Pickling Fun, Once Again

I spent yesterday celebrating birthdays and visiting with Heather and Lauren and the boys who are visiting from Vermont. As a result, I didn’t sit down to my computer until 10 at night. Creativity wasn’t going to happen. So please enjoy this oldie but goodie about making pickles — an activity I’m afraid I’m not going to get around to this summer…..

There’s an old schtick that goes something like First prize is a week in Cleveland; second prize is two weeks in Cleveland. I’m not anti-Cleveland, by the way. It’s the first city that came to mind when I tried to think of places people aren’t yearning to visit. I’m over-justifying my use of Cleveland because you never know what’s going to offend people these days.

Or, the other old joke where the plumber says something like The price to fix your toilet is $100; if the homeowner helps, the price is $200. 

Okay, I’ll stop with the corny jokes. Badda bing, badda boom.

At any rate, the above-mentioned feeble attempts at humor came to mind on Monday when Kaiya and Mylee set out to help me make pickles. My annual pickle-making activity that normally takes about 20 minutes of preparation and another 20 minutes of processing took a bit longer, but was considerably more fun.

My grandkids — down to the very last one — are big fans of pickles. Big. Fans. If you think I’m kidding, I will tell you that I opened a pint jar of pickles that I had made earlier this summer, and Cole ate the entire jar by himself. The fact that the pickles were quite spicy didn’t deter him in the least. The whole jar. I’m attributing my grands’ love of pickles to the fact that every last one of them is of Polish ancestry. Also, I make really good pickles.

I’ve mentioned that I put up pickles nearly every year. I make cucumber pickles, but I also pickle green beans, because BLOODY MARYS. The other day I went to my favorite farm store and there were plenty of pickling cukes, but also a whole bin of homegrown green beans. On the floor next to the vegetables was a big jar of beautiful dill…..

This is a bouquet of dill that Jen gave me last year. Nothing is more beautiful than fresh herbs.

It was obvious. Time to make more pickles. And time to teach my granddaughters how to make pickles. (I would also happily teach any of my grandsons, but Cole was the only one around and his attention span — being 4 years old — is about the length of that of a chicken. He played with Play Doh while the three of us worked)…..

Hot jars out of the oven. Drop in a clove of garlic, a two-finger pinch of red pepper flakes, a three-finger pinch of black peppercorns, and some dill. Insert the cut-up cucumbers (cutting done courtesy of Kaiya) into the jars, and let Nana add the hot vinegar mixture. Along the way, I explained the process, emphasizing the need for cleanliness and what to do to ensure that a jar achieves the necessary vacuum.

“Nana,” asked Mylee. “Can you pickle other vegetables besides cucumbers?” I explained about dilly beans and pickled okra and yellow squash and zucchini.

Alas, by the time we finished the cucumbers, time had run out. And so had our energy. Still, while I have no idea if either of them will ever have any interest in making and canning pickles, I wanted them to see how it’s done. It’s my hope that one of their many memories of their Nana Kris will be helping me in the kitchen, and in particular, making pickles……

As an aside, last year Dagny and Maggie Faith helped me make pickles. As they prepared to leave, I handed a jar to Dagny, forgetting that they had ridden their bikes over to our house.

“Do you want to put it in your bike bag?” I asked Dagny. Nope, she would carry it in her hand. “I’m trying to learn to ride without hands anyway Nana.” Well, of course you are.

She made it almost to the curb before it dropped on the cement.

By the way, lest I fool myself that I do a better job of pickling when the grands aren’t helping, I must remind myself that last year, I completely forgot to add dill to my dill pickles.

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