Bounty of your garden
June 14, 2013
by Lupe Cook/Victoria County Master Gardener
Edited by Charla Borchers Leon/Victoria County Master Gardener
PHOTOS BY LUPE COOK/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
Master Gardener Roy Cook examines cucumbers on the vine in his own vegetable garden. This Straight 8 variety will work well for pickling whole or sliced in spears.
Shown here are three jars of Master Gardener Lupe Cook's pickles. Left to right are bread-and-butter chips, dill slices and whole pickles from the Cook's garden and kitchen.
These Muncher cucumbers are a burpless variety that can be eaten right out of the garden. While they can be pickled, they are also recommended for relishes. They have a smooth, nearly spineless, tender texture and are not bitter, thus do not cause burping due to being milder in taste and more easily digestible. They are not as highly recommended for pickling because of their tendency to become soft.
I love fresh, garden-grown vegetables and have canned them for later use like many of you have done. It's a down-home, all-American thing like hot dogs and apple pie on a day like today, Flag Day. In fact, I would be surprised if homemade pickles or relish were not used at some picnic today, this evening or weekend in observance of proudly displaying or flying Old Glory.
All about pickling
To be able to add them to hot dogs or hamburgers, you first have to know what kind of cucumbers you need to grow in your garden or buy at the farmers market to match your homemade pickling recipes.
You can pickle them whole or as chips, chunks or spears. They can be made into kosher dill, sour and sweet pickles, relish and bread-and-butter pickles to serve with table meals, snacks and grilled foods.
If you are a first-timer and would like to learn the process of canning or pickling (preserving), you can purchase a canning guide book that will explain all aspects on food preservation or go to the following websites online: agrilifebookstore.org or snap.nal.usda.gov.
Types of pickled products
Depending on the variety, in late spring through summer harvest fresh, firm, dark green cucumbers with a thick, warty skin with no sign of decay. If preparation is delayed, keep the cucumbers in the refrigerator until ready to use. Do not use waxed cucumbers (store bought) because brine cannot penetrate the wax.
Selecting the right cucumber
Which cucumber plants or seeds do you buy for your garden to grow, harvest and process for home use? To select the right cucumber for canning, look for "pickling cucumber variety." Here are a few of the varieties that can be grown in our area (Zone 9).
My husband has always had a vegetable garden, but what we didn't consume, we gave away to family and friends. He suggested canning so I could preserve what he harvested for later use, like his mother used to do when he was growing up.
Needless to say, I did not have a clue about the process of canning. I got brave and bought the canning equipment, canning guide book and had my mother-in-law who lived in Florida as back up.
My first try was stewed tomatoes. My kitchen counter and I were a mess, but I successfully preserved 10 quarts, and it was all worth it.
Throughout the years, my family has enjoyed a jar or two, and I just mailed a goody box to my granddaughter who is in the military in Germany for her enjoyment.
So whether you are a novice or experienced at canning or pickling, preserve the bounty of your garden for your own enjoyment or to share with others, whether it be at home, in observance of our country or in gratitude for those who serve in the name of freedom.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.
• Bread-and-butter pickles
• Cucumber chips
• Cucumber chunks
• Dill pickles - kosher style
• Sour dill pickles
• Sweet gherkin pickles
• Dill relish
• Sweet pickle relish
Depending on pickling needs:
• Use firm, dark green cucumbers with a thick, warty skin; no sign of decay.
• Avoid waxed cucumbers (store bought); brine cannot penetrate wax.
• Harvest at 4-6 inches long for most recipes; 11/2 to 2 inches for gherkins.
Use odd-shaped or more mature cucumbers for relishes, bread-and-butter-style pickling.
• Use burpless cucumbers for relishes; not for pickling as they do not remain crisp
BECOME A MASTER GARDENER
• 2013 Fall Training Class
• Thursdays, Aug. 1-Nov. 14
• 1-5 p.m.
• Plan to train and participate; look for more information in July. Deadline for application IS July 18