“Prepare 100 pickles…

the size of your finger.” pickle recipe So begins my maternal grandmother’s recipe for sweet pickles that take ten days in a crock with daily attention before canning.  It’s raining again today (over 7″ since Thursday) so rather than gardening I’m thinking and remembering.  Throughout childhood, I spent a week every summer, and dinner once a month on Sunday at my grandparents, yet I can’t remember any foods or special dishes there except sweet pickles and a date pudding with a syrup one Christmas.  My grandmother was an abysmal cook, but she made terrific sweet pickles.  For my bridal shower recipe book, I requested grandmother’s recipes for sweet pickles (shown above) and the date pudding.  I cherish both, because she passed away shortly after my wedding. crock I chose grandma’s 4 gallon pickle crock shown here as my memory gift, although these days it sits by a rocker holding gardening magazines and seed catalogs rather than brine.

I haven’t made those sweet pickles since my homesteading days, because there are never 100 cucumbers the size of my finger.  The potager’s first year, heirloom “Parisian” cucumbers were planted on one trellis because they were touted as being perfect, tiny cucumbers for cornichons.  They are indeed, but they don’t have the same texture or shape as grandma’s and one trellis was definitely not enough.  Last year, I tried “Homemade Pickles” which were touted as disease resistant, and were okay shape-wise, but there weren’t even enough for a half-batch before the vines succumbed to some disease.  This year I was determined to succeed and planted “Calypso.”  Cuke finger  These are lovely little finger-sized cucumbers, although it appears this year will be another failure.  The first planting produced very few before dying, and now some leaves of the second crop which looked so promising are wilting.  This year, the squash bugs are more abundant than ever in memory, the young ones with their ghostly round bodies and black eyelash legs like spiders.  Whenever I see them (and it’s always a them, never a lone individual) a vision of silly little animated Disney-imagined characters fills my mind.  I can almost hear them singing.  I can’t tell you how many I have literally squashed. cucumber beetle Add to that armies of spotted cucumber beetles, notorious disease carriers every one.  I captured this one swimming in one of the many puddles surrounding the raised bed where the cucumbers are growing.  I didn’t even think about throwing him a life jacket.  And I won’t even discuss squash borers.

So, I’ve been sitting here, watching the rain and feeling glum because I can’t grow, let alone “pick 100 cucumbers the size of my finger” until I suddenly realized I also don’t remember my grandmother ever, ever having a garden!  Not even a tiny plot or container of lettuce!  Which is probably why it says “prepare 100 pickles the size of your finger.”  No reason at all to feel guilty about not being able to pick them!  I think I’ll be visiting the farmers’ market!

About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
This entry was posted in Cucumbers, Memories, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to “Prepare 100 pickles…

  1. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat! After years of struggling with onions which did not dry properly and carrots which germinated eratically before getting fly I listened to my friend Phil who grows a few onions for summer and early autumn (fall) use but mostly leeks for winter and who told me that carrots like a flat windy field not my sheltered, damp hilly garden! Thank goodness for market gardens and produce markets!

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    • carolee says:

      Aren’t we fortunate to be able to grow what we can, and purchase what doesn’t thrive in our own gardens from fellow farmers? I think I will always have the urge to TRY to grow all my own, but I need to learn that failure to grow cucumbers does NOT mean I can’t make my grandmother’s sweet pickles! You’d think I’d have learned that long ago!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Katie says:

    I can hardly even read the words squash bugs. All my pumpkins are gone. I pulled the plants… and then sprayed them, out of spite. I had resigned myself to going pumpkin free, but I think I’m okay with just buying some in a month or so.

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  3. bcparkison says:

    Oh how funny. 100 cuks but no garden? She must have had a slew of friends who had a garden all coming in at the same time. I love homemade pickles and over the years,a long time ago, have made a slew of them. Sweet, bread and butter and fresh dill. Oh goodness…now I’m hungry for a jar of pickles. 7″ of rain!…we could use more but that’s more than enough.

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    • carolee says:

      And we got another 1 1/2″ this morning!!! It’s funny that her not having a garden at all never occurred to me before!!! As my mother is aging, I find myself trying to remember more about her mother….they were so different! My mother is a work-aholic and always has been. I remember my grandmother as not doing much of anything except nap a lot….but she’d raised 8 children. Maybe she was just worn out!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mala Burt says:

    I am thinking more and more about the farmer’s market. At age 75 I still am very active, but this year is the third year the tomatoes haven’t been great. Just a few at a time so its hard to can sauce. I have a very small freezer so can’t store them up. Last week I bought a 25 lb box of Roma’s for $12 at the Farmers market and made sauce over the weekend. I asked for another box this coming Saturday. That will be enough for the two of us for a year. It made me wonder why I keep bothering to TRY and grow my own produce.

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    • carolee says:

      It does provide material to ponder! My cucumbers and melons have been really poor this year, and I’ve passed gorgeous stacks of both at roadside stands as I take my husband to physical therapy. That’s a great price for those Romas..and I bet every one was perfect! Not so much in the garden. With continuing rain there are more tomatoes splitting before they are close to ripe. I see another batch of “Disaster Chutney” in my future…which is making lemonade out of lemons. It is really tasty!

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  5. janesmudgeegarden says:

    Goodness, all those beetles are a terrible problem. I don’t know if we get them here. I have almost given up growing tomatoes though, because we get Queensland fruit fly, and without a lot of spraying or some kind of exclusion net it’s impossible. It’s a shame though, because home grown tomatoes have the best taste.

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  6. Robin says:

    I love your story!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. marzipandamonium says:

    Your grandmother’s handwritten recipe looks so familiar to me, I used to love going through my grandma’s recipe box when she was still alive. What a great story, and a perfect use for her crock.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderful story! I wonder where your grandmother got her cucumbers? Some kind friend who had an abundance?

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    • carolee says:

      I’m wondering if it was her mother-in-law…now THAT woman was a worker. Was milking cows alone when a storm came through that collapsed the barn over her. She was buried between two cows for two days before neighboring farmers were able to get her out! She was tiny, but plucky and never still even in my childhood memories.

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      • Mala Burt says:

        Wow. Now that’s a story to retell at Thanksgiving dinner. Which in my family is when all the old stories are trotted out.

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      • carolee says:

        One of the reasons I wrote my first book was to capture some of the old family stories for my grandchildren, and someday great, and great-great. So, I included them as part of the “heroine’s” story.

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      • As we would say in Maine… wowsah, that is some grandmother you had. It seems to me that you are quite a worker, too. Perhaps you take after your grandmother?

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I love that you have her recipe in her hand, and also her pickle crock. So very special!

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