Thursday, June 28, 2007

In a Pickle... Again

One of the tricky things about having to deal with the summer harvest is that it's hot work at a hot time of the year. But what can you do?

All week long, I've been meaning to make my family's recipe for dill pickles with the cucumbers and dill I found at the farmers' market last week. But between vacation, resting up afterward, and coping with the 90-degree heat, I kept putting it off.

Thanks to the rainy weather today, though, the temps finally cooled off enough for me to fling open the windows and set a giant canner to boil on the stove (with the super-duper high-powered exhaust fan going, too, of course!). I set out all the ingredients, sterilized the jars, started the brine a-bubblin', and got ready to roll.

My family's recipe for pickles is really pretty easy, because once you've laid out everything and prepped the vegetables, you just have to wait for water to boil before you pack the jars in a rush, top them off with brine, cap and seal them, and pop them into the hot water bath. (Trust me, it really is that easy.)

Then, you can step away for ten minutes or so, go fan yourself or swig a pint of iced tea or water, and come back to pints of homemade pickles.

Okay, so I only made two pints of pickles from the pint of cucumbers I bought last week, but it's a start. I have no idea yet how many jars of pickles I'll make this year since I made none last year, but I do sincerely hope that I don't reach or top my all-time high of 78 pints (or was it more?) in a summer, because that's just an awful lot of jars to give away.

Yes, you read that right. I give away every last jar of pickles. I don't eat 'em myself. I'm not a pickle fan and never have been (though I have grown fond of the Archivist's pickled beans), though if I were, these would definitely hit the top of the list (yes, I've at least tried them) because of the crisp cool taste with a fiery kick at the end.

No, I make the pickles because I'm the only one left in the family who does. The Chef Mother isn't interested in canning any more (and probably can't can since I have the canner), and the one time my Culinarily-Challenged Aunt made pickles, she misread the recipe and added a wee bit too much hot red pepper. (This was back in the late 1980s, and we kidded her about her "Chernobyl" pickles for years. Still do, really.) So it's up to me to uphold the family tradition and supply the family and selected friends with "the hots" once a year.

You can be sure I'll be back at this again next week... and probably the next, and maybe the next... to make sure the supply line is flowing again. These pickles are better than gold in my family, and I'm sure I'll be amply rewarded for my work (possibly with two birthday cakes this year).

I'm definitely in a pickle now.


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