Paella Party! Olé!

Spanish paella party

This summer we were invited to a Spanish Paella Party.

What fun it was!

Spanish paella party

I’ve always wanted to make paella but it’s one of those things that seemed to be forever on my food bucket list, that I never got to.

Helping (and mostly watching, if truth be told) our Spanish/Mexican friend Gilbert make it was much better than stumbling through it myself.

paella party

Senor Gilberto at work

For me it was a chance to fulfill my insatiable thirst for learning to make new foods – for Gilbert it was a trip to his past. He grew up watching his mother make paella countless times in Mexico – watched her hands fly as she cut the meats and vegetables with sure and practiced  movements, stirred in the seasoning without measuring, sautéed the  fragrant onions and garlic til just right, and lovingly tended the large flat paella pan as the rice swelled and fluffed to meld the flavours of the varied ingredients together.

He grew up watching her, but like so many of us the world over. . . he never thought to learn how to make it from her . . . never asked his mother to write down her recipe or explain her technique, never hovered close at her side as she cooked it . . . just enjoyed the wonderful flavours of a much-loved family dish that was intricately bound to his childhood memories of food.

So now, with no chance to ask his mother those questions anymore, he needed to rely on his memory, the questioning of siblings, a little research, and the help of his wife, Christine, to put it all together and see if he could come up with a dish that would transport him back to to those special childhood family memories of happy meals shared with loved ones.

paella party

getting a little coaching from his wife – all in good fun!

It worked.

All of us friends and guests present that day at Gilbert and Christine’s Paella Party had the greatest fun being the beneficiaries and hungry taste-testers of the mouthwatering results of his reconnect with his past.

Spanish Paella Party

Gilbert serving the guests

Plus, our hosts had set up a wine-tasting, too, so senses were heightened, and much laughter joyfully seasoned the meal.

Paella (pronounced pie-ay-a) originates in the Valencia area of Spain, and is usually cooked outdoors over a flame or grill, giving it a characteristic smoky flavour. The barbecue works wonderfully for this. A wide flat steel paella pan is traditional for making paella.

Gilbert’s maternal great-grandfather emigrated from Spain to Mexico, called ‘New Spain’ (Nueva España) at the time, and brought all his Spanish traditions with him, including the love for his family’s authentic paella, which was passed on and enjoyed through successive generations in the new land – a family heritage that will keep on living into the next generations. This recipe is rich with chunks of chicken and pork, large tender shrimp and mussels, studded with bright vegetables, and coloured a beautiful golden hue from precious saffron threads. It is a treasure to look at and a lip-smacking delight to eat.

paella party

Christine made several variations of homemade aïoli (garlicky mayonnaise) to serve with the paella, plus some delicious salads.

paella party, serve with aioli

Here is Gilbert’s version of authentic paella, as close to how his mother made it as he can remember. It’s a mixed paella, containing both meat and seafood, and it’s made for a crowd, but you can scale it down for a smaller group.

Kitchen Frau Notes: Onions, garlic, tomatoes and red peppers are traditional for a paella. Other vegetables could be substituted for the green beans. Also, use other meats in place of the pork and chicken if you like, even a bit of chorizo.

In place of chicken stock, you could use water plus two heaping tablespoons of a good chicken stock powder.

This sounds like a lot of oil, but trust me – it works. Oil is a flavour carrier, and olive oil is used liberally in Spanish cooking. It actually has many health benefits. The dish is not oily at all, just full of flavour, and for this quantity of paella the amount of oil is not too much (just a bit over 1½ tablespoons per generous serving).

Salt the dish well, to taste.

paella party

Spanish Paella for a Crowd

Serves 20

  • 2 large onions
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes
  • 2 large red peppers
  • 2 lbs (900gms) green beans
  • 5 to 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 1 kg total)
  • 3 lbs (1.4kg) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 lbs (1.4kg) whole shrimp in the shell
  • 1½ lbs (700gms) fresh mussels
  • 10 cups (2.4l) chicken broth (gluten-free, if necessary)
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • about 2 cups (500ml) olive oil
  • 5 cups (950gms) rice
  • salt to taste

Before starting, prepare all your ingredients:

Spanish paella party

Cut small ‘x’ into the bottom of the tomatoes. Drop them into a pot of boiling water and leave them for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon. Pull off the peels. Cut out the stem end. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and remove the seeds and juices with your fingers (discard that). Dice the tomato flesh into half inch cubes.

