WHEN MAMA’S MAKING PICKLES, AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD, #21

One morning after breakfast,

Pa brought in a bushel basket

that was filled with plump cucumbers,

though my mama hadn’t asked him.

 

“Well, I guess we’re making pickles”

she smiled and said to me,.

So I brought out her receipt book

for the receipt, so she could see.

 

I fetch the cider vinegar,

Pa carried up the crock,

from the cellar where we store it,

it’s as heavy as a rock;

 

From the garden I bring dill weed

while mama measures pickling spice,

and we both scrub all the cucumbers

to make sure they’re all firm and nice.

 

Mama peels ten cloves of garlic

I bring in water from the well,

And we mix it with the vinegar,

and some salt though who can tell?

 

Then mama puts a layer of cucumbers

in the bottom of the crock,

that we scalded first with water

that mama boiled up in a pot.

 

Then she sprinkles on the spices

and a layer of the dill,

and repeats each of the layers

til the stoneware crock is filled;

 

The brine is then poured over

all the contents of the crock,

and mama puts a  plate inside it

and weighs it firmly with a rock.

 

Then she covers it with a towel

and after three days she starts skimming,

off the foam and makes sure the cukes

stay under ‘stead of swimming,

In three weeks we have pickles and

Pa brings up empty jars

that we scrub and boil in water

by now we both have burns and scars.

 

We put a clove of garlic

and a sprig of dill in each,

We divvy up cucumbers and

then we leach

 

the brine through a piece of cheesecloth

then we fill the jars with brine,

and we cap the jars and boil them

til the pickles come out fine.

 

Oh, its a wondrous thing to see

those jars of pickles in a line

I can’t wait til we start eating them

(I even love the brine!)

 

Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted June 23, 2010

Updated October 10, 2018

Sandra’s foodnote:  This was perhaps the most challenging of the American Childhood series and there remains the question in my mind, whether mama and pa would have kept the pickles in a barrel in the fruit cellar or canned them after 3 weeks of soaking in the brine. Every general store would have had a barel of pickles that you could buy, one at a time.  Possibly mama would have wanted to keep them in a barrel in the fruit cellar and save her canning jars for the more important things that had to be canned.

The general directions I have followed are from a favorite cookbook of mine, “500 Treasured Time Honored tried and true Country Handed Down recipes by Martha Storey and the recipe itself if an old fashioned brined dill pickle recipe.  And the cloves of garlic–they weren’t actually needed until they started canning the pickles.  Mama may have kept them on ice in the ice box.

 

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