Life is like a jar of pickles. Sometimes it’s sweet, sometimes sour. Like any good Polish-American, when I see the red & white flag of my forefathers, I picture the label on a jar of Warsaw Falcon Polish Dill Pickles. This year I took it a step further and made dill pickles from scratch.
It started over dinner at a local restaurant with new friends. We compared vegetable gardens and learned of an abundance of pickling cucumbers in one yard – free for the taking. So another friend picked, while I packed up canning supplies and my largest pot.
The first time I canned something from scratch it involved my favorite jam made of sour cherries. The local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) had surprised us with 10# buckets of pitted, frozen sour cherries. A friend and I pooled our resources (20# of sour cherries – that’s like two bowling balls, no prior canning experience, but lots of enthusiasm). We sterilized and measured and stirred in my top floor, stifling hot kitchen for hours. Then, viola!
The jam didn’t set. Not one jar. Because they’d been frozen and defrosted, the cherries were watery and mushy. Our jars were basically filled with chunky cherry juice. Lesson learned. That Christmas Eve, and for several more years, I snuck a jar of store-bought sour cherry jam onto her back porch in a festive bag. No note – she knew who it was from! And every year we laughed together until we cried.
This year it was fun to teach a new friend how to process pickles. There were a few snafus – not having enough lids of the right size, and running out of pickling spice in the middle of the process. But all in all, it went well! We tucked fresh sprigs of dill from her herb garden into the sides of the jars and ended up with about 11 quarts of dill and Kosher dill spears, chunks and gherkins. Sweet!
Think: What’s growing in your neighborhood that can be stored for future use? Or in abundance at the Farmers Market or produce stands?
Say: Teach a friend how to preserve food, or someone to teach you. Extra hands are an asset! For more resources, see I Can, Can You?
Do: Dehydrate, freeze, or can what’s on hand.