Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cukes and More Cukes




Every marriage has funny quirks and mine is no exception. The hubby is making me a little crazy lately with the garden, and I’ve had to think about why it is bothering me so much. Every chance he gets, he runs out there and starts picking stuff. This would be a really great thing if we had a huge garden and I needed some help. But no. We have a small back yard garden that I planted.

The key to my irritation lies in those last two words. I fully acknowledge that he sifted the big pile of compost our friend Sean dropped off, and even spread it on the garden my step-dad Tom created. But I planted the garden, I weeded the garden, I thinned the plants. (I realize I’m starting to sound a little like “The Little Red Hen” and now I know why that was one of my favorite childhood stories.)

For any gardener, the best part of all is the harvest – picking the vegetables you have worked so hard to grow. Guess who picked the first beans? The first tomato before it was even ripe? The first cucumber?

Yep, the hubby. He sneaks out there after work or on weekends, when I’m still hard at work writing, and starts picking. It reminds me of my short crossword puzzle craze. Our son Tommy got a 1000 piece puzzle that we all started together. Tommy quickly grew bored and Steve eventually turned on the TV. But I was obsessed. All that night and most of the next day. I just kept thinking, “one more piece,” until suddenly it was late afternoon and I hadn’t even showered.

With only a small circle in the center to go, about 50 of the easiest pieces, I took a shower and then went to the store to get something for dinner. When I got back, Steve had finished the puzzle. Kind of infuriating.

But last weekend I was on to him. When he disappeared, I went out back and found him in the garden and deadlines be damned, picked right alongside him. The cucumbers have become our biggest bumper crop, so we are experimenting with pickles - lots of pickles, because really how much gazpacho can you make?

First Steve made a big jar of Polish Pickles using my Grandpa Palmer’s recipe in my Mom's Cookbook. You can get one of these big jars at any local restaurant. Just ask the chef to save you one, and most chefs are intrigued enough that they will. That was his project and I handed him the cookbook and let him have at it.

Then I made bread and butter pickles and dilly beans. Both recipes came from the Ball Blue Book. This project is not for the faint of heart. At the end of the day I looked at the four pints of dilly beans and four pints of bread and butter pickles and laughed. All that work – so little to show for it.



And yet…so much, too.

The Recipes:

Grandpa Palmer’s Polish Pickles

6 cups water
2 cups white vinegar
6 tablespoons non-iodized salt
Four dill heads (or large sprigs of dill)
4 garlic cloves
2 grape leaves
2 tablespoons pickling spice

In a one gallon jar, place the dill, garlic, grape leaves and pickling spice. Pack the jar full to the top with cucumbers. Bring water, vinegar and salt to a boil and pour over the top. Let pickles sit on the counter for three days and then refrigerate.

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