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Please read my previous posts on pickling before starting this recipe.
Back when I was a child, my Mom used to occasionally buy a jar of mixed pickles. I loved the cauliflower, but there was usually just one small piece in each jar and sometimes I didn’t even get that. Maybe two tiny onions, a small scrap of red pepper, and the rest were chunks of cucumber pickle.
So, I now make my own with nearly all cauliflower and onions — just a few cucumber chunks. A bowl of these is a perfect accompaniment when cold meat sandwiches are the menu.
You can make this right along with a batch of Sweet Pickles (recipe here) or make the mixed pickles up separately. If I do want the cucumbers in the mix, I hold out some, prepped and cooked in the syrup, but not processed, to finish these the next day.
Sweet Mixed Pickles Recipe
Makes 4 to 5 pint jars
• 1 head white cauliflower
• 1 red bell pepper
• 1 yellow bell pepper
• 1 pint or so tiny white boiler onions, or ½-inch thick slabs of white onions
• ¾ cup or more pickling salt
• 1 quart or more of my pickling syrup, maybe leftover from cucumber Sweet Pickles or make a half batch (find Sweet Pickles Recipe here)
For the onions. The tiny onions can be difficult to peel, but this works: Bring a small pot of water to a boil, drop in the onions and let them sit for 30 seconds. Drain, then quickly cool under cold water. With a small knife, slice off the root end and squeeze from the top. The onion should pop right out of its skin.
If you choose to use onion slices, peel the onions and cut into ½-inch thick slabs. Try to keep the slabs intact while salting and handling. You could skewer with toothpicks to keep the slabs together.
Salting. Salt for 12 to 18 hours. In a bowl, mix ½ cup of pickling salt into 1 quart (4 cups) water. Add the onions.
For the peppers. Cut the peppers into even 1-inch squares or sticks about ¼-inch wide. Add the peppers to the onions in the bowl. Make sure all the pieces are submerged. Cover the bowl and set it in the refrigerator overnight.
Choose a beautiful, unblemished white head of cauliflower. One medium-large head will yield about 6 cups. Break up the head into small florets. The stems and better parts of the core can also be cut into small bite-sized pieces.
Put the florets and pieces into a bowl and sprinkle with ¼ cup of pickling salt.
Cover the top with a good layer of ice cubes. Set aside in a cool place for 3 hours.
Drain the cauliflower and rinse it to remove excess salt.
In your pickling pot, which should be a large, non-reactive stainless or porcelain, bring the syrup to a boil. Drop in the cauliflower pieces and cook for 5 minutes. Immediately, using a big slotted spoon or a spider, remove the cauliflower to a large bowl. Carefully toss the florets frequently to help them cool.
Meanwhile, drain and rinse the peppers and onions, keep slabs intact as best you can.
Set up your water bath and bring it to a boil. Dip your impeccably clean jars, lids, ladle, and funnel and set them on a clean towel.
Now, fill your jars with your vegetables, mixing them up or layering them in a pretty design, as fussy as pleases you. Bring the syrup back to a full boil and ladle it into the jars up to ½ inch from the top. Make sure every piece of vegetable is covered with the syrup. This is a good place to use the glass marble trick you learned.
Put on the two-piece lids, seal the jars, and process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Remove the jars to a clean towel, leaving space between so they cool quickly. Listen for the ping as the jars vacuum seal.
Store your pickles in a dark, cool place. Wait a month for full flavor to develop before you open a jar.
Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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