OPB’s “Superabundant” explores the stories behind the foods of the Pacific Northwest with videos, articles and this weekly newsletter. To keep you sated between episodes, Heather Arndt Anderson, a Portland-based culinary historian, food writer and ecologist, highlights different aspects of the region’s food ecosystem. This week she’s scrambling to preserve all her garden produce and shares her prized dill pickle recipe.
For folks with a penchant for food preservation, this is only the beginning of the busiest time of year. Everything ripens seemingly at once, and whether you grow your own or love hitting the U-picks and farmers markets, it starts to feel like there’s too much of a good thing. We say, put up or shut up! (That sounds harsh, but Aesop’s The Ants and the Grasshopper fable always rings true.) Besides, canning jars have a special Oregon connection — do you know what it is? Read on to find out!
More climate change challenges, new dry farming crops for the Northwest, a wine behemoth cuts back and good things in gardens and markets
Freshly picked morsels from the Pacific Northwest food universe:
For some Oregon fruit growers, life is not a bowl of cherries
Oregon’s cherry growers are requesting disaster declaration after California’s long wet spring pushed their cherry season back by long enough to overlap with the Northwest season and flood the market. Read about it here.
Oregon State University’s field day showcases African and Middle Eastern crops
Come to Corvallis on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 4-6 p.m. to see the diverse dry-farmed crops being trialed at OSU’s Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture. They’ll have crops like sorghum, millet, cowpeas and sesame and offer tastes of dry-farmed melons and tomatoes. It’s free and open to the public.
Wine giant Ste. Michelle Estates cuts grower contracts
Less than a month away from harvest, Ste. Michelle Estates (the largest wine producer in the Northwest and Washington’s oldest winery) has dropped 40% of its Washington grower contracts but plans to keep Oregon’s contracts, NW News Network’s Anna King reports.
Warming oceans could mean more bycatch
A recent study published by OSU suggests that salmon bycatch is on the rise in the Pacific hake (aka whiting) fishery — the largest commercial fishery on the West Coast. Usually salmon stay higher in the water column than hake, a groundfish, but as temps rise salmon could occupy deeper waters.
Yes, we can
In 1903, Portlander Alexander H. Kerr, a partner in the wholesale grocery business Wadhams & Kerr, opened his Hermetic Fruit Jar Co., changing the name to Kerr Glass Manufacturing Co. a year later. His self-sealing jars would soon become the industry standard for home and commercial canners alike, and Kerr mason jars (now made by Ball) are still sold today.
In the “Superabundant” garden this week
The garden is overflowing — the peach tree yielded around 50 pounds of fruit, most of it so ripe that it bruises under its own weight sitting on the counter, requiring quick action to turn it all into jam and desserts (stay tuned for our peach frangipane cake recipe, coming next week). The cucumbers (we’re growing White Dadagi Korean cukes, Gherking, Poona Kheera from India and Japanese Shintokiwa) are also going gangbusters, hence this week’s pickle recipe. We just harvested the Whipple shelling beans, we’re picking various cherry tomatoes and Brown Turkey figs every day, and the hobak, golden tomatillos and peppers are coming in at a mercifully manageable pace.
Good things in markets
Everything we see in the garden — tomatoes, peppers, peaches, cucumbers, summer squash — is also at its peak in markets, along with green beans and other local stone fruits like cherries, apricots, plums and nectarines. Blueberries, currants and raspberries are still coming in hot. Blackberries from the fields and alleys are as sweet and juicy as ever, and there’s so much more you can do with them than jam and cobbler.
Aug. 6-12 is Oregon Farmers Markets Week, and in acknowledgement of the responsibility that farmers markets have to improve access for everyone from shoppers to growers and vendors, the Oregon Farmers Markets Association shared its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) statement on social media.
