In a Pickle
Not surprising to the Van Liere's in my family, the phrase has Dutch origins. Growing up, I'm sure I must have heard my grandmother utter "in de pekel zitten!", deferring to her native language when frustrated, which was often with so many grandchildren running around. The phrase supposedly has two meanings - to be in a difficult situation or to be drunk. I'm pretty sure my grandmother would have been referring to the first meaning, which alludes to the idea of being mixed up and disoriented in a packed jar of pickles.
Ironically, today I find myself in a bit of a pickle with my garden overflowing with more cucumbers than we can possibly consume. So what to do? Make pickles of course! I would think this situation could well explain the use of this phrase. Canning also reminds me of my grandmother. She canned everything my grandfather grew in his garden for us to enjoy year-round and she made the best bread and butter pickles! Over the past few years, I've been trying to perfect my recipe to match hers. I've tried several different variations though I think this one comes the closest.
Grandma's Bread and Butter Pickles
Use fresh crunchy cucumbers. Any variety will do but I prefer pickling or english cucumbers. The key is that they are all around the same size. During processing, each piece of produce should be heated to the same degree If the pieces vary too much in size, smaller pieces will soften and the larger pieces may not be heated sufficiently for canning.
10 cups cucumbers, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pickling or canning salt
3 cups white vinegar
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
1. In a glass or stainless steel bowl, combine cucumbers, onions and salt. Mix well, cover with cold water and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours. Transfer to a colander placed over a sink, rinse with cool running water and drain thoroughly. Though it's not necessary, I find that letting the cucumbers sit overnight, either in the colander or in a single layer on cookie sheets lined with paper towels, results in crunchier pickles.
2. Meanwhile, sterilize clean canning jars by boiling for 10 minutes. If you plan to preserve the pickles, do this right before filling the canning jars so that they are hot when filled.
3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and tumeric. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Stir in vegetables and return to a boil for ONE minute. Using a colander, drain the liquid into another stainless steel or glass bowl.
4. Pack the vegetables into hot jars to within generous 1/2 inch to top of jar. Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover vegetables, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Gently room air bubbles with (I use handle portion of small spoon to push down the vegetables). Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band on tight. At this point, you can refrigerate or can the pickles. Refrigerated pickles will last for up to 3 months. Regardless, let stand at least 24 hours in the fridge before serving. For best results, allow pickles to marinade in refrigerator for a week to allow flavor to fully develop.
5. If canning, place jars in canner, ensuring they are fully covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.
This Week's Flower Share
Our zinnias have arrived in full force and are the focus of this week's flower share. The tropical colors will brighten anyone's day! The bouquet shown here is an example of this week's share. In addition to zinnias, the bouquet includes celosia, scabiosa, aster, snapdragons and love in a puff. Each bouquet is individually and uniquely assembled.
Follow these instructions for optimal vase life of your flower share:
Upon arrival, immediately put flowers in fresh water along with provided flower food. You do not need to recut stems on day of arrival because they will already have been cut that day, unless you want to for arrangement purposes.
Trim at least a 1/2 inch from the bottom of stems and completely replace water every other day.
Keep flowers away from heat and bright light.
Do not place flowers near fresh fruit. Fresh fruit emits Ethylene, a plant hormone, as it ripens which also causes the flowers to drop their petals, thinking that it is time for them to seed or fruit.
This Week's Produce Share
Homemade Bread & Butter Pickles
Orange Cherry Tomatoes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
9 tablespoons cold butter
1/3 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 cups fresh blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. For the dough, mix the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter until it is a course, crumbly texture. Pour in the boiling water and stir well so that all of the dough is wet. Set aside.
3. To make the filling, dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water. Add the berries to a large, deep cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the cornstarch, lemon juice, and sugar to the pan and stir well.
4. Heat mixture over medium heat until boiling, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
5. Drop pieces of dough over the berry mixture and place cast iron skillet on a foil lined cookie sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and the berries are thick and bubbly.
6. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream.
Note: If you don't have a cast iron skillet, you can cook the berries in a saucepan and bake in a 9x9 baking dish.