Saturday, July 30, 2005

In a Pickle

We're in the depths of summer now, and my garden has been transformed into a weedy jungle with the occasional bounty-laden vegetable plant. And right now the crop to watch is the cucumbers.

Why is that? For those of you who are unfamiliar with my summer canning routine, this means pickles.

Not just any pickles, mind you. The one pickle recipe I make on an annual basis (and I usually make jars and jars and jars of it) is a recipe for hot kosher dills handed down from my grandmother.

Long known as "the hots" in my family (yes, I come from a line of women with rather earthy senses of humor, in case you couldn't tell), these pickles are legendary. I sometimes like to tell the story of my Culinarily-Challenged Aunt who attempted to make them one time and put in about three times as much hot red pepper as the recipe required... we kidded her about those "nuclear" pickles for years.

The recipe itself is straightforward (but I'm not going to give it out here!): Combine fresh cucumbers with fresh dill, whole cloves of garlic, whole hot peppers, and other spices... pack with a salt brine... and pop them into a hot-water bath for a short period of time to seal the jars.

So simple, really, and yet so widely adored and sought-after by the rest of my family and by an ever-growing circle of admiring friends. (Which is funny, because I don't really like pickles myself... though I admit that these are pretty good if you do like pickles.)

This year, the lovely Phoenix decided she wanted to learn how to make the pickles as she had fallen madly in love with them in past years, so she helped pack the jars, add the brine, and seal the four and a half pints that were produced Saturday afternoon. In return, she got to choose which jars she wanted for herself so that once again she could proudly show off the fruits of her labor.

More cucumbers are coming on the vine, so I may have to make another small batch later this week... and who knows how many jars I'll have made at the final count this summer? I'm sure it won't reach the record of 80+ pints that I made one summer (at least I hope not!).

I'll end up giving away almost all the jars, saving only a couple for entertaining at home or for later gifts (these pickles get hotter the longer they sit, and some people really love that).

I may be in a pickle now... but I'll be happy to share.


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