Dice the onions.

Remove the seeds and stems from the peppers. Cut the flesh into long thin strips.

Trim the beans and cut them into 2 or 3 inch lengths.

Finely mince the garlic.

Cube the pork tenderloin into bite-sized chunks.

Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized chunks.

Rinse and drain the shrimp.

Clean the mussels, if they are not already cleaned.

paella party

Bring the chicken broth to a boil, then remove from heat, add the saffron, and cover and keep warm.

Heat the barbecue to medium heat. Place a large paella pan onto the grill and pour in about ½ cup of oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the chopped onions and garlic. Salt to taste.

paella party

Cook until translucent, then with a spoon remove the cooked onions to a bowl and set aside.

paella party

Add about another ½ cup oil. Then add in the chicken pieces. Sprinkle generously with salt.

paella party

Cook until all surfaces of the meat have changed colour. The insides may still be pink, but will continue to cook when added to the rice later. Remove the chicken to a bowl and set aside.

Add another ½ cup of oil and the pork pieces. Sprinkle with salt. Cook until the outsides have changed colour and add to the bowl with the chicken pieces.


 Add the last ½ cup of oil and the chopped tomatoes and peppers. Cook a few minutes, then add in the beans. Salt to taste. Remove about half of the sauteed pepper strips with tongs and set them aside in a small bowl.

paella party

Now you start to add everything back in. First the cooked chicken and pork. Spread it evenly over the sauteed vegetables. Add any oil and juices accumulated in the bowl.

paella party

Then layer over the cooked onions and garlic

paella party, add in the cooked onions

with their juices:

paella party, add the onions and their juices

Pour in the rice -

paella party, Christine pours in the rice

- and to be authentically Spanish, pour it in the shape of a cross. (Neither Christine nor Gilbert knew why it has to be done that way – just that it’s the way it has always been done.) This is all about tradition.

Spanish paella party, pour the rice into the paella pan in the shape of a cross

Then carefully pour in the hot saffron chicken broth, aiming for the spaces between the arms of the cross. (We removed the paella pan to the deck so I could take photos, but I recommend you leave it on the grill since it’s cumbersome to move once the stock is added.)

paella party, pour the broth over the cross of rice

paella party, pouring in the broth

paella party, pouring in the last of the broth

With the back of a spoon, gently tap any dry rice so it is all submerged below the broth.

paella party, push the rice with a spoon to submerge it under the liquid

Strew the reserved red pepper strips across the top to add lovely bright colour.

paella party, add the sauteed vegetables

Close the lid of the barbecue, turn up the heat, and bring the paella to a boil. Don’t stir. Then lower the heat so the rice is just simmering, and simmer it, with the barbecue lid down, for about 20 minutes to a half hour. Check occasionally after 20 minutes to see if the liquid is all absorbed, but try not to lift the lid of the barbecue too often. (This paella pan was so large the lid of the barbecue didn’t fully close, but the paella still cooked beautifully.)

Traditionally, a light crust of rice is allowed to form on the bottom of the pan – the crunchy bits being considered the best part by some.

When the water is all absorbed by the rice, add the shrimp, spreading them in a single layer over the top of the paella. Tuck the mussels into the rice all the way around the edge of the pan, forming a ‘crown’.

paella party, add the raw shrimp and mussels

Cover the whole paella pan with several strips of parchment paper, and then a layer of foil sheets, crimping the edges around the pan to seal.

Close the lid of the barbecue again, and let the mixture simmer for 5 more minutes. Turn off the flames of the barbecue, and let the paella rest and steam for 5 to 10 minutes longer without opening the lid.

Have the guests assemble for the ceremonial uncovering of the paella to oohs and ahhhs as the mouthwatering aroma wafts out.

paella party, removing the paper to smell the tantalizing aroma

Serve guests, arranging a few shrimp and mussels on the top of each mound of paella. (Discard any mussels that didn’t open.)

paella party, arrange a few pieces of seafood on each serving

A Spanish cava (sparkling white champagne-type wine) or a fruity sangria would be a lovely accompaniment to your Paella Party.

Guten Appetit!

