Stephen is currently spending the growing season. It is peaceful and gorgeous, well-organized (essential!) and I hope to share pictures with you soon.
Have any of you spent time on a farm? Do you have a vegetable garden? What are you growing right now? Let me know what you love to grow! I’m always looking for new seeds and plants to grow and farms to visit!
Learning to preserve? I definitely recommend Put ‘Em Up: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook by Sherri Brooks Vinton. Sherri really goes into the fine details, offers tons of creative and delicious recipes (I’ve tried a handful – ALL fantastic), and her book provides a very accessible, polished layout. I suggest this book only as someone who has used & loved it – I do not benefit financially if you purchase it.
- 5-6 Pint Jars, Lids, and Lid Rings (depending on cuke size)
- 12 Medium Cucumbers, organic or local
- 3 Cups White Vinegar
- 1½ Cups Water
- 1½ Cups Honey
- ¼ Cup Pickling Spice (I personally prefer McCormick's for their ratio of spices)
- 6 Hot Peppers (Pepperoncini, Banana Peppers, Jalapeños) OR 1 Tablespoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Submerge the cans, lids, and lid rings in a large pot of water that covers the cans by a couple of inches. Bring to a boil. Remove from pot, pouring the hot water back into the pot, and place on a clean towel, ready to pack with cukes.
- Wash the cucumbers and trim both ends. The ends of the cucumber are most likely to harbor microbes that could affect your canned goods. Either slice the cucumbers in coins or cut lengthwise into spears.
- If using fresh hot peppers (which I highly, highly recommend) rinse and slice into rings. Do not seed or remove ribs (unless you really must).
- Pack cucumbers & peppers tightly into the jars, leaving about ½ inch room at the top.
- In a medium/large saucepan, combine vinegar, honey, water, and pickling spice (+ red pepper flakes if using instead of fresh hot peppers). Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and pour over pickles packed in jars, leaving ¼ inch of room at the top.
- Slide a chopstick or plastic knife around the interior of the jar to release any air bubbles.
- Place lids on top of each jar and lightly tighten rings "finger tip tight." If you screw them on too tight, air will not be able to escape when processing in boiling water bath.
- Place the jars in canning basket or atop rack and gently place in the canning pot. Make sure the cans are covered by at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a rolling boil and process for 10 minutes.
- Remove the cans from the boiling water, lifting straight up (no tilting) and place on a towel to cool.
- The lids should depress sometime over the net few hours and you'll hear a light pop. Many will seal soon after removing from processing. Others will take longer. To test the seal (don't do this until the following day), press the center of the lid. If it doesn't move, a seal has formed. If the lid is not sealed, store the pickles in the fridge and eat within the next couple of weeks.
- Store your Spicy Honey Pickles in a cool, dark place & they will last for about 1 year!
Because you leave the skin on when making pickles, you want to use organic, local cucumbers. I recommend avoiding wax-coated cucumbers from the supermarket and conventionally grown cucumbers that retain pesticides in their skin.