As promised, a brief photo tutorial on how to make pickles, from me, the World's Most Renowned Pickle Making Novice (who has not yet actually EATEN one of her own pickles, so they might taste like burnt dog hair. But at least it will be well-seasoned burnt dog hair with mustard seed and such).
First off, you have to have cucumbers. Which, it has been established, we are officially swamped by. And a recipe. I used a bread & butter pickle recipe from the Joy of Cooking, the greatest cookbook ever.
Cut the cukes into slices, add some sliced onion & green pepper. Cover with some pickling salt, and use highly technical equipment to press down on the veggies while they sit in the fridge overnight.
This is a technique particular to those of Italian descent. It's kinda like a coffee press, except you use beef ravioli. Fancy!
The next morning, your cucumbers are shrunken down a bit and look like pickles!
Note: you are not done at this point. Oh not by a long shot.
After rinsing the salt off of your pickles, gather your canning equipment. This includes jars with lids and bands, which must be washed before using.
You have to keep the jars warm so that they won't crack when you put the hot pickles into them, so I kept mine in the sink in hot water.
Mix the recipe for the sauce/pickle liquid. This recipe calls for cider vinegar, LOTS of sugar (both brown & white), turmeric (which turns everything yellow so wear black clothes), mustard seed, celery seed, and a little cloves or cinammon. I used cloves. You bring this mixture just to a boil, then start adding in your cucumbers. Heat just until it's boiling, then take it off the heat. It looks pretty good at this point, and actually smells like bread & butter pickles. That's a good sign!
Do not yet eat the pickles.
Next you start filling the jars, leaving a bit of room at the top for the vacuum sealing. You have to wipe the tops of the jars really well so that the lids can get a good seal. This is important because otherwise the pickles could develop botulism, and everyone who eats your pickles would die. This generally is not seen in a favorable light, and likely you won't be invited to your next family reunion. Nor asked to cook again. Ever.
Put the lids on, and then put the jars into the canner. This was the one piece of equipment I didn't have, so I did the best I could. Essentially you boil the jars so that the contents get hot enough to (1) seal really well, and (2) kill any remaining bacteria. Because we're at a higher elevation here, I boiled them for 25 minutes.
Pull out the jars and let them rest on a towel. Don't mess with the lids for at least 12 hours, or better for 24. If the lids at that point flex when you push on the top of them, they haven't sealed right, so you have to do the sealing part again.
Fortunately, mine did seal properly. I got 10 jars out of this batch, and will most likely be making more again sometime soon. Very soon. The cucumbers are already growing back!! Where's the Wererabbit when I need him?