With an array of vegetables in front of her, Sandy Lafleur warned her class that there were no cucumbers, and thus no actual pickles to be made in this pickling class.
Instead, there was an array of peppers, onions, green cherry tomatoes, squash, cauliflower and zucchini, mostly from Lafleur’s own garden. The zucchini has been booming in Lafleur’s garden, to the point she cannot give it away fast enough, which makes it the perfect candidate for pickling and putting away for another day.
On Thursday, in a free class at the Wilton Collaborative Space, Lafleur showed a handful of interested residents that pickling extends well beyond cucumbers for stretching garden produce. The recipe Lafleur demonstrated is for quick, refrigerator pickling, using vinegar. It is a quicker, less-intensive process than fermented pickles, but she said it will keep garden produce good for the winter.
Fermented pickles, a more-involved process, are prepared with brine and undergo fermentation due to the bacteria naturally found in and on the vegetable. They are considered probiotic, and good for building up positive bacteria in the gut. Quick, vinegar pickles, such as those made Thursday, do not have as much beneficial bacteria.
Once a matter of routine, the advent of refrigeration and preservatives have made pickling less needed and less popular, Lafleur explained. But recently, with the buy-and-grow local movements, more people have returned to tried-and-true preservation methods to carry their produce through the cold months. That was the case for those who attended Thursdays class, many of whom said they’ve been interested in learning more about canning and preserving foods, but just didn’t have an opportunity before.
Dana Dahl of Milford said she has a small garden, and is interested in learning how to preserve her tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini.
“I’ve always wanted to pickle, but I wasn’t confident in it – I’ve never seen anyone do it before,” Dahl said, and the class seemed a perfect opportunity to get some experience under her belt while learning from someone more experienced.
Mariah Castillo of Wilton, who attended the class with her husband, Michael Castillo, said she has been interested in growing and preserving more of her own food, especially with rising grocery bills and two young children. Castillo said she doesn’t have a very big garden yet, although they grow some microgreens, but they have room for a much larger home garden to grow fresh vegetables.
“And that’s the goal, at the end of the day,” Castillo said.
Gail Sawyer of Acton, Mass., said she was attending the class on behalf of her son, who wanted to learn how to preserve his garden produce, but couldn’t attend in person. Sawyer, who also has a garden on his son’s Lyndeborough property, volunteered to attend the class and pass on the knowledge to him.
“My grandparents used to pickle, but I never learned,” Sawyer said. “I needed to have confidence in it. I want to be able to continue that family tradition.”
She said the recipe learned during Thursday’s class will be put to good use on “everything in the garden.”
For people interested in learning more about food preservation, the Wilton Collaborative Space, 25 Gregg St., is hosting a jam- and jelly-making class Tuesday, Sept. 20, from 7 to 9 pm The class includes a demonstration of how to make a simple grape jelly. Participants can take a sample home. This workshop is free but reservations are required. Call the library at 603-654-2581 or email email@example.com to reserve a spot.
Refrigerator pickles recipe
2 to 4 cups sugar, depending upon sweetness preference
4 cups vinegar (cider, or white, or a combination)
¼ cup pickling salt, Kosher salt or pink Himalayan salt. Do not use iodized salt.
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 to 4 tablespoons mustard seed or pickling spice
1 to 2 gallons of cut up vegetables, in 1/4- to 1/3-inch slices or chunks. Can be used for cucumbers, zucchini, squash, summer squash, onions, green tomatoes, sweet or hot peppers, etc.
Pack prepared vegetables tightly into clean jars. Mix sugar, vinegar, salt and spices together in large pan and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently until sugar dissolves. For hot liquid into jars. Fill to the very top of the jar. Screw on lids. Allow to cool and then refrigerate for at least three days. Will keep for several months. Must be kept refrigerated.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.