Pickle making week has become a family tradition

Published 10:33 am Friday, June 21, 2013

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. ~ Henry Ford 

This coming weekend starts Pickle Week at the Minetree household. Yes, we plan an entire week to make pickles and it has become quite the tradition. What started out as just a weekend when my sister and I decided it was time to learn how to make pickles and because Mom didn’t want to do it any more by herself in the hot kitchen; has now turned into a full-fledged production. My cousin’s wife has been onboard the past three years and last year we made a record 254 pints of pickles.

We do the traditional sweet crisp variety, where you soak them in lime, rinse, soak, rinse, soak, rinse and cook, which takes several days for each batch. We also do bread and butter pickles, which are not as labor intensive.

This year I’m very bummed because I’m not going to be able to help as much, as I’ll be working. But my sister and cousin insist they’ll take up the slack.

My sister takes an entire week of vacation for this get-together and I used to take at least three days of vacation as well. While there is effort involved, it is also fun. It gives us a chance to talk and laugh, reminisce about family and all the time we’re committing to memory the time-honored tradition of canning. We are making something wonderfully delicious.

I know around this area a lot of people still make pickles and can vegetables and make jams and jellies, as it is just a way of life. This is a good thing. I sometimes fear that these traditions of preserving what we grow are fading and one day it will not be a part of the American psyche.

We have fun in the steamy kitchen and crank up the fans. We get an assembly line going for all aspects of the job. We each get cutting boards and slice the cucumbers (grown locally) and fill up big tubs. We take turns doing various tasks. When it’s time to put the pickles in the jars, one of us will dip the pickles out to put in the jars, one will fish out the boiled lids and rings to place on the jar and the other will wipe the jar down, tighten the ring and set the jar aside. When we start hearing the telltale “pop” signifying the jar has sealed we all get excited.

Mom is the overseer of this production and Dad is the official taste tester.

At the end of the week, we divide up the pints four ways. We all use our take of the goods to give away as gifts. My friends have come to expect pickles as their Christmas presents and it sure makes it easy on me not to have to shop and make decisions about what to give people. I’ve mailed these pickles to Chicago and Florida over the years. I just take a little bubble wrap and secure them tightly in a box. We also keep a stash to serve for meals, especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every year we say “these are the best batch,” but in reality they are all yummy.

Making pickles has sparked a few jokes from my friends and a nickname or two, but the carrying on of a tradition makes it all worth every minute.

“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.” ~ Pat Conroy

LUCY WALLACE is managing editor of The Tidewater News. Her email address is lucy.wallace@tidewaternews.com