I went to a superstore today to buy one-quart wide-neck canning jars for pickles. It didn’t have them. It had about three boxes of one-quart narrow-neck canning jars. No good. Because pickles, my friends, are impossible to properly pack in a narrow-neck jar. So wide-neck one-quart jars only. That’s one of my mother’s rules.
I went to three more stores before I found the wide-necks. And they were on a shelf so high and so far from the thick of the action that the boxes were dusty and the cardboard a bit limp. I bet 30 years ago that you could find canning jars in every type of store, front and center. Not anymore.
But so what. I have my jars. I’m good to go. It’s pickles on maybe Wednesday, maybe Thursday. It depends when the farm I’m getting them from picks them. Because pickling cucumbers should be pickled and packed on the day they’re picked. That’s another of my mother’s rules. In fact, here’s the complete list of my mother’s pickle rules:
Shirley’s Top 10 Pickle Rules
- Use wide-neck one-quart canning jars only. It’s too hard to get the fingers in to pack properly otherwise.
- Only use pickling cucumbers picked fresh that day, but don’t buy pickling cucumbers picked after a rainy day. They’re too soggy.
- No big pickles. Pay a premium for small and medium. Big pickles are jar hogs.
- Buy lots of dill. The big kind. Way more than you think you’ll need. You can always freeze it afterwards and use it for chicken soup.
- Only use Mrs. Loomer’s recipe. Don’t tinker with what works.
- Buy pickling spice. Don’t be stupid and attempt to mix n’ match your own spices.
- Whoever eats the pickles must help make the pickles. (The Chief Twit peels garlic; the Boy Twit washes the cukes.) And those with small, slender fingers must pack the pickles. (This means my housekeeper and me.)
- Remember to mark the jars of the extra-spicy pickles with an “x”. Else you might burn the mouths out of guests.
- Go big or go home: don’t pack less than 60 one-quart jars. If you have pickle lovers in your family (check and double-check), you will go through a jar a week. Give the remaining eight jars to friends as gifts.
- Keep the jars and screw bands for the next year, but always replace the lids.
Here is Mrs. Loomer’s recipe. It’s not exactly explicit. But we make do.