You might also like:

Blueberry Sangria

Pico de Gallo Salsa Three Ways

Wowee! Watermelon Salsa

and for dessert

Watermelon and Lime Ice (with a Tequila Option)

Posted in Barbecue & Grilling, Chicken & Poultry, Fish & Seafood, Meats, Rice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Balls

gingerbread cookie dough ballsI don’t get all the fuss about eating raw cookie dough.

When we were growing up my mom told us we’d get stomach aches from the raw baking powder and the raw egg. (That didn’t count, obviously, for the raw egg she’d often add to our fruit smoothies, and which anomaly we weren’t smart enough to catch.) We took her seriously, and I grew up with a healthy fear of nibbling raw dough. (And besides, it didn’t taste so great to me the time I tempted fate and did try to snitch some.) To this day I can’t bring myself to taste the dough before I bake it.

Raymond and our kids, however, suffer from no such hang-ups.

gingerbread cookie dough balls

When we were first married, I’d watch in horror as Raymond would swipe heaped spoonfuls of raw batter (several precious cookies-worth) from the bowl, ignoring my dire warnings of impending pain and possible medical emergencies. He’d just shrug and bravely laugh in the face of doom by snatching another big spoonful. Foolish guy, I’d think to myself.

But nothing ever happened. He must have a stronger than normal constitution, I reasoned.

Then when our four kids came along – oh, horrors – they inherited the same tendencies. My severe warnings about awful stomach cramps and untold illness fell on deaf ears as they watched their father swipe spoonfuls of raw dough and happily followed suit.

I was fighting an unwinnable battle to keep my family from the clutches of raw-cookie-dough-induced traumas.

Surprisingly, they too suffered no such afflictions.

So, I throw in the towel.. . . I give up.

Here is my version of a raw gingerbread cookie dough that takes the cake. Even I think it is pretty darn yummy. My family devours the sweet, doughy, spicy little balls, and doesn’t even realize I’ve kept them safe, again. There’s no risk of serious, raw-baking-powder-induced medical emergencies to deal with, no risk of suffering an agonizing embrace of the great white toilet bowl telephone, or rolling around in the grip of near-death raw-cookie dough gut-wrenching spasms. (Because of course, I’m sure those things will happen – my mom said so.)

gingerbread cookie dough balls

This ‘raw’ cookie dough is delicious and totally good for you – so you can continue to slap the hands of any family members trying to filch regular raw cookie dough from your mixing bowl, and feed ‘em these instead. They’re a bit sticky, and nicely doughy, and taste just like the stuff you’d whip up for a big batch of chewy gingersnaps. You’ll give them all the goodness of nuts, dates, and healthy ginger and cinnamon, with the beloved taste of a cheating snitch from the cookie dough bowl.

And since this is what it looked like outside our kitchen door this morning -

first snow of the year, September 8, 2014

jeeeeeeeshhh!!!  – I thought the idea of warm gingerbread spices was definitely in order. Come on, Mother Nature – it’s still summer on the calendar! 

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: You can save the step of roasting the cashews by purchasing already roasted, unsalted ones, but it is very quick and easy to do yourself. We like the intense level of spice in this ‘cookie dough’. If your family doesn’t, cut the cinnamon to 2 teaspoons and the cloves to ¼ teaspoon.

If you want to add another subtle layer of flavour that goes really well with the spices, add 1 teaspoon grated orange zest and substitute the water with freshly squeezed orange juice.

gingerbread cookie dough balls

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Balls

gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, refined-sugar free (if you don’t roll them in granulated sugar)

  • 2 cups (250grams) raw, unsalted cashews
  • 1 cup halved and pitted medjool dates (about 10-12 dates, lightly packed)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons water, if needed
  • 3 tablespoons coconut sugar, granulated sugar or finely ground nuts

Toast the cashews by placing them in a single layer on a cookie sheet or a baking pan and toasting in a preheated 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once, until a rich golden brown. Let cool.

toasted cashews for gingerbread cookie dough balls

Place the cashews, dates, spices and salt into a food processor bowl.

gingerbread cookie dough balls

Whiz until the nuts are ground and the mixture starts clumping. If it seems too dry, add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms a ball that mostly stays together as it whips around the central post of the food processor. You may have to stop it occasionally to scrape the dough back down to the blades of the processor. (If the dough ends up being too soft to roll – set it into the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes.)

