Sunday, June 27, 2010

Go Local-Week 4- Use Your Bounty

This week we welcome a new friend to Living Senses. Michelle and I found each other a few months back and I was thankful to come across yet another kindred spirit. She knits. She teaches. She gardens. She has chickens and lives in the Pacific Northwest. You can read all about her and her adventures on her blog You Just Gotta Keep Knittin'. Today she's sharing her family recipe for pickles and some stories about gardening with her grandparents. This year I have about 100 pickling cucumber plants in the ground. I think we're gonna make ourselves some pickles and I will definitely be giving this recipe a try.
Thanks, Michelle!
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I finally got around to sorting through the storage box of snapshots that I've been storing in the garage for years. Among the jumbled bits of my life ranging from the 1970's to the early 2000's, when we finally purchased our first digital camera, I found one of the many, many notes & letters that my grandmother sent to me through the years. This one is dated August 24 and mentions a visit from me and my oldest son's father, but does not mention my son, so it must be from before he was born-- 1993 or so. In it, my grandmother writes, Getting ready to pick cucumbers before they get too humongous. So pickling is in my future-- today or tomorrow.Me, my oldest son (now 15), and my grandfather digging potatoes in his garden.
When I was eight or so, my grandparents moved from a neighborhood in Seattle, where they had a small vegetable garden, to a five acre piece of land directly across the road from Sequim Bay in Blynn, Washington, where they tended two large gardens, a small collection of fruit trees, a greenhouse, and kept goats and chickens.
My head is filled with many vivid memories of dinners made entirely of local goodies-- decadent crab salads with just-picked lettuce, tomatoes & peppers from the greenhouse, fresh cracked Dungeness crab harvested from the local bay by my grandfather, barbecued salmon or halibut, also fresh caught with his boat, steamed new potatoes & sweet baby peas from the garden, strawberry shortcake for dessert made from the sweetest, most delectable berries picked just that day from the front yard plot.

Picking raspberries in my grandparent's garden with my oldest son.

I never thought to ask my grandparents why they grew so much food so abundantly, what, exactly, inspired them to create their own mini-farm after living in the city for so many years, but their bounty filled both my parent's and my pantry for years, as going for a visit always meant coming home with bags full of food-- frozen peas & corn & green beans, hunks of fresh caught fish frozen in blocks of ice, fresh eggs, jams made from home grown berries & fruits, and always, jars & jars of grandma's dill pickles.We all relied on those pickles being in the kitchen. Chopped up, they were a crucial ingredient in our tuna sandwiches, our pickle & cheese sandwiches, sliced on hamburgers, absolutely essential to our potato salad, the tiny ones saved and put out on the table to eat during special occasion dinners. The tiny ones my grandfather deigned to leave the house, that is; he kept the tiniest of tiny pickles for his own stash!As a little girl, I would fish pickles out of the jar that was always in the fridge, wrap one in a paper towel, and eat it out of hand as a snack, one after the other. My grandmother often referred to me as "the pickle face kid". My older son did much the same when he was a little boy. For at least 20 years, my grandmother supplied us all with unending jars of dill pickles, often growing all of the cucumbers in her garden, except for those years when the weather gods drove her to the local farmers to fill the rows of quart jars that always lined her pantry shelves.The original pickle maker!
I am the pickle maker now, although no one expects me to supply an entire extended family with salty cucumbers the entire year through. Looking back on it, it must have been a tremendous amount of work (although I hope not a burden!) to keep us all supplied. I only remember helping a couple of times with the production-- pickle season coming, as it does, in the early fall when I would have been starting a new school year, preoccupied with school clothes shopping and the like.
But I learned enough in those few sessions, and from looking on over the years, to still hear my grandmother's voice while I pack jars with obstreperous cukes,
put the large ones at the bottom and the smaller ones at the top, doing my best to pack 'em in there, putting together a compact puzzle of rubbery fruits that do not want to bend to the shape of the inflexible glass jars. Boiling the brine & pouring it into the spaces left between. Screwing on the caps, but not too tight, finger tight, and submerging them into the boiling water. I think about my grandmother and her garden and all of the wonderful, fresh food she bestowed upon her family, handing over her love in armfuls of produce in doubled up brown paper bags, in jars and in freezer bags, and in never ending quarts of amazing sour, spicy pickles. I think about my grandmother, while I wait for the lids to pop, sealing tight.
I opened up our last jar of pickles that I put up a couple of years ago yesterday. This year will be a year for pickles. Here is our recipe:
(click to enlarge)
(the numbers in parentheses indicate the amounts for a triple batch)
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Such a beautiful, heartfelt post, Michelle. Thank you for sharing your story. I know you've inspired me to make lots of pickles...even though I know pickle time will happen just about the beginning of the school year...homemade pickles are worth the effort.
Do tell...what have you been up to lately? A totally local meal? A fancy dessert? A visit to a market or farm? Leave a link to a post or share a story in the comments. And don't forget to click over and read the past three weeks. There are some really great things happening!




4 comments:

  1. Oh how I miss my grandma's dill pickles. They were the essence of summer and such a reflection of her love for her family. What a great post!

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  2. Love this post! We are growing cucumbers this year with the hope of starting a wonderful tradition such as this....and if we get any, we will be using this recipe! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Thank you both for your kind comments. And thank you, Heather, for including my post in your series. :)

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  4. What a great post! I love hearing stories like that. We've got cucumbers growing as well with the hopes of trying a pickle recipe. I'll have to give this one a try!

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