One of my favorite daydreams for our future life is to have a little house on a big lot, with chickens, fruit trees, and a huge garden. I'm apparently a very well paid writer in this daydream, so I have a lot of time to just putter around the house and make jams, jellies, pickles, and preserves. Right.
So in order for this to come true, one of the things I need to learn is how to pickle. In pursuit of this skill, I spent a morning with our friend and neighbor, S., who is experienced in pickling, canning, and also happens to be a trained chef. She gave me all sorts of tips, recipes, and spices, loaned me her processing pot, can lifters and other utensils, and sent me off with her best wishes.
My good friend B. is always willing to join me in any sort of homesteading endeavor. She came over with her own pickling supplies, and we proceeded on our first pickling adventure.
5 hours later, voila! We have homemade pickles. A couple pretty labels and decorations and these would make cute gifts. It was fun and easy. I can't wait til next summer, when cucumbers come back in season (we used some SoCal seasonal produce, like green beans and carrots, but cucumbers are out of season, even here).
How much does this really save you? Well, I guess it depends how much you like pickles, and if you have produce you want to save. If you're saving your bounty from your garden, or taking advantage of seasonal produce at the market, then this is a great preserving alternative to freezing, canning, or dehydrating. Produce is cheap, in season. In theory, you could make a whole lot of side dishes and add a lot of variety to your diet this way, and it would cost you less than $1.00/jar, if you'd already invested in jars and spices and such.
For my costs: I got all my spices from my friend S., already had jars, and vinegar costs $3.50/gallon. I did have to buy new lids because you have to use new ones each time, but that was like $2.50/12 lids. Plus vegetables (which vary in cost, depending on where you live and where you get them). All in all, a very cheap enterprise, indeed!