24 October 2009

In the Kitchen with Mom (and Pickles)

I have previously mentioned my new-ish love of canning. My whole life, I have appreciated canning because I was fortunate enough to grow up with a mom and grandmother who canned all sorts of concoctions. Homemade grape jelly was only a cupboard away in my childhood. Playing dress-up at my Gramma's house while she and my Mom made quarts upon quarts of applesauce was a regular summer activity. Not to mention the adventure out to the family farm to visit the cows, chase the barn cats and pick the old apple tree clean. Those days were truly some of the best of my childhood. We had jams, chutneys, pickles, jellies, sauces, tomatoes, salsas, just about anything that could be put-up was put-up. I have become so enamored with the old-fashioned notion of putting-food-by that this was my summer of mastering canning. I have an ever-expanding library of cookbooks dedicated to canning and preserving the harvest. My Christmas wish-list is full of pressure canners and other canning cookbooks and cute jars. It is possible, during those long-ago summers, that my Gramma and Mom were creating a little canning monster. It only took 20 or so years for the monster to appear.

This process will be so much easier after my
Mom gets her kitchen remodeled!

I like to think those around me are lucky that monster has appeared. My friends and family have certainly reaped the benefits of my summer past time. But really it has been most beneficial for me. This past summer has been filled with more ups and downs that I know how to put into words. During some of the harder times, canning has cheered me up. I am sure that makes no sense to someone who hasn't fallen in love with canning. When I put a hard day's work into the kitchen, and I come away with jars of food that a loved one can treasure in the coming months, I am fulfilled. I am momentarily distracted from the chaos in my life, and honestly I am just totally proud of myself. Canned goods are a very physical, literal display of my efforts and achievements in the kitchen. Better yet, they are a very physical, literal display of my bond with my Mom.

Thanks to my Mom for modeling the careful
placement of the jars in the canner!
Note the gloves due to the hot peppers.

I would never be as confident with a canner if I hadn't learned from her. I am sure my Mom will laugh when she reads this because she only showed me how to can once (under some serious pressure because her hip had been replaced and she couldn't physically help - only instruct). But that day in the kitchen, and more importantly my entire childhood, taught me what I needed to know. Canning is a scientific process, but it doesn't have to be scary or intimidating. She has given me the confidence in myself to be successful at something that has brought me a tremendous amount of joy. That is a priceless gift.

Mom posing with the canner! I love this picture for a variety of reasons.
The mask cracks me up and the look in my Mom's eyes is just so her.

So a few weeks ago, my Mom and I decided to can pickles together. It was a very, very long day. But it was also a ton of fun! We actually did all of the work together, and I couldn't have asked for a better day with her. Sadly for my Mom, what we pickled she will never eat - a variety of hot peppers that are too spicy for her. But she was a trooper and insisted we keep going even when I was ready to toss out the rest of the pickles because I couldn't face another round of wiping down jars and waiting for water to boil. We were in the kitchen for about 12 hours with only a quick lunch break. We were exhausted but came away with dozens and dozens of jars of Mixed Pickled Peppers (just plain in a vinegar solution) and Spicy Bread and Butter Pickles.

Onions - sliced and ready to be pickled.

If you are unfamiliar with Bread and Butter Pickles, I think they are some of the most delicious homemade pickles on the planet. They are incredibly sweet with a nice oniony flavor accented with mustard seeds. On their own, they are too sweet for me, but on top of a hamburger or tuna sandwich, they are pure heaven.

A pile of peppers preparing to be pickled.

Traditionally, my family makes them with a mixture of cucumbers, bell peppers and onions. I, of course needing to fool with tradition, told my Mom that we needed to substitute hot peppers in for the cucumbers. Not to pat my back or anything, but I am brilliant. The spicy flavor of hot peppers mixed with the sweet vinegary sauce is perfect. To make your own Spicy Bread and Butter Pickles, just follow my lead and substitute hot peppers in for the cucumbers or zucchini in your favorite recipe.

The original Bread and Butter Pickle Recipe -
in my Mom's words and handwriting!

I am submitting this post to Laura of The Spiced Life for October's Family Recipes Blog Event. Laura and Shelby host the event monthly. Be sure to check out Laura's blog for the round up!


a49erfangirl said...

What great memories you have. I have always wanted to learn how to do canning. One of these days I will. I want to start with pickles.

Josie said...

You can learn!!! :) I highly recommend the Ball Blue Book and also the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (I might be butchering the title on that one slightly, but all the Ball canning cookbooks are the best references next to Mom :))

HoneyB said...

Oh Josie, this is an awesome post! I am glad to finally get to "see" your mom! She really touched the hearts of soldiers when she sent her loving note and goodies to them last year.

I love to can but just don't have time since I work full time now and am getting old. ha ha. I did can pickled beets this year though!

Vicci said...

Josie, my Mom showed me how to can many years ago when I was a "new bride". I don't like pickles, but I tried corn (too much work cutting the kernels off the cob) and spaghetti sauce (which I still do). It is so wonderfully satisfying to work like a slave in the kitchen all day, and have rows of beautiful jars to show for it (even better, then, in the middle of winter when you get to open those jars!). :)

Also, I just remembered something you said on a CL thread and I wish that I could shake your hand. Resisting Facebook! Go for it! :D Me, too, but not many others understand how time-sucking and annoying that site really is!!!

Terri said...

Josie - I love canning too, although I haven't done any this year....YET! I feel a round of jalapeno pepper jelly coming soon. Thanks for sharing the pickles - I've never made them, but perhaps I will!

Laura said...

OK next summer you guys are teaching me to can. Period. :)

Lynda said...

What a great post and tribute to your mom! I grew up around canning also, but it just didn't rub off on me- no, I prefer freezing my food. But I loved my Mom's canning, and yes her Bread and butter pickles were heavenly! I guess it's not too late for me to learn!

Amy said...

Josie, this looks awesome! (both the product and the fun you had) I like to can too, although I haven't had the time or the facilities in a few years. My mom always does jam (learned from my dad's mom, which I always thought was a nice cross-family transfer) and I've done chutney too. They make great holiday gifts!! Anyway, mostly I just wanted to say hi and hope you're doing well. Glad you had something to help get you through your rough summer.