Vermont Maple Pickles: The August Food In Jars Mastery Challenge

When I read that August’s challenge was low temperature pasteurization or steam canning, I was equally clueless about both options. What the heck? I knew that pasteurization was something done to milk, and since I make cheese, I know how to see out milks that have been only just pasteurized so I can successfully make cheese. I didn’t think the August skill would have much to do with milk though. Similarly, I know how to steam vegetables, but I definitely didn’t know an iota about using steam to can anything.

To be fair, I still don’t know much more than that iota about steam canning; I elected to try out low temperature pasteurization after reading about the different types of steam canners because it seemed like I’d have to purchase new equipment. Our small kitchen is already stocked with specialized equipment (spiralizer, mandolin slicer, giant canning contraption, bread proofing baskets, a gazillion and a half mason jars, and the like) along with niche cookbooks. I really don’t need another, especially since it seems the technique can only be used with highly acidic recipes. So, pass on that. Low temperature pasteurization, though, seems right up my newly pickled alley as it’s used with cucumbers to result in a slightly firmer texture. Sold.

I initially considered making candied carrot relish for the food in jars challenge because I have an excess of both cucumbers and carrots (and my husband wasn’t particularly keen on another batch of pickles). When I read more about the skill not being tried and true on anything beyond cucumbers and pickles, however, I opted for Vermont Maple Pickles to try something a little different from the other batches of pickles sitting on the shelf. Better safe than sorry.

I made the Vermont Maple Pickles after a long marathon day of canning. To me, the best strategy for making them after I’d already processed four other batches of food in a boiling water bath was to allow the canner to cool down to the temperature I needed. I was tired and impatient, though, so I threw ice in the canner to reduce the temperature more quickly rather than wait. I checked the temperature, and it was at 180. Boom! I quickly boiled up the vinegar and maple combination, assembled my jars, and promptly plopped them into the canner. I checked the temperature. Alas, the temperature fell to 175. Ages seemed to pass before I brought the temperature back up to 180. Once I did, I set the timer and frequently checked the temperature; it slowly rose to about 185 by the end of the canning session and never again dipped below 180.

I definitely prefer being able to put cans into the boiling water bath canner, set a timer, and forget it until it goes off. Still, if this process results in a crunchier pickle, I can see myself using this skill in the future. After all, I’m a newly dubbed pickler with a pickle fiend in the house.



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