Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday's Words for September 21, 2011

The Saturday of the Labor Day weekend, my beloved and I traveled to a farmer’s market that we like to visit a few times a year. Sometimes, we go there to buy meat; sometimes we want to look at tools, or crafts, or baked goods.

This particular trip was for veggies. The crops available there, directly from the farmers, are fresh, plentiful, and reasonably priced. Specifically, we drove for forty-five minutes to buy cucumbers.

I’d mentioned to my DH about a week before that I wanted to make sweet pickles again this year, the ones I made last year that had been such a hit with the family. Last year, I’d purchased a six quart basket, and ended up with something like 10 - 1 pint jars of pickles. At that time, I had also attempted to make pickled beets, but we won’t talk about that.

Oh, all right, I’ll tell you. I second-guessed the recipe and added more cloves than the recipe called for. Ugh. Ick. Enough said.

My beloved thought I should expand my repertoire and make dill pickles this year, too. I’ve made them in the past, of course. I should perhaps mention at this point that I last made them more than 20 years ago. But it’s just like riding a bicycle—or so I told myself.

I was impressed with the selection and the bounty at this very large, and very diverse indoor/outdoor market. We took our “granny cart” with us, and in short order had what we needed. I bought two sizes of cucumbers, “number 1” and “number 2” which are baby dill size and the next size up. I bought a peck of each.

Do you have any idea how many cucumbers there are in a peck? A whole heck of a lot more than I thought there were, that’s for sure.

My granddaughter came over to help me. She just turned 11, and she loves to cook. She proved an able assistant, and chopped the green and red peppers and peeled the tiny pearl onions (for the sweet mix).

I knew of course that I had more cucumbers (the #2s) for my sweets than last year. But somehow, in the fond memories of how well everyone, including me, liked those pickles, I’d forgotten just how much work was involved in scrubbing and slicing those little green buggers. But finally they were scrubbed and sliced and mixed with pieces of green and red pepper and small succulent onions. I sprinkled the entire mixture with pickling salt, coved them with ice, and sighing in appreciation of a job so far well done, let them begin to sit for the prescribed three hours.

Then I turned and saw the laundry basket full of #1s waiting to become dills.

I think I’ll leave the play by play recounting right there. My beloved stepped up to the plate and helped me with the work. By the end of the day, we had 12 quart jars of dills, 24 pint jars of sweets...and a lot of cucumbers left over.

I didn’t pay a lot for the produce, really. Logically, there was no reason I couldn’t just call the rest compost. Emotionally—wasting food simply isn’t how I’m wired.

I recalled the wonderful green relish I used to make—excellent by the way, my American friends, on hotdogs and hamburgers. I thought, well, there’s not that many cucumbers left. Surely it won’t take that long scrub, slice, scoop out the seeds, and chop. [On the heels of the effort just put out you would have thought I’d learned my lesson].

It took most of a morning to do that. But once everything was in the pot, it became simply a matter of slow simmering and stirring... off and on for the next three days.

I now also have 12 pints of green relish on my shelves, keeping the dills and the sweets company.

For any who are interested, I will post my relish recipe at the end of this essay on my Wednesday’s Words blog page. The link for that is in my signature lines.

Despite the exhaustion, I experienced a sense of accomplishment that money can’t buy. And I’m pretty sure that come next autumn, I’ll be repeating the exercise—but
with a fewer number of cucumbers.


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