Place the coconut sugar, sugar or ground nuts into a small bowl. Taking one tablespoon of the ‘cookie dough’ at a time, roll it into balls, then roll the balls in the coconut sugar.

shaping and rolling the gingerbread cookie dough balls

Place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and let air dry for several hours (and hope there are still some left for you to taste when you come back to check on them.) Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Makes 25 perfect 2-bite gingerbread cookie dough balls (guaranteed not to give you a tummy ache).

Guten Appetit!

You might also like:

Breakfast Balls

Gingerbread Rice Krispie Squares with Cinnamon Ganache Topping

Chocolate-Dipped Apricots

Oma’s Ginger Molasses Knobs

Decadent Little Truffles


Posted in Cookies & Candy, Snacks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Campfire Baked Potatoes, and a Glorious Lazy Week at the Cabin

campfire baked potatoes

We are so lucky to be able to spend time at the cabin every summer. It’s in the beautiful wilderness of northern British Columbia, along the shores of the clear and very cold Francois Lake.

cabin at Francois Lake, BC

My dad built the cabin when our kids were little, and we have so many wonderful memories of get-togethers there with sisters and cousins and all sorts of other relatives and friends. My youngest sister got married there, we celebrated my parents’ 40th and 50th wedding anniversaries there, countless birthdays, and plain old good times.

early morning on Francois Lake, BC

the little island basks in the early morning stillness of the lake

The amenities are rustic – two lovely outhouses, and lake water piped to the kitchen sink for cooking and drinking.

ladies room at the Francois Lake cabin, BCrustic amenities at the Francois Lake cabin, BC

artwork in the ladies' room at the Francois Lake cabin, BCview from the ladies' room at the cabin at Francois Lake, BC

Various groups of kids have built tree forts in the forest, tented overnight on the little island, fished, boated, cliff-jumped into the water off the rocks of the big island, picked berries, shot off the potato gun into the lake, and told stories around the campfire.

skookum tree fort, Francois Lake cabin, BC

this year’s tree fort boasts a spacious floor plan and a second story

Every year we make a hike up to the top of the lookout hill behind the cabin. It’s a good workout, with several steep sections to climb. The view from up there is breathtaking – you can see all three islands in the bay: the ‘big island’ and the ‘middle island’ and if you walk over to one side you can see the ‘little island’.

view from the hill above the north end of Francois Lakelooking down on the 'big island' at Francois Lake, BC


Francois Lake, BC

view from the top

The cabin is remote enough that we are cut off from all the demands of technology. It’s a wonderful break. The top of the hill is the only place you can get cell phone reception – so everybody takes a minute to send messages to family.


the only cell phone reception is at the very top of the hill, Francois Lake, BC

neighbours Garry and Sylvia joined us for the hike. Garry brought his gun along in case of bears

view from the hill, Francois Lake, BC


the traditional tumbling run down the hill from the lookout behind the cabin

no matter how big they get, the kids always have to do their run-and-roll down the big hill through the fireweed

blowing grass whistles between your thumbs, Francois Lake, BC

stopping to blow grass whistles between their thumbs – that’ll keep the bears scared away

We have daily saunas in the log sauna hut my dad built. We get all toasty and sweaty, lather our hair with shampoo, then race down to the dock to jump into the freezing lake, the squeals echoing across the water! Francois Lake is so deep it never really warms up much. It leaves you all tingly and clean – a good thing since it’s our alternative to daily showers.

The teenagers love to have their saunas and dips in the dark, and we smile as we hear them shrieking as they hit the lake water, while we sit and sip wine around the glowing embers of the campfire.

the sauna cabin at Francois Lake, BC

the sauna hut

Each of the children have learned to clean their own fish – my dad’s rule was always that whoever catches the fish has to clean it.

returning with the day's catch

returning with the day’s catch

the kids cleaning their own fish after catching them

you catch ‘em, you clean ‘em

you catch the fish, you clean it

this tasty rainbow trout will be in the frying pan for supper

a sink full of freshly caught trout, Francois Lake, BC

a sink full of freshly caught trout

Every year new adventures await, and yet the familiar old adventures always have to be revisited, too. Each summer at the cabin is different, yet so familiar.

driftwood at Francois Lake shoreline, BC

the dogs love exploring the driftwood beach on our walks down the gravel road running along the lake

We eat outside as often as we can – the beautiful view is the best seasoning.

