“I miss the days when I could lift my weight in wild cats!” An old guy told me that when I bought home-grown produce from him yesterday. Classic old guy stuff. I have to wonder where they come up with their material. I said, “Maybe you still could if they were dead wild cats?” and the old guy laughed because I played his game. I looked at him closer and could almost see the young guy he used to be hiding behind his eyes.
Old guys know a lot of stuff. Maybe I should’ve hung out for a while and let him teach me some things? What is becoming increasingly clear to me after several failed attempts to write this post is that I don’t feel like writing about teachers today. I want to make pickles. The cukes are sliced up, salted, and chilling right now, just waiting for the real action of canning. I’m making bread and butter pickles, which I realize a lot of people don’t like as much as dills, but it’s a comfort food from childhood for me sometimes. Here’s what you do…
Slice up a bunch of cucumbers and onions. Layer them in a big container with pickling salt and ice and let sit for an hour or two. In a big pot, combine 2 cups sugar, 2 Tbsp mustard seed, 2 tsp turmeric, 2 tsp celery seed, 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp peppercorns, and 3 cups apple cider vinegar. Bring to a boil, then add the rinsed cukes and onions, and return to a boil. Pack into hot canning jars with ¼” headspace, and process in hot water for 10 minutes. The recipe says this makes 7 pints, but I pack in more than 4 pounds of cucumbers when I’m doing it, so I get more jars than that. It sounds a lot easier than it actually is too. That’s a lot of slicing and standing over a hot stove. Thankfully it’s a perfect summer day, yet cool enough for canning.
If you want an easier recipe for dills, buy a jar of pickles that you like. When all the pickles are gone, cut up some cukes, submerge them in the leftover pickle juice, and put in the refrigerator. If you leave them alone for a week or two, they’ll taste like your store-bought pickles. This only works about 1 ½ times, then you have to buy some new pickles and start over, or use this recipe… Cut 8 pounds of cucumbers in half lengthwise. In a pot, combine ½ cup sugar, ½ cup canning salt, 1 quart vinegar, 1 quart water, 3 Tbsp pickling spice, fresh or dry dill. When the mixture is hot and well dissolved, pour over cukes, seal, and put in the fridge.
I’m going to have a lot of pickles next year because I ran out in March this year. That’s completely unacceptable. I’m convinced eating pickles will make you live longer because an old woman told me so. Well, okay, she said a spoonful of apple cider vinegar every day would make you live longer, but I believe in taking artistic license with such advice. It even makes a bit of sense – the vinegar as a tonic anyway. Vinegar is astringent, so swallowing some every day might actually keep your insides clean.
Old people are the best teachers – even if they can’t lift their weight in wild cats any more. I should go back and give that old guy a jar of pickles :)