Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Half-Sour Pickles

By popular demand (ha ha), here is my post about making half-sour pickles.  I was inspired after having lunch several times at Pumpkin Market in Philly (http://pumpkinphilly.com/market/) to try and recreate the pickles they serve there.  I searched online for "half-sours" and found a blog post at Tommy J's Kitchen (http://tommyjskitchen.blogspot.com/2006/05/recipe-half-sour-pickles.html).  After a little more research, this seemed to be a pretty good way to go.  After a little trial-and-error I've modified the method/recipe a bit to suit my own tastes.  In this post I'll give you a detailed step-by-step method for making these yummy pickles.


Also, imagine my delight when a couple days ago, the Tigress posted a very similar recipe on her blog!!  See the link below for her method - you'll see it's similar in some ways, but also very different on the fermentation side of things.  http://tigressinapickle.blogspot.com/2011/08/cool-cukes-quick-easy-ferments.html

I will warn you before we begin that if you make the quantity I am presenting here, the pickles will get saltier and saltier the longer they sit, so if you can't eat this many within about 1 week and you don't like super-salty pickles, then I suggest making a smaller quantity.  You can easily scale the recipe down for a quart or pint-sized jar.

My recipe calls for the following:

1/2-gallon ball/mason jar or similar (if you use a smaller one, just scale the ingredients down)
Mortar and Pestle (or coffee grinder, or zip-top bag and something to pound with)
Bowl of ice water
Knife and cutting board

About 2 lb/900g of pickling cucumbers (I use small kirbies - about ten to twelve 3 to 4 inch cukes)
About 1/2 to 1 tsp coriander seeds
About 1/2 to 1 tsp dill seeds
About 1/2 to 1 tsp black peppercorns
About 1/2 to 1 tsp mustard seeds 
About 1/2 tsp crushed bay leaves 
About 3 or 4 whole allspice berries
2 or 3 dry red chillies
1/4 cup pickling salt (any "pure" salt such as non-iodized sea salt is fine)
3 or 4 garlic cloves

*(If you have trouble finding any of these spices, try: http://www.myspicesage.com/)

Step 1.
Wash off your cukes in cold running water, scrub them to get all the dirt off.

Step 2.
Trim off any stem ends that remain on the cucumbers. These can lead to a bitter taste. Yuck!

Step 3.
Rub the cukes in coarse salt and then rinse them off.  This step is optional. It can help reduce bitterness and help keep the pickles green.

Step 4.
Place the cukes in ice water while you do the rest

Step 5.
Heat up about a half cup of water in the microwave for dissolving salt.

Step 6.
Pour the hot water into your half-gallon jar and add 1/4 cup of pickling salt. Pickling salt is essentially "pure" salt without iodine (which can harm the necessary bacteria). I use fine sea salt.

Step 7.
Swirl the water and salt around in the jar to dissolve the salt. Add a little more water if necessary to dissolve the salt.

Step 8.
Grab your mortar and pestle to start preparing spices.

Step 9.
If you don't have a mortar and pestle, use a coffee grinder. If you don't have one of those either, use a zip-top bag and pound the spices with a rolling pin or other heavy object.

Step 10.
Add coriander seeds to the mortar.

Step 11.
Add dill seeds to the mortar.

Step 12.
Add allspice berries to the mortar.

Step 13.
Add mustard seeds to the mortar.

Step 14.
Add black peppercorns to the mortar.

Step 15.
Add dry red chillies to the mortar.

Step 16.
Add bay leaves to the mortar.

(Don't you love these easy steps?)

Step 17.
Crush/grind the spices in the mortar and pestle. You don't need to grind to a powder, just break the spices up a bit so they release their flavors.

Step 18.
Admire your grinding work.

Step 19.
Coarsely chop your garlic.

Step 20.
Add cold water to your salt water (you could use your cucumber iced soaking water).  Only fill the jar about 1/3 of the way up. You want the water to be relatively cool when you start the pickles - between 60 and 80 degrees F.

Step 21.
Start adding your pickles, standing upright in the bottom of the jar. When you've formed one layer, add your garlic.  Use chopsticks or a fork to move the cukes around so you can fit as many as possible.

(If you are a big fan of dill, you can also add some fresh dill weed along with the garlic.  I don't add it anymore, but it can be a nice addition.)

Step 22.
Add about 2/3 of the spices.

Step 23.
Add the rest of the cukes. You want to make sure none of the cucumbers are exposed to the air, so shove them down in so that they are forced under the curve of the jar mouth.

