Friday, September 9, 2011

Swede Lake Farms + Icebox Pickles

Jalapeno-Garlic Icebox Pickles made with Swede Lake Farms' cucumbers and chesnok garlic.

Yesterday I got to spend the day in Watertown, MN volunteering my super sweet garlic-shucking, bean-picking skills at Swede Lake Farm.  Maybe my skills aren't all they're cracked up to be (more than once I had to have one of the real farmers lift heavy objects for me, hanging my head and my t-rex arms in shame).  But the farm is awesome, and one of my favorite places to spend the day.  Swede Lake Farms is organic for real, and family for real; once I'm there I never want to leave.  The polar opposite of a factory farm, almost every task there is done by the hands of the farmers--Scott and Deanna, and the fantastic interns Colsie and Robert.  And besides being some of the world's greatest people, they grow the most delicious food in the universe.  When we finally dragged ourselves away yesterday at sunset, we left with a backseat full of heirloom potatoes, giant romano green beans, and cucumbers.

The green beans they grow are, I suspect, infused with crack, and I selfishly hoard them so they last till the next market or farm day.  And the cucumbers?  Please.  My often veggie-hating children eat them out of hand like apples, and will mow through a pound in no time.  If those two happen to leave any behind, I make the rest into icebox pickles.  (Oh icebox pickles, I love you...and I'll get back to you in a second.)

If you're lucky enough to live in the Twin Cities area, Swede Lake Farm's amazing produce is within your reach.  Find them at the Mill City Farmers' Market on Saturdays during the warm months, and at the Kingfield Market on Sundays.  Even if you don't live anywhere near Minnesota, you can still reap the benefits of the Swede Lake farmers' garlic crops.  They grow some rare and beautiful varieties for eating and cooking or for seed.  Ordering details available here.

Ok.  Icebox pickles.  We were fated to be together, I know it.  And as it turns out, I married into the recipe, so it actually was fate that brought us together.  Sometimes I eat them straight out of the jar standing in front of the open fridge, but truly the best way to appreciate them is stacked on a medium rare burger you just popped off the grill and covered in piles of bacon and molten white cheddar.   This year I added jalapenos from my garden and some of Swede Lake's awesome garlic to a few of the jars.  So good.  But however you spice it up or not, it's basically the easiest pickle recipe ever.  The most important part is getting a really great cucumber to start with, and I've already told you where to get those.  The word icebox in the title of the recipe is your clue that there's no canning required or allowed for this recipe.  Full recipe after the jump.

Icebox Pickles by Aunt Sandra

For Pickles:
8 c sliced cucumbers (1/4" slices are best, not too thin)
4 pint jars or 8 half-pint jars with lids (any kind of jar with a tight-fitting lid will work)

For Brine:
2 1/4 c granulated sugar
2 1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pickling spice (available with the spices in the baking aisle of pretty much any grocery store)

1.  Pack the cucumbers into the clean jars and set aside.

2.  Combine all remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking to dissolve sugar.  Bring to a boil and remove from heat.

3.  Pour the hot brine over the packed cucumbers, dividing the mixture evenly between all the jars.  A funnel or even a ladle helps this process to be less messy.

4.  Wipe down jars if necessary and seal.  Cool to room temp and store in the refrigerator.

Variation--Jalapeno Garlic Icebox Pickles:  pack sliced jalapeno and/or banana peppers and halved garlic cloves to the jars with the cucumbers, using up to one or two peppers per jar depending on heat desired.

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