It’s Summer. It’s hot and some of my favorite vegetables are in season: okra, shishito peppers, and tomatoes. Watermelon (yes, I realize this is a fruit) and cucumbers are runners up and with cucumbers means PICKLES!
I’ve been waiting since January, when I finished my last jar of bread and butter pickles, for cucumbers to make their come back. I made sure to get some at the HOPE Farmer’s Market from Johnson’s Backyard Garden this weekend.
I spent Sunday afternoon slicing, packing, and brining these crisp cucumbers. I still use the recipe Grandmother, Nettie, gave me. It’s still on the same piece of paper she typed it up on her typewriter eight years ago. My Grandmother passed away a few years ago and my family is delighted that her recipe was passed on.
About few year ago, I discovered canning. I can hear it now… you are gasping! “How could you discover canning?!” or even, “It can’t be, no!” It is true, I truly discovered canning. I discovered how truly amazing it is. I had previously heard tales of canning from my grandmother or as an urban myth from Martha Stewart, not ever really believing that it ever really existed. A bit nieve. At the time, I thought it was something my grandmother and her sisters and mothers before did to preserve their hard-earned harvest and seasonal crops. In a time where technology was just evolving (picture horse and buggy, dirt roads, gas lanterns, etc.) Women were born already knowing how to sew, clean, butcher a chicken, and, yes, can.
Myself, I am not a grandmother and I certainly did not know how to can from birth, but I can tell you my grandmother is an inspiration. Nettie Imhoff. What a woman. Born and raised in Texas. Really… what a woman.
I was baffled the first time she came to the Paisley’s Farmstand and asked for all of their day old pickling cucumbers. What on earth was she going to do with 10 plus pounds of cucumbers?! “Make Bread & Butter Pickles,” she said so matter of factly, that I didn’t dare question her.
Weeks later when I was living in a tiny, second story apartment in the heart of downtown Boston I received a package from my Nana. Low and behold, I found what you can do with ten pounds of cucumbers. As a foodie, at the time and even now, I am ashamed to say I didn’t like pickles. Hated them. If you know my grandmother, you kn0w can’t turn down her food or else lightening will strike you where you stand. I remember squeamishly opened the jar, pop! Dipping my fingers in the vinegar, pinching a slice between my fingertips, closing my eyes, and throwing it into my mouth. I didn’t believe it! It was the most delectable thing I had ever had. I requested that I receive the packages as often as she could send them, if not sooner. I tried to make them last, but I couldn’t. I scowered every grocery and specialty store in the city to find a pickle that could keep me satisfied between batches and seasons. Nothing.
Years later of just settling with a store bought pickle, I still cringe at the thought, I finally asked my Nana for her secret recipe. An email later, I began my canning endeavors. Through trial and error, keeping my fingers crossed, a little bit more bread, and a little bit more butter and now I send my Nana her package of Nettie’s Bread & Butter Pickles.