meals outside with a great view of Francois Lake, BC

We cook our meals over the campfire as much as we can, too. These campfire roasted potatoes are so simple, yet nothing tastes better as an accompaniment to pan-fried fresh trout, caught just a few hours ago.

panfried rainbow trout

roasting wieners to go with the campfire roasted potatoes

The memories of summer at the cabin . . .  just the best.

boatride to the island

   * * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: Wrapping these packets of potatoes in tin foil twice, with a layer of wet newspaper in between to insulate them, is the trick to wonderfully tender, melt-in-your-mouth potatoes that don’t need much tending as they roast over the campfire (or on your barbecue grill, too). No more burnt-to-a-char foil packet meals!

Heavy Duty aluminum foil works the best here, but if you only have regular foil, use it doubled, and make smaller packets since it isn’t as wide.

If you don’t wish to have your food against the aluminum foil (also called tin foil) , place a piece of parchment paper between the foil and the potatoes.

white potatoes ready to be wrapped up for the campfire

Campfire Roasted Potatoes

  • 3 medium potatoes
  • ½ large onion
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • optional – garlic, fresh or dried herbs
  • heavy duty aluminum foil – 18 inches (45cm) wide
  • 5 or 6 large sheets newspaper
  • optional – parchment paper

Tear off a 2-foot long (60cm) piece of foil from the roll. If using parchment paper, place an 18 inch (45cm) long piece on top.

Use about 1 tablespoon of the butter to spread in a rough circle on the center of the foil or parchment.

butter the foil or parchment well

Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, then slice the halves crosswise into thin slices.

potatoes, onions and garlic for the potato packets

Do the same to the onion. Slice a couple cloves of garlic, if using.

Place the potatoes on the buttered paper or tin foil. Scatter the onions on top, and the garlic or herbs, if using them.

Cut 2 or 3 tablespoons of butter into chunks and dot them over the top.

Sprinkle it all with salt and pepper to taste.

or you can use purple potatoes and red onions for the campfire baked potatoes

for this batch we used purple potatoes and onions

Bring the outside edges of the tin foil together and neatly fold them over several times until they are snug against the potatoes. Roll up both ends, until they snug up against the potatoes.

wrap the potatoes tightly in foil

Lay the packet on top of the stacked newspaper sheets. Roll up the packet with the newspaper, tucking one loose end under and one over the packet.

then wrap the potatoes in 4 to 6 layers of newspaper

Now hold the newspaper-wrapped packet under running water, turning it so the water gets every side wet through all the layers, or dunk it into a bucket of water (or the lake) until the newspaper is soaked through. I unfold the ends and let water run in the openings to make sure the inside layers of newspaper are wet, too.

wet the newspaper thoroughly, then wrap in another layer of foil

Tear off another 2-foot long (60cm) chunk of heavy duty foil and wrap the package up again the same way.

Place the package onto a grate over a campfire, or directly into glowing coals (if the fire has burned down somewhat). Or place it onto a barbecue grill. Turn the packet several times during cooking.

then roast the foil packet of potatoes on a grill over a fire or right in the coals

The tricky part is estimating how long it takes for the potatoes to become tender. I find the 45 minutes to an hour is usually enough, but it will depend on the size of your tin foil packet and the heat of your fire or coals. Because of the insulating nature of the wet newspaper, they don’t burn too easily. If the packet is close to hot flames it will cook faster.

We had our packets on for well over an hour, and the edges of the potatoes were just starting to brown a bit.

You can open up the packet, using oven mitts and a fork, if you want to check for doneness, then rewrap the packet and roast it some more if it needs it – just don’t flip it over on the grate if you rewrap, as the butter will leak out.

when the potatoes are cooked, the newspaper will be dry

When the potatoes are done, the paper will be dry.

Serves about 4 hungry campers.

You might also like:

Nature’s Gifts: Fresh Trout, Morels and a Side of Bannock

Succotash and a Week at the Cabin

End of Summer at the Cabin, and Finally – Bannock Biscuits

Juicy Grilled Mushrooms

sauna rules

a few rules tacked up on the wall inside the sauna hut

Posted in Barbecue & Grilling, Potatoes, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Magic Method for Never-Fail Easy Dill Pickles and a Peek at the Late-Summer Garden

easy, never fail dill pickles

Our cucumbers are doing their thing.

