This year everything fell into place for me to have a great garden:
First: My friend Lonnie gave me a lead on where to get a truckload of manure. I used to have a truckload of chicken manure delivered every year, but all of the chicken farms in our area are now housing projects, so manure got hard to find. I bought numerous bags of what they called "chicken manure" at the Co-op, but they were basically topsoil with no real nitrogen left. When I discovered this was the last year I could even get mink manure, I bought 5 loads and have used about half of that on my poor depleted garden area.
Second: The weather has been fantastic since the middle of May. We have water rights on our little lake, so I'm able to water with unmetered unfiltered untreated water, and I've been diligent about watering every day.
So, bottom line, I have a bumper crop of cucumbers for the first time in years. Everyone in our family loves dill pickles, so I'm in pickle making mode right now. Here's my procedure for making dill pickles:
- Pick cucumbers that are from 2" to about 5" long and scrub them thoroughly.
- Peel enough garlic cloves to put at least two in every quart jar. I usually put 4 or 5 in because I love pickled garlic as much as I do the actual pickles.
- Wash enough grape leaves for one per quart. I asked Ron to go get me "4 or 5 grape leaves" and he came back with 45. The grape leaves replace Alum - they keep pickles crisp without putting aluminum into our bodies.
- Cut enough dill to put two heads into each quart. I plant dill at the same time as cucumbers so they will be ready at the same time. The dill is a bit behind the cucumbers this year, so I used 3 or 4 in each jar.
- Make the brine. I've been tweaking the brine recipe for years. This is what I use: 1 quart of vinegar 3 quarts of water 1/2 cup salt Bring the brine to a boil and keep it simmering while you pack the jars. Put the grape leaf in first, followed by the dill, and then pack in the cucumbers and garlic as tightly as possible.
- Pour the hot brine to cover the cucumbers in each jar.
- Clean the rim of each jar,
- Screw hot lids and rings onto each jar.
- At this point, you can put the jars into a hot water bath and boil for 10 minutes so that the lids will seal. It really isn't necessary to seal them as the fermenting process will preserve the pickles.
They are ready to eat although not fully fermented in a few days. The first jar is already gone.