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February 2018
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Yesterday for my birthday I’d decided to spend the day clothes shopping with my children.  Abigail loves to shop for clothes, and since she needs school clothes anyway, I thought that would be a great way to spend the day.  I wasn’t disappointed, as we had a great time together, but on the way home I decided to swing by Wagner’s Market in Black Creek to see if they had anything I wanted for dinner.  I can always count on them this time of year to have produce that makes my mouth water.  When we got there, I headed for the garlic, as I was out and needed some, when I spied the large bushels of pickling cucumbers.  They never have those when I’m there.  By the time I get there every day, the pickles have been snagged by the early rising pickle-makers.  I decided it was destiny, and grabbed a half-bushel of cucumbers and a few bunches of dill before heading for home.  The lady who checked me out was also surprised to see that pickling cucumbers were available so late in the day and wished me luck with my pickling.  It was providence.

We got home fairly late, but I was still determined to make some pickles yesterday!  A few years ago I’d made this pickle recipe which we all enjoyed, but last year I tried something different.  Last year I bought pickling mix and was really impressed by it.  Mrs. Wages Kosher Dill Pickle Mix was very impressive for coming out of a package- and that’s what we enjoyed last year.  This year though, since I had all the ingredients on hand, I was determined to make our favorite Kosher Dill Pickles, and really, once you have everything in place, it’s really a matter of assembly, and then waiting for the canner to finish each time.  This recipe also multiplies very easily, so I just went ahead and doubled it each time I put the mix together.  It went fairly quickly, and in the very late hours of the day I was thrilled to see that I’d put up 20 quarts of dill pickles.  I still have enough cucumbers for one more run through the canner, so we’ll see if I get to that today- that will bring my total up to 26 or 27 quarts,  That’s a lot of pickles!

So that begs the question- why do I make pickles?  I’ll tell you, we love pickles and could eat them every day!  This particular recipe is also very reminiscent of the pickles my grandmother used to make.  I remember going to their house and just sitting and eating the pickles that Grandma had made.  She used to pick on me for eating all the pickles, and I remember her telling me that eating too many was going to give me a stomachache.  Grandma is no longer with us, and every year when I make pickles I think of her, because I could just imagine… my grandfather was the gardener, and I could just see her getting annoyed with him when he would announce that it was time to make pickles and drop a few bushel baskets on the table.  Grandma’s basement shelves were literally packed to the max with canning jars of this and that, and I just know that pickle-making was not something she accomplished in just a few hours.  Of course, my grandparents were from an era where if you didn’t can and preserve, you were going to starve during the long winter.  And when I do all this silly stuff like pickling and canning and freezing garden-fresh produce, I can’t help but think of my grandparents and wonder if they would approve.

I’m thrilled to have made some pickles this year.  It was an unexpected find at the farm stand yesterday, and I already know that my Thanksgiving table will be graced by some delicious pickles.  Now if only we can wait a few weeks before trying the first jar…

Kosher Dill Pickles

Yield: 2 to 3 quarts

4 pounds cucumbers, 2-4 inches long
3 1/2 tablespoons pickling salt
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds
3 cups water
3 cups white vinegar
6 bay leaves
6 cloves garlic, peeled
6 fresh dill heads or 1 1/2 tablespoons dill seeds

Wash the cucumbers well and slice off the blossom ends.

Combine the salt, mustard seeds, water and vinegar in a saucepan.  Heat to boiling.

Into each sterilized quart jar, drop 1 bay leaf, 1 clove of garlic, and 1 dill head or 1/2 tablespoon of dill seeds.  Pack the cucumbers into the jars rather snugly.  Top each jar with 1 bay leaf, 1 garlic clove, and 1 dill head.  Carefully, fill the jars with the hot vinegar liquid to 1/2-inch headspace.  Wipe the rims with a warm damp cloth, and then add the lids and rings.  Process in a boiling water bath at 180ºF for 30 minutes.  Pickles will be ready to eat in 2 to 3 weeks, but of course, improve with age.

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