Every time I look under the prickly leaves, a few more have ripened from little green dashes to overgrown submarines. I don’t know how it happens – I can pick them all off in the morning, and by evening a few more of the sneaky little beggars have ballooned to pickle size, supplying me with a steady trickle of Cucumis sativus fruits to eat fresh with a sprinkle of seasoned salt, to make cucumbler salads, or to preserve in big jars as crunchy dill pickles.

cucumbers on the vineIMG_6165a

In our northern Alberta climate, we don’t always have good pickle years. Cucumbers need a lot of heat and good moisture. Since we have such a big garden and well-water that has too much sodium to be good for the soil, our plants have to tough it out and rely on Mother Nature for whatever she decides to dole out. This year she was very generous – we had lots of sweltering hot days with +30°C temperatures, and well-timed soaking rains.

bees on the borage

a busy bee on the borage blossoms

compost pile in the garden

as the garden matures, the compost pile grows

Our  garden is glorious – corn is several feet taller than I am, kale is a sprawling hedge, potatoes like baseballs and kohlrabi like basketballs, peas and beans loaded, and cucumbers rolling out a steady harvest. And it’s a good pickle year.

kale in the gardenkohlrabi as big as a basketball

zucchini plant in the gardenPippa in the corn

The variety of pickling cucumbers we plant is called ‘Cool Breeze’, meant for short season growing. They perform well for me in years when the conditions are right. I’ll plant them again next year, hoping it will be another ‘pickle year’.

cucumbers in the garden

This recipe for pickles is so easy peasy. I make up a batch of the brine and keep the leftovers in a jar in the fridge. Then whenever I have enough cucumbers collected to make a few more quarts, I reheat the brine and pickle ‘em up.

super easy never fail dill  pickles

The recipe comes from my friend Ronaye, and since I’ve adopted her super-easy method of pickle-making, I don’t dread the job anymore. The magic to her method is that you don’t need to mess with a canner and boiling water bath, you seal them in the oven. It’s fun and very satisfying to turn a big bowl of pickling cukes into jars of puckery dill pickles we’ll enjoy all winter long. I can get a few jars canned while I’m baking a batch of cookies or cleaning up my kitchen. These dills never fail. The pickles are crunchy and sour like we love them, and the jars always seal. It doesn’t even feel like canning – it’s just filling jars and sticking ‘em in the oven! (Thanks, Ronaye.)

borage in the gardenborage

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: The trick to making these dill pickles is to use distilled water, so there’s no chlorine or minerals in the water to affect the crunch and flavour of the pickles. We have a reverse osmosis water filtration system, so I use that water, but before we had the system installed, I purchased gallon jugs of distilled water from the store to make these pickles.

Also, make sure to use pickling salt (which is pure sodium chloride), as the iodine or stabilizing agents in other salts can make pickles lose their crunch.

I’ve given no amounts for cucumbers, since it really depends on how many you have. I find that it takes about 1¼ lbs (550gms), or a little less, of cucumbers to fill 1 quart jar and 1½ to 1¾ cups (360-420mls) of brine to cover 1 quart of cucumbers, depending on how big the cukes are and how tightly you pack them in. One batch of brine will fill 8 to 9 quarts of pickles. I make 4 or 5 jars of pickles at a time, then save the brine in the fridge until I have enough to make a few more jars. With this method you can even make 1 or 2 jars at a time, if you only have a few cucumbers ready. (Make a half-batch of the brine, too, if that’s all you need.)

The cucumbers can be stuffed in the jars whole, if they are small, or cut into spears or slices if they are large. If you’re not into garlic or dill, you could even be totally minimalist and use only cucumbers and brine, though then they wouldn’t be dill pickles anymore, just plain ol’ pickles.

For this last batch I added some heads of green coriander seeds (cilantro that went to seed in the garden). I think they’ll add a great flavour to the pickles.

You can also pickle whole green beans this way – add a couple small dried red chili peppers if you want spicy dilled beans.spicy dill green beans

*I only use this easy oven-canning method for these pickles because of the high acid content and have never tried it with any other foods. I use a water bath method to seal the jars for any other kinds of canning.

super easy never fail dill pickles

Never Fail Dill Pickles

For the brine:

  • 12 cups distilled water (2.84 litres)
  • 5 cups white vinegar (1.18 litres)
  • ½ cup pickling salt (140gms)

For the pickles:

Per each quart jar-

  • 1 dill blossom head or several sprigs of fresh dill
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 6 whole black peppercorns (optional)
  • pickling cucumbers to fill the jar (not optional)

Estimate how many quart canning jars you think you will need for the cucumbers you have and prepare a couple extra. Wash the jars in the dishwasher on the hottest water setting.

