My recent article on the most common canning questions I receive about sugar and food safety prompted a few more questions. I promised to answer those questions in a future column. So here they are:
Q: What is the cure for soggy pickles?
A: It can be a challenge to achieve a crisp pickle. First thing to remember is to trim off the blossom end of the cucumbers because they contain an enzyme that can make pickles soft. (Thats why you often see old-fashioned pickle recipes calling for grape leaves because they contain a substance that inhibits the enzyme.)
Another option is to use calcium chloride. Jarden, maker of Ball brand canning products, sells it as Pickle Crisp. Add 1/8 teaspoon to pint jars filled with vegetables and brine or 1/4 teaspoon to quart jars of pickled vegetables before processing in a boiling water bath.
The other ingredient that helps create a very crisp pickle is pickling lime. The drawback is those recipes take several days. The recipe in my cookbook, Pickles & Preserves: A Savor the South Cookbook, requires that the cucumbers be soaked in a solution of pickling lime and water for a day, rinsed several times, soaked in brine for a day, and then canned and processed in a boiling water bath. The texture of these pickles is not to everyones liking. (I love them; my husband hates them.)
There is another option. Food blogger Marisa McClellan has a recipe for dill pickle spears in her Food in Jars cookbook that calls for processing the jars for only five minutes, instead of the usual 10 minutes, to lessen the softening effect on the cucumbers. I have not tested this recipe yet but it may be worth exploring.
Q: What is canning salt, and why do I have to use it?
A: Canning or pickling salt, sold in the spice aisle at the grocery store, is pure granulated salt that dissolves quickly. It is preferred to table salt when canning pickled vegetables. Table salt can contain ingredients to prevent caking, which can make a pickle brine cloudy.
Q: I was looking for canning classes offered by the county cooperative extension offices. Do you know if such classes are still offered?
A: I called several local cooperative extension offices to see if they offered any canning classes. Many no longer do, including Wake and Orange counties. However, Chatham, Durham and Johnston counties have upcoming food preservation demonstrations or classes.
• Johnston County Cooperative Extension has two upcoming classes: a canning meat and poultry class from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 19; and a food dehydrating class from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 23. Each class costs $25; they are held at 2736 N.C. 210, Smithfield. More info: johnston.ces.ncsu.edu/events/.
• Chatham County Cooperative Extension offers canning classes at 6 p.m. Aug. 12 and 10 a.m. Aug. 13 at the County Agriculture Building, 65 E. Chatham St., Pittsboro. The class costs $10. Space is limited; to reserve a spot, call 919-542-8202.
• Durham County Cooperative Extension will conduct canning demonstrations at the Durham Farmers Market from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. July 30 and Aug. 27.
Home cooks also can have their pressure canners checked by a Durham County extension agent to make sure they are safe to use. This service is free and open to all Triangle residents. People can bring their canners to the county office at 721 Foster St., Durham (the agent will keep the canner for 24 hours); or set up an appointment by calling 919-560-0525.
Weigl: 919-829-4848 or email@example.com; Twitter: @andreaweigl