Tuesday, September 20, 2016

In a Pickle

By Jeff Burns

Pickling is one of the oldest methods used by humans to preserve foods, dating back 4,000 years. Practically any vegetable can be pickled using vinegar and spices, and has been in one culture or another.  Pickle lovers have their own favorite vegetables and preparations, kosher, dill, bread and butter, sweet, hot, just to name a few.

One of my personal favorites stems from my own childhood memories.  Every summer, my Aunt Juanita would make her sweet pickles.  When they were ready, she would visit and bring us a jar or two or call to let us know, and I would my bike to her house to pick them up. My family frequently got together with friends and family during the year for fish frys, barbecues, oyster roasts, and the like, and Aunt Juanita’s pickles were always a great accompaniment.  My mother tried her own version from time to time, and they were good, but we all know some things that just don’t taste the same when somebody else makes them.

Aunt Juanita passed away a couple of years ago, and, for a few years before, she suffered from dementia, so it’s been quite a while since she made pickles.  However, I am very fortunate that , years before becoming ill, she wrote the recipe down for me.  It’s a simple recipe, and an old one.  My cousin told me that Aunt Juanita got it from her Appalachian in-laws years and years ago.  She always called them 7 day pickles or sweet pickles, and I’ve found similar recipes online called Amish pickles or 7 day pickles, so I’m not really sure of the origin. I make the pickles nearly every summer, and if I say so myself, they’re pretty good and extremely close to my memories of hers. The handwritten recipe is also a treasure, since I don’t have much of anything in the way of handwriting from my parents, grandparents, and other relatives.

I put the cucumbers in a big pot, and the actual process only takes a few minutes each morning. (It does require a huge amount sugar, however.) With this batch I added a couple of squash and onions as well.  I have also added jalapenos in some batches to make a sweet and hot variety too.

We’ve also pickled some beans, radishes, and zucchinis this summer.

Like pickles? Find a recipe and give it a try.  This is about more than making pickles though.  Think about the great recipes within your own family.  Seek them out and learn them now from the family members who make them, before it’s too late.