While the jars are washing, wash and drain the pickling cucumbers. Wash the dill blossom heads or dill sprigs, and shake dry.

Combine the ingredients for the brine in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. When it has boiled, turn off the heat and cover the pot with a lid to keep the brine hot until you need it.

Preheat the oven to 310°F (155°C) and remove all the racks except the bottom one. (Yes, that is the right temperature – not a typo.)

Set the metal canning lids into a saucepan of water and bring to a simmer. Keep hot until you need them.

super easy never fail dill pickles

I put 2 cloves of garlic into each of these jars since they are 1.5 quart size

When the jars have finished washing, set them onto a clean dishtowel on the counter. Into each one place 1 dill seed head, 1 clove of garlic and 6 peppercorns. Hold the jar sideways, and fill it with cucumbers, packing them in tightly to fit in as many as possible. Larger cucumbers can be cut into quarters lengthwise as ‘pickle spears’ to make them easier to fit into the jars. Pack the cucumbers so there is an inch of space between them and the top of the jars.

Bring the brine back up to a boil, then pour it over the cucumbers, covering them completely and leaving a half to three quarters of an inch headspace at the tops of the jars. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, wet dishcloth. Place one of the hot metal lids on each jar and screw on the metal ring so it is just finger tight (how tight you can turn it with just your thumb and index finger).

Place the jars onto a cookie sheet or in a 9×13″ pan (easier to handle) and carefully slide it into the oven. This is the only tricky part since the pan full of jars is awkward and heavy. I only do 4 to 6 jars at a time.

Bake for 10 minutes (15 minutes for 1.5 quart jars).

Carefully remove the jars from the oven, keeping them level as you handle them, and place them right-side-up on a tea towel on the counter. Leave them undisturbed until they cool.

You will notice some bright green spots where the brine hasn’t penetrated the pickles totally yet. Don’t worry about them – they will be uniformly olive green in colour by the time they are cooled. You should hear a slight pop as each jar seals over the next half hour or so. (Don’t be tempted to touch the lids and force the seal to happen.)

easy never fail dill pickles

 Once the jars are cool, check to see that they have sealed by seeing if the slight bulge in the middle of the metal lid is sucked down and the lids are smooth. If you can make the center of the lid move up and down by pressing on it with your finger, it has not sealed. Keep those jars in the refrigerator, wait a week for them to totally pickle, then use up in a couple months (should be no problem to do that).

Although, I have never had any jars fail to seal by doing them this way.

Tighten the rings and store the jars in a cool dark spot. They will be ready to eat after one week.

Guten Appetit!

You might also like:

How to Can Tomatoes

Misty Moisty Mornings and Watermelon Pickles

Sweet and Spicy Homemade Apple Butter

Saskatoon Peach Preserves

Pickled Beets

garden 2014

Posted in Canning & Preserving, Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Kitchen Frau Weekly Meal Plan

food bloggers of canada menu plan image


My weekly menu plan has been featured over at Food Bloggers of Canada this week. I’ve put together seven days of easy gluten-free meals to give you a break from meal planning – or just to give you some ideas for one or more of your family dinners for any day of the week. There are links to a variety of different meals: a slow cooker meal, a 10-minute meal, a vegetarian option, a casual summer entertaining menu. If you use the menu this week, or save it for when the busy back-to-school crunch starts, I hope you find new family favourites to add to your cooking repertoire.

I love how easy it is to make healthy, flavour-packed meals when you use fresh vegetables, meats, and lots of herbs to wake up weary tastebuds. You won’t even miss the gluten, and you might just discover a whole new way to feel and cook.

If you’ve been thinking of trying to eliminate or reduce gluten in your food, this is an easy way to start. If you’re a veteran to this way of cooking, here’s a chance to enjoy the last few weeks of summer, and let me do the thinking for you. There’s even a link to a handy printable grocery list.

Here’s the link to my meal plan over at FBC.

Let me know how it goes!

Guten Appetit!

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