When I originally wrote this article about pickling in 2018, we were in the depths of cucumber chaos. Not so much this year, though. The exorbitant amounts of rain surely allowed for a lot of foliage in the garden, but not enough sunshine to make those cute little cuke-y blooms turn into future pickles. The beets were unhappy and the tomatoes were water logged, but we had a record year of cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. To put it bluntly, it’s been pretty darn farty in the Beckman household as we run around bewildered, wondering what we ate, like it’s such a big surprise.
So the following blog was written when I was in the depths of power pickling in 2018, yet the story behind it rings true any year that I get a huge harvest that is deserving of pickling, canning, blanching and freezing. Ironically, when Alexander came home from university this spring, he hammered away hard at the pickles, ensuring that he put at least two in his lunch every day as well as snacking on them whenever he could.
If you want to know what my recipe is for the pickles that makes my kid go bonkers, head over to my resource library. It’s tucked away in there for you. Yum!
He loves his mama’s pickles, but was surprised when I told him to appreciate what he has because the cukes are not coming along this year like they usually do. In between bites, he gulped in shock. He’s a good Ukrainian boy that loves his pickles. I’ll make a farmer out of him yet. But this year he’ll just have to be satisfied with the measly six jars of pickled beets I managed to make and the copious amounts of sauerkraut that is coming our way when he comes home for Christmas.
So without further ado, I present to you the possibilities and problems with picklin’ pickles….
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What I am about to say is probably considered blasphemously un-Polish/Ukrainian, as is my heritage, but I can only speak the adamant truth when I say I AM COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY DONE WITH PICKLING! I HAVE HAD IT! As soon as the cucumber vines start to transform those pretty little blooms into little pickles in waiting, the game begins. You want to be sure to pick them at just the right time, but it’s never enough to get a good jar of pickles, and who the heck is going to go through the work one has to go through when canning, to just make ONE JAR OF PICKLES?! So, you pick them and hope they stay crisp enough in the fridge for more to grow to their pickling potential.
Then there are always the monster cucumbers that you miss in the garden, that somehow in their gargantuaness, were capable of hiding under one leaf. Those ones always turn into pickle spears or slices. You finally get enough to fill a good amount of jars and there’s something missing from the equation, whether it’s canning lids, pickling salt, pincherry leaves, or fresh garlic. Perhaps it is the dill heads that have slowly turned brown as they impatiently wait for the darn cucumbers to be proper pickle size.
(Crazily, this year, I did not plant a single dill seed, but you would never have known it from my gardens. Those suckers got so thick in my garden beds that they were starting to block my other plants from getting the mediocre amount of sunlight we had this year.) Alas, there’s always something that makes one drive all over town hoping to find whatever is missing from the canning equation or put a desperate plea on Facebook in the hopes that someone can meet your picklin’ needs in a pinch.
It makes me swear out loud in my mother-tongue and when one swears in Ukrainian – watch out. It usually means something like, “May lightning strike your cow’s head” and other expletives that are too heinous to be shared in this blog. It’s serious stuff. And my husband, being the morning bird that he is, joyously loves to peruse the gardens every morning; watering them and watching as everything delightfully grows. It takes everything in my power to not share said Ukrainian expletives with him when he drops another cucumber on the counter with the smile of a child that just got a lollipop at the five and dime store. He is completely tickled. But then he goes to work and I am left with this little green beast that has the potential to consume hours of my time.
Why do it then, Rhonda? Why suffer? Because, as I just said; I am Ukrainian.
Do you know what it means to me to be Ukrainian? It means that food and everything that has to do with the growing and storing of food is a genetically inherent part of who I am. In the 30’s, there was a cultural genocide in the Ukraine called Holodomor, which translates to “kill by starvation” where millions of my people were being starved into submission by Stalin, who wanted to decimate the Ukrainian culture. These were people that had fields and fields of wheat and not one grain of it could be eaten, (by harvest or theft) or risk being killed on the spot. Any spot of food was removed from their homes, under the guise of communism. The Ukrainians were to be given specific amounts of rations but they never came. Jump to almost 100 years later, and that experience becomes genetically fused into the Ukrainian body and soul. We want to reap from our lush gardens. We want to preserve every morsel we can and ensure that we definitely would have what it takes to survive Holodomor. And we share. We share with others to ensure that nobody is ever hungry again.
It brings me to my great Auntie Mary’s kitchen in Thunder Bay, where one could drop in for a visit unnoticed and about 10 minutes later, have at least a half dozen of my cousins sitting at the table with us as we eat kielbasa (we pronounce it KOO-BUH-SAW), cheese, buttered fresh buns, and of course, pickles. Auntie Mary’s pickles…..they are absolutely the best and I like making them because it skips the boiled water canning process. They are a fermented pickle that make your lips pucker in happiness and salty n’ garlic-y goodness. I have a delicious pickle recipe in my resource library for you to check out too! (Please make sure to read the disclaimer when you’re there, ok?)
So yes, by the time the canning season is over, I’m ready to hang up the tea towel, but this tradition is steeped in history, family connection and culture for me. I have to remind myself of that as I go through minor pickling problems, and thank my lucky stars that if this is all I have to complain about, then I truly am a lucky Ukrainian with a cold room full of pickles to enjoy for more than one winter for sure. (Except for this year, because my son ate them all.)
I am leaving you with this deeeeelicious dill pickle and cheese recipe. You just HAVE to try it! Please keep in mind that as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
DILL PICKLE AND CHEESE DIP
Nothing in this recipe is measured. Just wing it and taste as you go!
- sour cream
- ranch dressing
- cream cheese
- shredded mozzarella cheese
- vegetable soup broth seasoning
- garlic dill pickles
- a little bit of pickle juice
- fresh or frozen dill
Blend it all together using a food processor . Taste and alter to your liking.