Recipe: Garlicky German-style dill pickles
While you can technically pickle something all year long, summer is really for dill pickles. Whether you grow your own or just love big projects, having a good pickle recipe at the ready is a must! This pickle recipe has a lot of garlic and spices, which means tons of flavor — it can be altered to your taste, but follow it to the letter, and you’ll always get compliments on your pickles (no joke, one person we know dubbed us a “pickle savant” after tasting them). It’s best to use a pickling cucumber variety (not all cukes are created equally!) but if you grow long cucumbers like White Sun/White Dadagi, you can make sliced pickles or just cut them to fit your jars. This recipe also makes exquisite dilly beans — see the notes at the end. Makes 2 quarts but is infinitely upscalable.
4 c water
4 c vinegar
⅓ c kosher salt (or 8 tsp pickling salt)
8 garlic cloves, smashed
4 flowering dill heads
4 tsp dill seed
4 bay leaves, whole or crushed
8 juniper berries, lightly crushed
2 tsp peppercorns
2 tsp caraway seed
2 tsp coriander seed
2 tsp mustard seed
2 tsp celery or lovage seed
2 tsp red chile flake (optional)
3 pounds pickling cucumbers, washed and ends trimmed
½ tsp Ball Pickle Crisp (optional; see note)
- Sterilize two quart jars, their lids, and bands in boiling water (or using the sanitize setting on your dishwasher). If you’re canning your pickles, start a boiling water bath in a stock pot large enough to cover the quart jars by at least an inch. If you don’t have a rack for your pot, lay a clean washcloth in the bottom of the pot to keep the jars from rattling around.
- Bring the water, vinegar, and salt to a simmer in a small pot, stirring to dissolve the salt. Divide the garlic, dill heads, and spices evenly between the two jars, then stuff in the cucumbers. If you want to make refrigerator pickles, you’re pretty much done — just pour in enough brine to cover the cucumbers, tightly affix the lids and refrigerate for at least 48 hours (preferably longer) to allow the flavors to develop.
- To process these for pantry storage, add a rounded 1/4 teaspoon of Pickle Crisp to each jar after stuffing in the cucumbers, then pour the hot brine over the cucumbers up to the neck of the jar, leaving an inch of headroom. Gently tap the jars to knock out air bubbles, wipe the rims with a paper towel dipped in hot water, and securely affix the lids and rings. Carefully set the jars into the boiling water bath with rubberized jar-grabbers. Add enough water to cover the jars by at least an inch, and when the pot comes to a boil, start a timer for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes in the boiling water bath, remove the jars and set on a double-layer of towels on the counter. As they cool to room temperature, be cheered by the merry sound of lids pinging as the internal vacuum seals them! Check the seal on the lids the next day by gently flicking the edge with your fingernail; any jars that didn’t seal should be stashed in the refrigerator. Pickles will be shelf-stable for at least one year.
To make dilly beans, use 2 pounds of washed, trimmed green beans and adjust the chile flake as desired. Follow the same directions as for cucumber pickles, but if you’re making fridge dilly beans, blanch the beans first by dunking them in boiling water for one minute and then shocking them in ice water to ensure a tender-crisp texture.
Ball brand “Pickle Crisp” is a granular calcium salt that dissolves completely in hot pickling brine, replacing the traditional step of soaking cucumbers in lime. It ensures a crisp pickle that can endure the heat of boiling water bath canning, is a safe and effective convenience step, and most importantly, won’t interfere with the pickles’ flavor. It’s available at Fred Meyer, Bi-Mart, Sheridan’s, and other stores that sell canning supplies.
If you have leftover brine, just keep it in a jar to use next time you make pickles — this salt-to-vinegar water ratio is a blank slate for a variety of pickles. And since dill flower heads have a pretty short shelf life, you can stash them in leftover brine (or plain vinegar) to add to future pickles. Waste not, want not!
Finally, you might notice a little rust on the jar rings (aka screw bands) in the photo — while the lids are not intended to be reused, the rings can be used over and over as long as they’re not too dented or rusty to screw tightly. If this is your first time canning, you should read up on it at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website before you get started. If you have questions or need help, call the Oregon Master Food Preservers’ Home Food Safety and Preservation Program hotline at 1-800-354-7319. Happy canning!