Friday, July 29, 2011

I Miss Harry Potter, So I'm Making My Own Magic: 'I Made It'

With this new found knowledge of canning, I'm feeling kindof magical lately which is so helping with my state of depression resulting from viewing the final Harry Pottter movie and that it is over. OVER! So sad.

If only I could fly through town, whoosh and flick my wand, and make everything better. I digress.

I don’t have a magic wand, but I do have a wooden spoon, empty glass vials, and for this potion, dill.

Today, we checked our book on potions for the proper way to transform cucumbers into pickles. According to Professor Alton Brown, this takes approximately 240 hours and 15 minutes in his formula for Dill Pickles.

As a wizard in charge of two house elves, I have been researching the proper way to easily make pickles in a house elf friendly manner (translates into "minimal heating and cutting involved" while still making it fun for them.).

So, armed with my formula from Professor Brown, the ingredients and two house elves, I set off to start mixing up the magic potion. With the exception of an additional clove of garlic and a little less red pepper flakes, we followed Professor Brown’s formula exactly.

Here is what we did:

1. Gathered the ingredients.

2. We cleaned the cucumbers. This was the perfect job for my oldest house elf.

3. Cut the ends of the cucumbers (Ok, so the recipe says to cut off the blossom end, and one would think that in my advance work of researching 500 ways to make pickles, talking to people who have made pickles, and visiting a local store to get a “crock,” that I wouldn’t have been too ashamed to clarify which end is the “blossom end.” Nope. Research online. Nope. Then the kids were there to help and it was too late to research lest they lose interest, so, I just cut both ends off.).

4. Put the spices in the crock. The house elves were rock stars at this task. I thought I was a wizard ahead of the curve when I started to divide spices in half (instead of a cup of salt, I poured 2 half cups so each kid could help. By the time I did that, the littlest one was off playing trains and didn’t care about pickles.).

(Aren't those ingredients so pretty together?)

5. Make the brine. Again, easy for the elves. Pour water, pour salt, stir. (Side note: There is actually special salt for pickling. It was in the same aisle as the jars are at Walmart. If you use regular salt instead, your liquid will be cloudy, which apparently is bad. Pickling salt isn't that much more expensive, so you probably want to get it.)

6. Add cucumbers to the crock. (More side notes: "Crock" is apparently just a fancy way of saying "container" used by people who write recipes to make it sound harder than it is. I wanted a pretty jar that would look nice on my counter for 10 days, but those are hard to find if you want one that is actually going to do the job properly. I have learned that some people even pickle their cucumbers in cleaned out 5 gallon buckets like the ones you get at Home Depot.)

7. Pour brine over cucumbers.

8. Pour extra brine in a ziploc bag and use it as a weight to hold the cucumbers down. (So many of the other recipes suggested using a plate to weigh them down. I thought the ziploc with brine was genius!)

9. We are supposed to visit this potion daily to check for bubbling and scum so we know the magic is happening.

According to Professor Alton Brown, check on your potion daily, along with the few other steps he mentioned in your Potions Manual. Then, taste them in 240 hours to see if they have become pickles.


I read many pickle recipes before deciding on this one and here is why I chose it:

- I wanted the kids to be able to help and this recipe does not require heat. (I will can these when they are done, without the helpers.)

- Most of the recipes wanted a LOT of cucumbers, like 8-10 lbs. This one required 3. (I don’t really even like pickles, but the rest of my people do and I’m hopeful that these will make me change my mind.)

- I don’t have room in my refrigerator for a vat of pickles to hang out for 3-4 weeks, but I can handle a few days.

- The hubs prefers pickles without the vinegar taste.

Many of the recipes call for a “crock” which at first made me steer away, but then I found out that this can be as simple as a plastic food grade container you can get from a restaurant supply store. I paid about $10 for ours after I went to a local store and asked the guy a million questions about making pickles. (I worried that I could have gotten one cheaper at Sam’s Club, but checked today and they didn’t have any as big as mine and the ones they had were more expensive.) Here are the other things I learned:

- Don’t pickle in containers with metal lids that aren’t proper for canning when using vinegar. Apparently, its not good.

- Don’t worry about the container being pretty even though it is going to sit on your counter for 240 hours. This is about function. (However, if anyone knows of a better looking container, please let me know.)

I will let you know the results in about 240 hours.

This is what Jack was doing after he lost interest. I was very surprised to find out later though that he was actually paying attention and knew what we were doing while he was playing trains.


  1. Let me know how they turn out! BTW, I totally had to break out the calculator app to figure out that 240 hours=10 days. :)

  2. I made my first batch of pickles the other day!! So yum!
    Your pics aren't showing up for me :( Happy eating!!

  3. Ha, figgymama! I will definitely let you know how they turn out.

    Maureen, I will check out that recipe. I saw your pics on FB. I'm not sure what was wrong with the pics, but I just reloaded them.

  4. I can see them!! Cute little elves you have :)

  5. This makes pickles with some kick, and we only used half the amount of red pepper flakes Alton suggested