Thursday, August 11, 2011

(Re)-Discovering Pickles

Five years ago when I asked a fellow co-worker in cubicle-land if she had a salsa recipe she liked (she was South American, it was worth a try), she looked at me like I was from Mars and said ‘wrong generation’. How right she was.

Yesterday I went into Ye Huge Book Store and noted in the food section (where I often lurk to find like-minded folks writing about their experiences) that there is a very prominent wave of books on food storage, canning, pickling, fermenting, drying, smoking, root cellaring etc. that wasn’t there the last time I checked. And so I gather this is a trend of sorts now.

Funny that.

Recently I was blessed with an ‘extra’ bushel of cucumbers and decided to soak them in salt brine for some kind of pickle/relish thing. To date I have never enjoyed the pickles I make. So I still buy them for hamburgers or potato salads or whatever else I like to put pickles in. My relish has been reasonable but I think it would be difficult to go wrong with that.

So I did what every girl would do in my situation and emailed my mother-in-law. She immediately got in touch with her friend who had THE Granny Pickle recipe and a new process in my kitchen was born. Honestly, I had tried this recipe before without success (I think I used the wrong variety of cucumber). Note that they are called ‘Granny’ Pickles. It is because we have been prone to passing these kinds of recipes down from generation to generation. But as my colleague so aptly pointed out – we recently skipped a generation with these processes entirely.

It seems the last true universal ‘western’ effort to can foods was in the 70s when there was a movement back to the land. Since then, I suppose women and men on our continent have been prioritizing family, building big, huge houses, paying off the vehicles in their driveway and doing frivolous things like getting higher education or being CEO of companies. We traded our pickles for a better life, didn’t we?

Or did we?

It seemed to make a tonne of sense to quit with the pickling business when you could buy perfectly good pickles for a couple of dollars in the grocery store. At least, it always seemed that way to me. This was true until I started reading labels, anyway.

Then enter a bushel of ‘ugly’ cucumbers that we need to use or they will go to waste. Necessity is the mother of invention. Or shall we say the Granny of invention seeing as how she was the last one to bother making pickles.

Firstly, don’t you find it funny that us ‘hip-to-be-a-housewife’ types are writing books and blogging about our excellent food preserving methods LIKE WE ARE THE ONES WHO INVENTED IT? This stuff is not new folks. These techniques are ancient. And we are the idiots that deliberately let these skills go in one relatively short window of time.

I honestly believe that we all thought we could go on forever getting Bicks to make our pickles. I don’t think it ever dawned on anybody that we’d have to go back. Progress is progress. Nobody wants to go backwards, right?

So I have this huge mass of cut up cucumbers soaking in vinegar on my counter now. The recipe calls for some sort of rinsing, boiling, vinegar adding, sugar addition every day for ten days. Or more, I lost count now because I’m not so very good at following instructions. This is how new recipes are born I hope.

So if you want my Granny Pickle recipe, I will gladly share it but first should check with its ‘owner’. I’m not sure if there is a patent out on it or not.

And maybe someday when I get this figured my daughter will yank out the recipe for her daughter and show her exactly how her Granny did it. That would be me.


  1. I tried dills once and they were gross...apparently, the way to get the "crunch" is to add alum, aka aluminum, which is of course linked to all kinds of illnesses...hope to one day make good ones! Haven't tried in a long time.
    I'm about a 10 minute drive from Mink Lake!

  2. Funny - we were almost neighbours. The farm we looked at was so beautiful - maple sugar bush, lake access, big white house on Snodrifter. Incredible. I will try alum (I have to admit that I ignored that in the recipe cause I didn't have it. The aluminum thing is scary.

  3. Yikes, that's very scary. I think I find out about a new "food" every day that I should stop eating. Would love to hear the recipe if the owner's willing to share. I have never tried canning anything, but I'm hoping to invite my mother-in-law for a visit one day to teach me. She's an expert!


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