All up in a pickle
August 2, 2016
Lord have mercy.
I have been in the kitchen, y’all, really, I have.
I have been pickling. Oh, and canning tomatoes.
In the past week, by my count, I have canned 11 pints of tomatoes; three quarts and a pint of tomato juice; seven half-pints of tomato sauce; 11 pints of Old South lime pickles; three quarts of sour pickles; and 12 pints and two quarts of horseradish pickles.
The shelves are starting to look full.
This all started because Child A asked me one evening as I was shelling peas for the freezer, “Mama, how come you never make any Grandpa pickles? As much as you like to can, I would have thought you would be all about making Grandpa pickles.”
By way of explanation, “Grandpa pickles” are the name my children give to a salty, sour, slightly hot dill pickle, which my mother used to can by the metric ton, because Daddy carried ’em in his lunchbox every day God sent, to eat with his sandwich for lunch. They are a vinegar pickle, not a brined/fermented one like kosher dill, and they’re canned flavored with garlic and dill, and canned with a whole jalapeno in each jar. And my children will sit down with a quart of them and eat the entire jar at one sitting.
Once, in fact, when the kids were all up at Mama and Daddy’s, Children A and B gave Child C, who was at the time about 4, the jalapeno instead of a cucumber, telling her it was a “special cucumber.” She took a big bite and immediately screamed bloody murder.
My mother quickly came to investigate, and didn’t take long to determine what had been done. She quietly went downstairs, got two more quarts of pickles, fished out the jalapenos, and made Children A and B both eat one.
Child C, of course, thought that was just excellent.
My mother was pretty good on this Golden Rule thing.
Anyway, I got to thinking about that, and wondering why I never made pickles, because I love ’em. So I decided, OK, I’ll make some Grandpa pickles. And, y’know, since I really prefer sweet pickles, I’ll make some of those lime pickles. And, wow, wouldn’t it be great if I could duplicate those Boar’s Head horseradish pickles I love so much, particularly since those suckers are $4.99 a pop for a pint jar?
First up were the Grandpa pickles. I went looking for my Mama’s old recipe box — I have it here SOMEWHERE — in the hopes the recipe might be in there. It may well be; I haven’t found the box yet.
So I went online and found a recipe I thought looked similar to how I remembered Mama making pickles 40 years ago, and I went by that. It’s a very simple brine of half and half water and cider vinegar, with a cup of kosher salt to every gallon of brine. I packed the cucumbers and the jalapeno into quart jars, heated the brine, poured it over, sealed the jars, and processed 15 minutes, sometime during which I remembered I’d forgotten to add the dill seeds. (Mama always used a couple of florets of fresh dill flowers).
Opened a jar a few days later for Child C to sample.
“They’re close. They’re REAL close,” she said.
I take that as a win.
The lime pickles are by the recipe on the back of the Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime bag. Mama didn’t make those real often, but she did occasionally. These turned out pretty good.
So all that I lacked was the horseradish dills. At the market Saturday, one of the farmers had baskets of big, straight cucumbers, between 6 and 8 inches long and between 1 1/2 and 2 inches in diameter. Perfect for horseradish dill chips, to eat alongside or on a sandwich. They were $3 a basket of 6 or 7 cucumbers.
“How much apiece if I buy four of ’em?” I asked. He thought for a minute and knocked off a buck apiece. Sold.
So today, I got the cucumbers out of the fridge, where they’d been soaking in a dishpan of plain water overnight. Sliced ’em up. Put ’em back into ice water while I ran jars through the dishwasher and sterilized lids. Distributed garlic, dill seed (remembered it this time!), and prepared horseradish into each jar, packed in cucumber slices. Made up a weak brine of vinegar, sugar and water, boiled that, and poured over it.
My kitchen estimator has, by the way, gone to hell in a handbasket. I figured maybe a dozen pints of pickles, and whatever was leftover I could use in a cucumber salad.
A dozen pints did not put much of a dent in the dishpan of cucumber slices. I grabbed two quart jars that had also gone through the dishwasher, prepped those and packed them full. Still lots of pickles left. Damn cucumbers were like the loaves and fishes. I finally made a quart of refrigerator pickles and put the rest to another use (later post coming on that).
And I reckon I’m through pickling. Unless maybe I decide to pickle some beans or maybe some okra.
But we’ll have pickles with our sandwich when you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em come over!