Thursday, September 3, 2009

Square 54: Dill pickles

The first time I took my daughters to St. Jacobs Market, Brenna was about seven years old. After browsing around the tables of baubles and goodies for a while, it was time to get a snack, so we shouldered our way through the crowded food court. I recommended the apple fritters, and the girls agreed. But beside the place where we bought juice was a booth where you could buy a huge dill pickle on a stick. Brenna eyed those, but didn't say anything.

A while later as we were getting ready to leave, Brenna said, "Next time, I'll get a pickle on a stick."

I realized she thought that since Marian and I wanted apple fritters it would be too much trouble to go to the other booth, so I said, "You can have a pickle, too."

I will never forget the way her face lit up. It was as if I had opened a door to all the treasures of the world. I doubt anything can give me greater joy than to see one of my children take utter delight in a simple thing. We went back to the booth, and she spent the drive back to Guelph happily devouring that giant pickle.

I didn't like dill pickles when I was little. It was something I had to grow into, and after making them as gifts for family members I came to appreciate them.

Now I love them, and since Brenna likes them, too, we can have fun making them together. So I have come full circle from the story about making jams with my mother to making pickles with my daughter. When she visited me a few days ago we spent a super evening packing cucumbers into jars. Brenna says she wants a garden and canning equipment of her own some day, so she can carry on the tradition. I hope she will pass the knowledge of this family custom to her children.

Dill Pickles

  • 3 quarts medium-sized pickling cucumbers
  • whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • fresh dill heads
  • mixed pickling spice
  • dried whole chili peppers
  • 3 cups distilled water
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons sea salt

Sterilize jars and lids for 3 quarts or 6 pints.

Scrub the cucumbers and pack into sterilized jars. For each pint also add a dill flower head, a clove of garlic, 1½ teaspoons of pickling spice, and a dried chili.

Bring water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Add the brine to the jars to a quarter inch from the top. Seal.

These jars must be processed in a boiling water bath in a canning kettle, about 15 minutes for quart jars and 8 minutes for pint jars. After the jars cool, check the seals. If a jar does not seal properly it must be stored in the fridge and used promptly.

The pickles are best stored for six weeks to let the flavours blend before use.

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