Friday, 2 August 2013

Recipe: Washing Machine Dill Pickles

it's pickling time! 

I love when something surprises me.
  • A surprise can come from an unusual and extremely tough experience, one that pushes you out of your comfort zone and exposes you to something entirely new. This has happened often when we have travelled to places around the world (like the first time I donned a wetsuit and helmet and went canyoneering, rapelling and hiking, climbing and swimming through the otherworldly places of an incredibly narrow slot canyon). 
  • A surprise can come from a person, when they say or do something out of character and entirely unexpected (especially young children with the outlandish way that they narrate their lives and process their world completely without filters!). 
  • It can come from a landscape, when you see something existing that goes against your known experience of the planet (like when I first saw cacti nestled in the roots of a great big pine tree in red rocky desert around Sedona, Arizona). 
  • It can come from food, when you try something delicious or unexpected for the first time (like the way Thai food excites all areas of the palate from salty & sweet through sour and hot... all in a single mouthful!). 
  • It can come from your relationships with people, when you meet someone for the first time and feel an instant bond or connection with them.
  • And it can come from the mundane and ordinary experiences and routines of our daily lives.
I'm sure you have your own wealth of surprising life experiences and connections that have woven themselves into the fabric of your life. I've found, time and again, that the unexpected enriches me in countless ways. And so I find myself looking for the unexpected in my day to day experiences.

Cooking from scratch is something that I do virtually every day. I love cooking, and I love trying out new recipes. It can be an incredibly creative and satisfying element of a full life. Cookbooks have personalities, and they share a wealth of information, taste combinations and novel experiments for the home cook.

When we were travelling to the Slocan Valley in the interior of BC for some terrific cross country trail riding, we passed through Golden, B.C. The sandwich shop that we'd used in the past (in a bike shop of all places) was closed, and so we asked someone on the street where we could go for a healthy, quick lunch. They recommended a used book store. Yup, a book store. Upstairs was a fantastic, small sandwich counter. While we waited or our wraps and paninis and lattes to be served up, we browsed the shelves of used books... my husband gravitated to the sports books, the kids to the Archie comic book section, and me... well in a heartbeat, I found myself at the cookbook section.

There I came across a cookbook from which my good friend, Donna Cunnin, had cooked a fantastic proscuitto baked potatoes pieces from just before we'd left on our vacation. Finding Whitewater Cooks At Home there on the shelf was a serendipitous moment... one of those surprising times when things seem to align and present themselves in a life. The memory of that dish was still there, on my tastebuds and there we were, heading down into the wilds of the interior of BC... to the very area where the cookbook was conceived. That purchase was simply meant to be.

Whitewater Cooks is a series of cookbooks that come out of a ski hill kitchen in Nelson B.C. called Fresh Tracks Café (whitewater cooks website) Yup, a ski hill kitchen! The photos are gorgeous. The food is incredible with fantastic taste combinations, terrifically varied ingredients. Surprisingly wonderful food. When I returned home, I ordered up their Whitewater Cooks At Home book and in there, I found a gem of a recipe for making dill pickles. It is so incredibly easy. And yet uses a method so surprising that I thought it just couldn't possibly work.

washing machine dill pickles
This recipe uses a washing machine! Yup... move over dirty laundry and make way for real cooking! There's now a new appliance ready & waiting to be used in the home kitchen. For real.

This makes 1 quart jar for every pound of cukes. The success of this recipe comes from the simplicity of the ingredients and working hot and fast. This recipe can be easily doubled. If any jars don't seal, store them in the fridge & they'll keep for months. Be sure to let the pickles sit for at least 3 weeks before opening them and tasting them. They need time to develop their flavour and their distinctive crunch.
8 lbs (3.5kg) pickling cucumbers
4 c (1L) white vinegar
12 c. water
3/4c (175mL) pickling salt (or coarse kosher salt)
2 bunches fresh dill & 8 heads dill weed

  1. Put the cucumbers in the washing machine & run them through a gentle wash cycle. After they drain, fill the machine with cold water and soak the cukes overnight.
  2. In the morning, spin the cucumbers dry & remove them from the washing machine.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200F. Sterilize 8-1 quart canning jars by washing them in the dishwasher then putting them on a cookie tray in the oven, upside down, for 20 minutes. Keep them in the oven until ready to use. Put lids & rims of the jars in a pot of water, covered, & bring to a boil to sterilize, then turn down to low to keep the rubber seals soft.
  4. Make the brine by combining the vinegar, water & pickling salt in a large pot over medium high heat. Bring the brine to a rapid boil. Keep it heated while working with it in the jars by keeping it on the stove. (One time, only two bottles sealed because I worked with the brine cooling down on the counter as I worked.)
  5. Take one jar out at a time, pack some dill into the bottom of the jar & fill tightly with cucumbers. Really cram them, packing them in super-tightly as they shrink over time. Cover with the simmering brine. Seal with the sterilized lids, making sure to clean the rim of the jar first with a clean cloth to remove any residue that will weaken or rupture the seal over time. Let cool. 
  6. Check to see if seal lid dimple has sucked in, indicating that the jar is sealed. Put in a cool, dark cupboard. Slice & serve on sandwiches!!! YUM!
Recipe from Whitewater Cooks At Home, page 86, by Shelley Adams & Lori McGinnis
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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee