What is a school to do with a summer garden?
(if you're here for just the pickle recipe, scroll to the bottom)
Every year, we run into the same dilemma here at GAP School: how do we preserve all the great school garden goodness, so that learners get a taste of their care and learning by starting the garden last spring. One solution? Pickles! This past August my family and I checked in on the school garden often, when the cucumbers, carrots, and other veg were ready to go we took them home and did some pickling. Now, if you have done any canning you know the dreaded angst that comes with thinking about all the sanitizing, boiling, and overall work it takes. My solution this year? Refrigerator Pickles! Refrigerator pickles skip the boiling water bath (which is a must for other types of canning) and opts for a highly acidic environment (vinegar), to keep the bacteria in check, and a shorter shelf life (they're delicious- you'll want to eat them quick anyway). Our peak harvest time was early August which is perfect for refrigerator pickles destined for snacking in early September. This past week all of our Learners had the opportunity to try pickled cucumbers, carrots, peppers, and garlic. I was delighted to find that many Learners exclaimed, "Best Pickles ever" and while I am flattered, I'm guessing the environment and good company had something to do with the experience. Regardless, the pickle recipe is available here for you to try with your Learners at home too. This is simple and user friendly, excellent for cooking with kids. Also, no rules about having to grow the veggies yourself!
I rarely follow one specific recipe so here is a rough guide for the pickles your Learners tried at school.
2023 GAP School Refrigerator Pickles (makes 4-5 pint jars of pickles)
5-6 large cucumbers or 10-12 pickling size cucumbers (or a variety of veggies - carrots, sliced peppers, cauliflower, etc.)
10-15 peeled cloves of garlic (2-3 / jar)
bunch of dill
bay leaves (1 per jar)
4 cups water
2 cups white vinegar or rice vinegar (ok to use apple cider vinegar but it will affect the flavor)
2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Optional: 5-10 black peppercorns / jar depending on preference
Optional seasoning: paprika, red pepper flake, celery seed, really anything you like!
Make the Brine:
Add water, vinegar, salt, sugar to a stainless steel pot and bring to a boil. Mix occasionally.
Once the salt and sugar are dissolved take off the heat and let cool to room temperature
While Brine is cooling, prep the jars:
Clean jars and tops so they are sanitary
Chop everything and stuff it into the jars until they can't fit anymore (put dill and garlic in first!). It's important that the veg is packed tight so that when the brine is added the veg does not float at the top out of the liquid. Pack jars with cut vegetables, peppercorns, dill and bay so they fit tight into the jar. I recommend putting the dill, bay leaf, peppercorns and garlic at the bottom.
Cucumbers can be sliced into chips or spears depending on how you like them, as long as they fit into the jar.
If you like it spicy include jalapeno peppers -seeded will keep the spice mellow, keeping the seeds in will increase the heat
Once the brine has cooled:
Pour brine into each jar filling so that the veg is submerged and you still have head space
Put the lids on tight and put into the refrigerator
Allow jars to sit for 1-2 week to develop flavor
Pickles will be good for another 4-6 weeks
What else was preserved from this year's garden? Soon enough we will enjoy carrot top pesto, frozen tomatoes for a sauce, onions that have been curing, and potatoes still in the ground for a return of last year's infamous GAP soup. Happy preserving!