Joni Woolf: Pickling/preserving season is short — act now

Published 12:46 pm Sunday, July 21, 2019

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The time for putting away summer’s delicacies for year-round enjoyment is brief — a month or six weeks for some fruits and vegetables. So now is time (if it isn’t already too late for some). I have found the perfect recipes for a few things: one of those is dill pickles that my family think are among the best. They are easy. The difficulty, sometimes, is in finding the smaller pickles, called Kirbys. You do not want to use a large, seedy cucumber for this pickle. Find the right pickle, and success is guaranteed.


Garlic Dill Pickles

8 to 10 Kirby cucumbers, about 3 pounds

2 cups white vinegar

2 cups water

2 tablespoons pickling salt

4 teaspoons dill seed (or fresh dill)

4 small cloves garlic

Red pepper seeds or a single red pepper (to taste)

(First, place pint or half-pint jars in a pan with enough cold water to cover by 1 inch, and bring to a boil, to sterilize. Boil at low temperature 10 minutes)

Note: Some prefer whole cucumbers; I prefer slicing each cumber into four or five slices.                                                     Cut a thin slice from end of each cucumber. Combine vinegar, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove jars from hot water. Place 1 head fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dill seeds and 1 clove garlic into each jar. Fill jar with cucumbers. Pour boiling vinegar mixture over cucumbers to within ½ inch of rim. Add lids and bands. Return to hot water pot, and process for 10 minutes. Store for at least 2 weeks before opening, for full flavor.


Another pickled fruit I have enjoyed, but never made, is a Tomato Jelly that a Macon friend and neighbor, Mary Smith, shared with me, and I enjoyed on biscuits. I think you will enjoy, too.


Tomato Jelly

5 pounds ripe tomatoes

8 cups sugar

2 lemons, sliced

Scald tomatoes and peel. Add sugar and let stand overnight. Drain off juice; then boil quickly until it threads. (Threading means the temperature has reached between 106 and 112 C. Test by drizzling small amount of syrup into a cup of cold water, and it becomes firm.) Add tomatoes with lemon slices. Cook until mixture is a strong red color, and clear. Pack into hot jars and seal immediately. (Use standard jar preparation, and always pack in hot jars.)


Some readers may remember my writing about the near-destruction of my lone fig tree during last year’s hurricane winds. It was partially crushed beneath the ancient pecan tree that fell near it, and only my son-in-law’s valiant efforts saved it. I was thrilled when figs appeared once again, and have picked small amounts, twice, and preserved them — not as many as I would like, but then, there are never enough figs. Fig preserves are among the easiest to make, and I am always looking for more figs (in case someone has a tree whose figs need gathering).


Fig Preserves

6 cups fresh figs

6 cups sugar

2 lemons, sliced

Wash figs in a bath of cool water, to which has been added 1 tablespoon soda. Rinse thoroughly. Cover figs with the sugar (always use equal amounts figs and sugar) and let sit several hours or overnight. Bring to a boil over medium heat. At boiling point, add the lemon slices and cook for 30 or 40 minutes, until figs reach 220 degrees F. on a candy thermometer. (Note: this is the right stage for almost all preserves — 220 degrees F.) Have hot, sterilized jars ready and fill to within ½ inch of top of jar. Seal with lids and bands and sterilize for 10 minutes. Any remaining fig mixture may be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.


Summer’s bounty is upon us. Enjoy it.


Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at