Monday, August 25, 2014
August Ending & Jar of Pickles
The end of the garden season seems to be fast approaching. Today I made up a half gallon jar of refrigerator pickles, using the worn scrap of paper on which I scribbled my mother's instructions. Family meals, when I was growing up in Cleveland, consisted of a main dish (usually meat), potatoes in some form, a vegetable (usually canned), a plate of sliced bread (not always from the bakery) and another plate with an offering from the garden. Refrigerator pickles were a favored item. The pickled beets not as popular (though I loved them) with my brothers. The portions weren't large but we were all healthy.
The scrap of paper and the smell of the vinegar, sugar salt brine always brings back memories of those years. My mother gardened with a vengeance. All insects and diseases were dispatched with products displaying a skull and warning. When these products were banned my mother stockpiled rusting cans in the garage. DTD. Stuff like that.
She also got my father to "pick up" buckets of horse manure from the police horse barns. Cleveland still had mounted police at that time. Imagine driving home with open buckets of horse manure in the car. Ugh!!! She composted it behind the garage mostly for her roses.
In the summer we were served plates of sliced tomatoes warm from the garden, bowls of steamed green beans, pickled cucumbers and the pickled beets with our pork chop or stewed chicken. My grandmother (on my father's side) provided us with plum kuchen, apple strudel and an endless array of cabbage based dishes. Which I LOVED. She also made the best dumplings. When the summer garden was closing down my grandmother ground everything in the garden into a pickled chow chow which we didn't like. Then. Now I would love it. She also pickled hot banana peppers to eat with rye bread and baked ham.
When I went to stay with my dad while he recovered from pneumonia, I discovered jars and jars of pickled banana peppers in his basement. Ageless with rusted lids. Who knows when they were canned. He ate them. I did not. Were they canned by my long dead grandmother?
These are the thoughts and memories brought to life by a saucepan of pickling brine coming to the boil in the August kitchen. My pickles (I grew the cucumbers, garlic and dill) won't be ready to eat until tomorrow, but I like looking at the jar on the stove top, cooling. A connection to two other generations that gardened and served garden grown produce to the ones they loved.
G and I will be having sliced tomatoes tonight--finally my countertop is covered in red tomatoes. Life is good!