Since I did not grow up with a mom or grandma who "put up" jams, jellies or pickles, I haven't a clue as to why I enjoy doing so now. Had to teach myself...which is half the fun. Last year I made peach jelly, peach jam and peach butter - so much that our panty is still well stocked and we still give jars away.
This year I'm concentrating on pickles. Planted two types of cucumbers: Lemon cucumbers and Boston Pickling Cucumbers. Also planted okra. I'm making 3 pickles: Bread & Butter [sweet and tangy], Cornichons [fancy French-type that are not truly dill, yet not sweet] and Pickled Okra [using the same recipe as for Cornichons]. Important to note: I make only refrigerator pickles. And I freeze them. I don't want to "can" them by putting them in a boiling water bath because that would - in essence - cook the cucumber. Effectively that would cause them to not be crisp.
Here's what I'm doing for the B&B pickles:
Bread and Butter pickles are those sweet and tangy medallions so good on a sandwich. Or slice the cucumber the long way and you've got nice planks to go on a hot dog. No matter how they are sliced, both types of cucumbers in my garden are turning into tasty pickles.
Lemon cucumbers are round in shape and grow from about golf ball size up to even baseball size. I slice them about 1/8 inch thick which is perfect to keep them crisp. The Boston Pickling cucumbers are the traditional-looking dark green cukes. For the B&B's I let these cucumbers grow to be about 5 to 6 inches long and almost 2" thick. I'll either slice them into rounds or longwise into 'planks.' For the Cornichons I pick these when they are only as big as my thumb. To make Cornichons, the cucumbers are pickled whole. Okra for pickling I'm picking when they are between 3" and 4" long...they, too, are pickled whole.
My recipe for Bread & Butters is not much different than anyone else's [like this recipe at RecipeGirl]. Here's what I do:
*a day's batch of fresh-picked cucumbers [usually enough for one quart and one pint or 2 quarts] - cleaned and sliced into 1/8" thick rounds
*half of a yellow onion, thinly sliced
*1 1/2 tbl kosher salt
*1 cup sugar
*1 cup white vinegar
*1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
*1/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)
*1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
*1/2 tsp celery seeds
*1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*1 tsp pickling spice
*clean jars and lids
STEP ONE: in a colander put the sliced onion and sliced cucumber and put that in a large bowl [to catch the juice]; sprinkle with the salt, mix gently; put a layer of ice cubes over the veggies and set aside while you make the brine.
STEP TWO: Put all the other ingredients in a pan and bring to a simmer; stir well to make sure the sugars dissolve. When the brine reaches a simmer, take off the heat and set aside.
STEP THREE: as soon as you've taken the brine off the heat, remove any ice that remains off the veggies and rinse them well. Pack the onions and cucumber slices into the clean jars. Ladle the hot brine over the veggies, leaving about a 1/2" head space at the top. Cool to room temperature.
STEP FOUR: When the jars are at room temperature, seal and put in the refrigerator. I give them about 3 days to 'cure' before enjoying them. At this point, if I have too much in the 'fridge, I'll pour them into freezer ziplock bags and freeze them. [I read good reports about this freezing of pickles...am going to thaw out a bag this week...I'll let you know how they taste.]