Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Although I like all of my shows and really look forward to airing them every Monday, this past show held a special place in my heart.
Putting up food against the lean times has been a practice since the beginning of time. Think of the granaries of Egypt when Joseph told Pharaoh to put up the wheat against 7 very lean years.
I think of my own childhood growing up in a home the parents of which grew up during the Great Depression when putting up food was not a quaint hobby practiced in the homes of the leisure class but a necessity against going hungry.
Although we never knew hunger as children, we did eat lots of canned pickles, tomatoes and preserves. I can still see that counter in our basement in Battle Creek, Michigan that was home to jars of homemade dill pickles, peach jam (from out tree in the back yard), tomatoes...
I can still feel the itch on my skin from the fuzz of the peaches we would have to pick, boil and peel.
Like a precious heirloom passed down, this tradition found its way to my sister who picked up the mantle when she moved to the Traverse City area in the northeastern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan. And I caught the bug when I went to visit her and am still infected!
Since she was my special guest on the show Monday, it's only right that I start off with her recipe for Piccalilli.
12 lbs green tomatoes, chopped
2-3 green peppers, chopped
4 onions. chopped
1 cup salt
3 quarts vinegar
4 cups sugar
1 t ground ginger
1 t cinnamon
2 T mustard seed
2T horseradish - or more, to taste (the original recipe called for a full cup - that year I made a quadruple batch to tone it down! We ate piccalilli for years!!)
Layer chopped onions, 1/3 cup salt, chopped peppers, 1/3 cup salt, chopped tomatoes, 1/3 cup salt. Let sit overnight. Drain. Add remaining ingredients and cook until tender, stirring occasionally .Pack the hot piccalilli into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headroom; adjust lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Makes 12 pints.
The picture at the top of the page was taken last year after I had finished canning my year's supply of Bread and Butter Pickles. Don't ask me why they are called that as they have neither bread nor butter in the recipe. I only know that they are the first sweet pickle I ever liked and I have an unnatural phobia about running out of them as happened several years back. For some reason I figured I had enough jars to get me through til summer but then I tend to get generous when complimented on my pickles and other preserves and start handing out jars at the sound of the first "mmmm that's good." It was a sad day when I came home from the market with a jar of store-bought bread and butter pickles. Since then, make them like the devil would snatch my soul away if there weren't enough on the shelf to last at least a year and a half. They are really good even if I do say that myself and I hope you'll give them a go. (Oh, as I stated on my show, you don't need a stone crock to make these. Any large glass or other nonreactive bowl will work just fine. Also, play around with the spices. Add more or different ones. Sometimes I'll throw in some mustard seed.)
Bread and Butter Pickles
2 cups sliced onions
6 quarts sliced cucumbers
1/2 cup salt (table, pickling, kosher... I use sea salt)
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons celery seed
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Mix onions and cucumbers and sprinkle with salt. Let stand over night. Next morning, drain, wash and place in crock (or whatever you're using.) Make a syrup of the vinegar, water, 2 cups of sugar and the spices. Pour over cucumber mixture and let stand over night. (If you have a problem with fruit flies, be sure to cover the container to prevent them from sampling (and drowning in) your pickles. Next morning, drain and add 1/2 cup sugar to pickling syrup. Heat and pour over pickles and let stand over night. The third morning, add 1/2 cup sugar to pickles and cook in large pot for 10 minutes. Pack in hot, sterilized pint jars and process in boiling water bath (completely covering the jars) for 10 minutes.