A Crash Course on Canning. Plus, a Recipe for Squash Pickles

Later this deer season, when you've (hopefully) got a freezer packed with venison, you want a pantry lined with jars of delicious goods from the garden. Whether you've got extra tomatoes, stacks of squash, or beans drooping low from the vine, extra vegetables go a long way when they're seasoned and preserved. And now is the time to can them.

We had squash up to our ears this year, so we decided to slice them up and throw them in sweet brine. Ever had a bread-and-butter pickle? We made the squash with that recipe in mind and tweaked it with whatever we had in the pantry.

Canning may intimidate some, but all you need is a big crock of water, jars, lids, and an abundance of your favorite vegetable. Here's what we did last weekend. --CJ Lotz
**
Squash Pickles**
(Makes 4 pint jars)

Recipe from the Bible of canning, the Ball Blue Book. Note: we doubled the batch and modified the spices.

4 pounds squash or zucchini, cut into thin rounds
2/3 pound onion, sliced
½ cup canning salt plus extra to sprinkle
4 cups sugar
6 cups vinegar
4 teaspoons mustard seed (or dry mustard)
2 teaspoons turmeric
Your favorite spices*

Prep: Place cut-up squash and onions in a bowl. Sprinkle and toss with salt. Cover with ice and place in the refrigerator for two hours. This crisps the vegetables. After two hours, rinse and drain well.

Bring all other ingredients to a boil in a large saucepot. Pull pot off the heat and add squash and onions. Let brine and vegetables soak in the pot for two hours.

Then, bring it all to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer for five minutes.

Now, it's time for the canning. Get your canner (or a large pot with metal rack to hold the jars in place) filled with water and on the stove, because it will take a while to get boiling. Sterilize your quart jars and lids by dipping in boiling water. Then, pack hot vegetables and brine into jars, leaving ¼ inch room at the top. Wipe rim with a hot wet towel, and screw on the rims and tops. Place all jars in boiling water bath and process for 15 minutes. When they're done, set them in a cool dry area and the tops should seal down. You can remove the screw-on rims (to use again) and store the jars in the pantry now. Let the flavors infuse about two weeks, and you can crack one open at a barbecue. Or, be patient and enjoy the fresh taste of a summer garden this winter.

*We used Old Bay Seasoning because we were in Maryland, and it's a crime not to put it on everything. You could also add celery salt, ginger, or garlic, depending on what you like.