Step 24.
Add the rest of the spices and top off with water so the cukes are fully submerged.

Step 25.
Place a lid on top, but do not tighten it. Put the jar in another container to collect any liquids that might spill out during fermentation.


Leave your cucumbers on the counter for 24 to 72 hours then tighten the lid and stick them in the fridge. Personally, I like them a little less "pickled", so I let them sit for about 36 hours. For example, I made this batch tonight (Tuesday) and I will put them into the fridge on Thursday morning before leaving for work.

Enjoy!  Let me know if you make these and what you think about them.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer Making

So ... my blog hasn't been very active lately, mostly because I haven't been doing much sewing because of the awful heat waves. However, I have been making other things. What has Momotaro been making, you ask? Well, I'll show you.

Jay McCarroll Habitat Challenge Block:

The Philadelphia Modern Quilt Guild held a challenge recently to design a 12-inch block using Jay McCarroll's Habitat fabrics.  Below is my entry.  Sadly, I didn't win, but I think I still like my block.  see the winners at Generation Q Magazine's post.


These are "half-sour" pickles. I've been making them almost every week for a couple months now. Let me know if you would like me to share my process. I believe they are called half-sours because no vinegar is added (vinegar, being an acid, has a sour flavor), so the only acid generated is from lactic acid fermentation.
Half-Sour Pickles

Rosy Quince Jelly:
Based on instructions found on the Food in Jars blog.
Rosy Quince Jelly

Vanilla Peach Jam with Star Anise and Cinnamon Peach Jam with Star Anise:

We went to Kauffman's Fruit Farm in Bird-In-Hand, PA last weekend and I bought a HUGE box of peaches (see photo below). They were "seconds" so there were bruises and imperfections, but for canning, it isn't all that important (even for eating it isn't so bad, just cut away the bad bits and they are juicy and delicious). So, I'm now working my way through this box (it was probably 20 or 25 lbs of peaches).  I used Pomona's Universal Pectin for this, which I have never tried before.  It gels just about anything, so you don't need to add much sugar, which was nice.  I'm not sure I love the texture of the end result, but the flavor of the jams is good.
Box of Peaches to box of Jam


I've made apple butter before, but with my peach bounty, I decided to try making peach butter. This peach butter was a pain! I read the info on the Food in Jars blog about doing butters in the slow cooker, so I tried that. I prepared my peaches, pureed them, and threw them in the crock pot. The tutorial said to cook for 8 to 10 hours on low to reduce the volume by half, but after 11 hours (with about 4 hours on HIGH), I had only reduced mine by about 25% and it was 11 PM on Sunday night! So, I had to throw the peaches in the fridge overnight. Tonight I put them on the stove and cooked for a couple more hours until it was relatively thick (when I made apple butter, apparently it was TOO thick, so this time I didn't go so long). I added some sugar but no other spices - I wanted the delicious peach flavor to shine! I think the end result is awesome!

Peach Jam:
This is Chad's favorite and it is a basic peach jam.  The only ingredients were peaches, lemon juice, and sugar.  The jam is not super-set, which is how Chad likes it.  I made him 7 jars - hopefully this will satisfy him until next the next peach season, but maybe not ...

Friday, August 12, 2011


This is just a quick blog post to tell you about something I am very excited about.  A new great website for quilters and fabric crafters called SeamedUP.com: http://www.SeamedUP.com

The site is still in development, but when it is finished is will be a one-stop site for sewing, fabric crafting, and quilting.  It combines shopping, browsing, learning, friendship, and community all in one.  Best of all, it is FREE to join and you can sign up now even though they are still working on it!

Websites like this are a great asset to the craft, but it takes a lot to put it all together.  The SeamedUP.com team is made up of only two women and they can really use our help.  SeamedUP is currently running a fundraising campaign to keep the site up while they work on it.  Doing this allows them to test it and get feedback from members. But to continue to do this, they need money to upgrade their servers.

The link below will take you to their Indie GoGo fundraising campaign.  Please take the time to visit it, watch the video and read their mission.  

There are many ways you can support this project.  You can donate money, share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, blog about it, add their button to your website, blog or email, leave a comment on the fundraising page, and add it to your Indie GoGo favorites.  I hope you choose to do all of these, but I am asking you to do at least one thing for me - tell people about the Site!

The more people that know about this great idea, the better the chance we will have to use it.

Share it!  Together we can make SeamedUP Happen!