Betsy Wharton can pickle more vegetables than the dill pickles shown here. (Betsy Wharton/for Peninsula Daily News)

PENINSULA KITCHEN: Feeling like you’re in a democracy pickle? Try canning foods

Pickling foods can be transformative, just like the democratic process.

IF YOU ARE a registered voter, you have probably received your ballot in the mail by now.

Tired and disillusioned, many American voters feel like we are in a national pickle: stuck in an uncomfortable situation with no obvious solution.

Amid so many conflicting and strident voices, we jostle for dominance, adamantly sure we are right and thrown into a murky barrel of brine we call the American experiment.

At heart, both pickling and democracy are transformative, synergistic processes.

Both require vigilance to avoid a disastrous, ­rotten mess.

Both can be messy and uncomfortable.

Both require optimism and a willingness to be changed by the interactive process.

Neither can be completely controlled and despite the unpredictability, or perhaps because of it, both can result in something unexpectedly nutritious and delicious.

Sometimes you just have to take the long view, respect each other and keep faith in the process.

Pickling in America has come to refer specifically to a brined cucumber.

Worldwide, pickling is more generally known as a food preservation method involving acidification and can be used with any food including vegetables, fruits and meats.

Food can be pickled using a salt, water and vinegar brine, or by fermentation in which naturally occurring micro-organisms perform the acidification through the production of lactic acid.

As a particularly passionate pickle maker, I keep my best recipes proprietary (sorry, no transparency here), but the following is a wonderful way to pickle the last of our summer harvest.

End of summer mixed vegetable pickles

• 8½ cups mixed vegetable including carrots, summer squash, celery, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red or green peppers, and onions.

• 5½ cups white distilled vinegar (5 percent)

• 1 cup water

• 2 cups sugar

• 2 teaspoons canning salt

• 8 teaspoons mustard seed

• 4 teaspoons celery seed

Yield: About 4 pint jars

Wash and rinse pint canning jars; keep hot until ready to use.

Prepare lids and bands according to manufacturer’s directions.

Wash vegetables well and peel, if necessary. Cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks. Wash again after peeling.

Combine vinegar, water, sugar and canning salt in an 8-quart Dutch oven or stockpot. Bring to a boil and boil gently for three minutes.

Add carrots and bring back to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer and heat until the carrots are half-cooked (about 10 minutes).

Meanwhile, place 2 teaspoons mustard seed and 1 teaspoon celery seed in the bottom of each clean, hot pint jar.

Fill hot jars with the hot carrots, leaving 1-inch headspace.

Cover with hot pickling liquid, leaving ½-inch headspace.

Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed.

Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids.

Process pints in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes. Let cool, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours and check for seals.

Allow pickles to sit in processed jars for three to five days before consuming for best flavor development.

More information on safe food preservation techniques and recipes can be found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation, http://tinyurl.com/PDN-CannedFood.

________

Betsy Wharton is a Port Angeles Farmers Market vendor, Washington State University Extension food preservation information assistant and a registered nurse at First Step Family Support Center. More about her pickling enterprise can be found at www.Clallam CanningCompany.com.

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