Today, I am making pickles. The cucumbers are currently soaking in ice and salt with some onions. I've got all of the jars and tubs of water set up and ready to go at 3:00, when they hit the milestone of 3 hours.
Now, I've never made pickles. In fact, I've never canned anything: not jelly, not tomatoes, nothing. However, part of this experience on Orcas Island involves my small fanstasy of homesteading. I have this romantic idea that the best life would be a life lived on a farm that provides just enough for what I would need to live. Then the work that I did would be directly responsible for my life. I like the romanticism of the simplicity involved in that. So, I figure I should at least can something if I want to continue clinging to that fantasy.
So, I've read three different books on the subject, including the Ball Blue Book that Jeff's mom gave me for Christmas. Jeff has at least a semblance of all the right equipment. Also, I have Grandma Murphy's recipe for bread-and-butter pickles, a recipe that my entire extended family goes ga-ga for. It was fun getting the recipe; I got to spend some time catching up with my Aunt Barbara because Grandma wasn't home when I called and then when I called again, she was just walking in the door after picking up my cousin Mary Emma from kindergarten. Mary Emma is actually my cousin's daughter and she goes to the same elementary school that my dad went to. I talked to her a little bit while Grandma looked for the recipe. Oral tradition is a fantastic thing.
However, upon looking at the recipe that Grandma gave me, I totally get why her family likes it: it's got a rediculous amount of sugar! Most recipes for bread-and-butter pickles have anywhere from 2.5 cups of sugar to 4 cups. Grandma puts 5 cups of sugar for 5 pounds of cucumbers. Ack! These should be yummy.
The only thing I'm worried about is that I didn't necessarily have pickling cucumbers. I'm using cucumbers that I've gotten from the local farmers and as gifts. Apparently, if you use salad cucumbers, the skin is too tough. We'll see. I'm not really into conformity anyway. The books' devotion to following the instructions just mean that the books were written by squares, right? Spending the day practicing the motions of canning, while listening to Stevie Wonder's Song From The Key of Life, is enough of a soul experience for me, even if the end product does come out a little funky.
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