Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pickle Day

Today was the perfect day for pickle-making. It was one of the first days of cool weather. It was cloudy and the wind was blowing. The sound of the leaves dancing on the trees and the sunlight leaving shadows on the ground was very Fall-ish.

I have fond memories of these kinds of canning days...the windows steamed from the boiling water in the canner and the smell of dill, cucumbers and vinegar in the air. I usually turn on some music and sing while I am in the kitchen. And then after the long day of standing and hauling yet more supplies up from the basement, I collapse into bed, dead tired but so satisfied with the line-up of jars on the kitchen counter. As I fall asleep, I can hear the final few lids popping and I hope for 100% success in the jars being sealed. I dream about biting into that first crunchy dill.
Gallagher's Market on Highway 20 in Pelham
The canning process began this morning with the purchase of baskets of cucumbers, fresh garlic, onions, dill, vinegar and coarse salt. This year, I went to Gallagher's in Pelham and was delighted to find a good supply of small cucumbers at a decent price: $25 per half bushel. I willingly paid for the small cuces. They are so much easier to pack into jars and the small ones ensure that each jar is packed to capacity. While at Gallagher's, I met a fellow canner, Norma, and we began to talk prices and sizes and recipes. We traded email addresses and kept each other posted during the day. Norma cooks her jars in the oven, a technique that I had never heard. Oh my, it is great to meet kindred kitchen spirits. We could have talked for hours while at the store but I was anxious to get home to get started.
I bought two of the baskets on the floor along the right side
Thanks to my late mother-in-law, Madeleine, I make the best pickles across the land, if I do say so myself! The secret recipe was handed down many years ago and I have never strayed from the formula. The only time that I have had any difficulties is when I somehow messed up the salt/vinegar/water proportions in the brine or kept the jars in the water bath too long. This year, I was very careful.

I wanted these to be perfect. We are almost out of our supply, so this was a much needed day of putting-away. Last year, I missed the 'window' of cucumber supply, so I promised myself that this would be the year and that I would not leave it too late. The 2010 jars are getting a little tired and we have been rationing them so that they would last until now.
2010 Pickle-making: I had help from our new Lhasa pup, Emma
I was very organized this year, getting the kitchen clean, the jars and lids ready, the water boiling, the recipe reviewed, and the onion and garlic cut up all before the canning process began. Auntie helped and we had a great time chatting and washing cucumbers together. What a great help she was. At 86, she is doing so well and loves the local produce. So this putting-away was right up her alley. With her help, I finished canning the bushel. The result was 39 jars, packed full as you can see!
2012 Pickle-making: Thirty-nine jars of Heather's Famous Dill Pickles
"To every thing there is a season." And this is canning season, no doubt. It felt so good to enjoy this autumnal ritual and to stock my pantry once again with the produce of Niagara. Thank you Auntie, Madeleine, Norma, Gallagher's and Niagara!

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