Growing up on a farm with hard-working immigrant parents meant that a large garden was planted every year, and every fruit and vegetable possible was canned or frozen for winter meals. Being the youngest in a large family, I was often tasked with the mundane job of cleaning the vegetables in preparation for canning, and as I recall, usually resenting it.ALOT. At this point in my story, I have no trouble envisioning the eye-rolling and groans of my older siblings as they read this. Poor baby Charlotte! Anyway, back to my story. The harvest of the pickling cukes always coincided with the Abbotsford Airshow weekend, and I recall the roar of the jets overhead, as, white enamel basin at my feet and nail brush in hand, I sat on my Oma’s little wooden stool, sloshing around in the dirty water and scrubbing away the spiny black protrusions on the cucumbers. This was probably after I had finished destemming the gooseberries and red currants and plucking the dried bean pods off the dusty plants, and before I had to go gather eggs in the chicken barn. Just indulge me a moment of self-pity as I reflect, OK? If only I had known the amazing fact my older sister taught me many years later, that it’s possible to wash pickling cucumbers in a top-loading washing machine. Just don’t let it progress to the spin cycle or you’ll be making pickle relish!
Fast forward to 2014, where Farmer Rob and I are enjoying our own homemade preserves inthe winter, (his favorite is canned pears – a task made much more pleasant and efficient when done with a friend) and our son has been diligently planting pickling cukes in our fields, along with dill, beets, beans, squashes, pumpkins and corn. The new varieties of cucumbers have barely a trace of black spines, and growing them on hilled, mulched rows means they’ll be coming off the field cleaner than ever. We’re only a few short weeks away from the start of our cucumber harvest, and I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes for crunchy bread and butter pickles. In my house, they are simply referred to as “Shirley’s Pickles”, as the recipe was passed on to me by, who else, but my good friend Shirley! Her family, as ours did last year, has a marathon pickle making evening every summer with all the adults, and all available rubbermaid containers and ice-cream buckets are utilized for the task. This year I’m putting them in this beautiful one gallon canning jar we’re featuring at the market, which puts a smile on my face every time I open the fridge. This entry-level pickle recipe doesn’t include any canning, so it’s easy enough for even the beginning canner. If you can slice, boil water and pour, you’ve got it!