Labour Day weekend in 1981 I was eight and a half months pregnant. A Farmer’s Market was going to open that fall for a trial run and in spite of being the size of a giant watermelon, I decided to support the venture. On opening day, I trotted off to market with 60 jars of chow chow, dill pickles and spiced beets. Much to my surprise, an hour after the market opened, I was sold out.
On my way home, I bought ten cases of jars, cleaned out my garden (and my neighbour’s.) The following Saturday, I sold out again. Did I dare double the ante? Before I worked out the pros and cons, I was driving home with 20 cases of jars. Only I had no idea where the produce was going to come from.
Meanwhile, son Luke popped into the world September 26th. A few days after I returned home from the hospital, I called farms, roadside stands and wholesalers and rounded up more produce. In between feedings I pickled like a mad woman. On Thanksgiving weekend, I returned to the Farmer’s Market, with 20 cases of pickles and Luke ensconced in a Snuggly. Fast-forward a couple of years and I was producing over 5,000 jars a season to sell at the Yarmouth Farmer’s Market.
Although we stopped commercial production many moons ago, to this day, I love the process. The smells are heady and smack of tradition and goodness. And there’s something cathartic about making pickles, don’t you think?
Of course pickling’s been around since the dawn of time. Cleopatra credited her beauty to eating lots of pickles. And Julius Caesar — believing that pickles increased physical, mental and spiritual prowess — fed pickles to his warriors.
I find it painful to chomp on a store-bought dill pickle — and running out of home made chow-chow would be classified as a mortal sin in my household.
Here are my favourite recipes. Go ahead — give them a try and let me know how you make out. If you have time, send me your favourite pickle recipe!
PS: The last recipe is quite strange as it requires no cooking. Bonus: It’s easy and safe for kids to make.
Sandra’s Chow Chow
Slice 15 lbs. of green tomatoes (around 50) and 10 onions. Place in a big bucket. Add 3/4 cup of coarse salt and let stand overnight. Rinse and drain well.
Add: 4-6 C white vinegar, 8-10 C sugar, pickling spice bag.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer one hour, then remove spice bag.
Dissolve 1/2 C cornstarch, 2 tsp. dry mustard, 2 tsp. curry, 2 tsp. turmeric in a little vinegar. Slowly stir into green tomato and onion mixture. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Stir often. Bottle hot.
10 cukes, 1 cauliflower, 6 onions, 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper, 1 celery, 1 cabbage.
Cut above vegetables in small chunks. (Size of a dime.) Add 4 handfuls of salt, cover with water, and set overnight. Drain well.
Add paste made of: 6 C vinegar, 7 C sugar, 1 1/2 C flour, 2 Tbsp. turmeric, 1/2 C dry mustard, 6 Tbsp. mustard seed, 4 Tbsp. celery seed.
Cook just until ingredients start to boil. Stir often. Bottle hot.
Wash a basket of small cukes. Set in water loaded with ice cubes for 2 to 3 hours. Drain and pat dry. Pack in quart jars. To each jar, add: 1/8 tsp. alum, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 Tbsp. dry dill seed or one head of fresh dill weed. (Note: alum helps to keep the dills crunchy, but optional.)
Boil the following for 5 minutes: 1 quart of cider vinegar, 2 quarts of water, 1/3 cup of coarse salt.
Pour boiling liquid over cukes. Seal.
This wacky recipe resembles a Bread and Butter pickle. I didn’t make these to sell, but I’ve always loved this recipe. You can also make it in the dead of winter with English cucumbers. It’s hard to believe you can freeze a cucumber and have it come out so crunchy!
Thinly slice slender cukes until you have 6 cups. Add 2 large onions—sliced thin and 2 Tbsp. table salt. Mix and let stand 3 hours. Rinse then drain well.
Dissolve 3 C white sugar in 2 C white vinegar. Pour over cukes and onions. Stir. Put into plastic containers and freeze.
All photos @ Sandra Phinney
“Dill Pickles” and “Chow Chow”