Many families make pickling a summertime tradition. It’s the best way I know to hold onto summer—or at least what the season brings to the garden. While sunburns fade and sand gets washed from between your toes, the tastes of summer can remain safely sealed away in the pantry for a cold and rainy day.
In a Pickle
My momma didn’t do a whole bunch of canning herself, but my grandmother sure did. She pickled everything that sat still long enough. I think she wanted to pickle my granddaddy a time or two if only she had the jar to hold him! With all that practice, it’s not surprising that my grandmother made the best pickles—perfectly tart and crunchy. We’d spend an entire day making ‘em together, sweating in a hot kitchen over boilin’ jars, the strong scent of vinegar burning our noses.
Unfortunately, I don’t have too much time for that kind of canning anymore. Entire days to myself are scarce as hen’s teeth, so I prefer a quick-canning method that works real well. Besides, even if I did manage to carve out some peace and quiet, it wouldn’t last long. My house is a revolving door of friends and family—grandkids wanting to swim in the pool, my sons wanting something from my garden, or Aunt Peggy wanting to make sure I haven’t gone completely off my rocker with all this running around. But the truth is, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wasted too many years holed up in my house, afraid of the people and the world around me. I think I’ve more than had my fill of alone time, y’all. Today, I realize that my friends and family are a blessing and that every moment we have together is a gift.
I was reminded of this when my daughter-in-love Michelle and her son Henry stopped by. Oh my goodness, Henry is so precious. He’s the happiest baby, and so curious about everything. He immediately wanted to get in on the canning action. He dropped okra into jars while his mom and I supervised, just like my grandmother did when I was little. He loved all the colorful jars filled with bright fruits and vegetables, and he’d scrunch his little face up every time he smelled vinegar.
Aunt Peggy’s ears must’ve been burning, because she showed up not ten minutes later. Not one to watch someone else do all the work—or have all the fun—Aunt Peggy dove right in, slicing up cucumbers and stuffing peppers into jars. The four of us worked all afternoon, pickling whatever we could get our hands on simply because we didn’t want our time together to end. By the time we finally ran out of produce, I had so many jars that I was more than grateful to pass some along to Michelle and Aunt Peggy.
Sure, cooking is my job, but it’s also the thing that continues to bring my family together even to this day. We share stories, memories and laughs in the kitchen. We had so much fun that afternoon, playing our pick-up game of pickling. For me, it was just another ordinary—or rather, extraordinary—day of cooking and family.