In A Pickle

Well, Im not really in a pickle, but its the catchiest phrase about pickles out there. About a month ago, it was jam making time–but now tis the season of canning and pickling! Throughout the busy-ness of a summer of farming, Amanda, the other interns and I would lament every once in awhile about the dissonance between our intense relationship with growing food and the lack of energy we had to spend quality time in the kitchen actually preparing meals. With that said, we didn’t starve or consume all of our food via the microwave and ramen noodles. All of us did get to chop, toss, saute, puree and steam much more than the average twenty somethings out there…but we have special relationships with food that often necessitate at least an hour to prepare meals (or at least we like to think our food relationships are special!). Sometimes, we just didn’t have that hour!

(p.s. if you read to the end of this article, cuteness awaits!)

Dill Pickles!

However, now the season is over. I tossed in the towel last Tuesday after our final CSA drop. Amanda has continued to work cleaning up the fields and finishing the rest of the harvesting before real winter comes. We have had a few brushes with winter so far–the several nights of frosts a few weeks ago, and our first snowfall! On the day of our last farmer’s market, we awoke to about two inches of beautiful, sparkly, wet snow. In the still darkness of our pre-dawn departure time, we went out to the fields and looked at our snow covered crops. What a sight! The row cover was sagging with snow, flowered broccoli glistened beautifully under the flash of our cameras, and brussels sprouts were barely distinguishable under their snow load. By the time we got back to the farm, this snow had melted, and we haven’t seen a speck since–it has even retreated from some of the mountains.

Brrrrrroccolli and Brrrrrrussels Sprouts
The snowy Saturday a few weeks ago signaled many things–the end of summer, the realization that the days are indeed growing shorter, and the beginning of storing food for the long, dark days of winter. I’d like to say that I am a seasoned canner and pickler, that I have all of the storage wisdom of a Mary Jane or a Martha Stewart. However, I am far from that, but my goals are lofty and my effort is…steady? As I’ve mentioned before, my dad was the primary gardner in our family growing up, he was also the primary jam maker and tomato canner. My mother was the master of pickles–I hope one day to seemingly effortlessly brew up some dill fridge pickles that put Jewish grandmothers the world over to shame just like she does.
“Sunshine Pickles”
With genes on my side, and some memories of peering into pots of boiling vinegar, sugar and flavorful goodies, I started my pickling processes. Amanda had given me a bunch of cucumbers, we had some rather funky tasting carrots that we didn’t want to sell (anyone else out there have trouble with the Atomic Red variety from Johnny’s?), and I had gleaned some older, root maggot damaged salad turnips from the fields for my pickling experiments. Pair these fresh locally grown ingredients with freshly picked dill (which was a bit sad after the snow), some awesome freshly picked onions and some garlic from our neighbors at the farmer’s market, and I was in business. With the handy dandy Country Know-How and Wisdom book by my side and a whole day with NOTHING to do (!), I was off. As a first time solo pickling endeavor, I was slow and methodical. I ended up with about twelve quarts of pickled veggies in different flavors: standard dill cukes; “sunshine” pickled cukes, onion and red pepper; maple and ginger pickled carrots; and “oriental” (is that P.C.?) pickled carrots, turnips and cucumbers. They are all beautiful, so if they taste like socks they will at least look good on the shelf. I have only tried some of the “oriental” pickled cucumbers, and they are super sweet–a bit too sweet for my taste, but perhaps my mom will like them?
So, we have some pickles put up, some jam on the shelves, some frozen veggies ready for soups and some storage potatoes, cabbage and brussels sprouts safely put up, too. This will be my first winter storing any of my own food, and I am excited! It makes me long for a proper root cellar, but until then, our basement works perfectly.
Here are some fun tidbits to finish off this post:
Did any of you read “The Adventures of Super Pickle” as kids or to your kids? It is a pop-up book about a pickle super hero named Dillbert. He must fight an evil cabbage or something in order to save a scared baby pickle. I don’t remember the story line too well, but I remember liking the book a lot! After a bit of research, it turns out that the book goes for nearly $300 dollars on eBay.  All of this pickle talk got me thinking about the little guy.
And finally, some cuteness for your life. About a month ago we received two bunnies to raise as part of our program for the kids at Louise’s Farm School. It turns out that one is a lady bunny (Fibonacci is her name) and the other a fine gentlebunny (Shadow–named by six year olds!). Needless to say, we separated them a bit too late (any amount of togetherness is probably too long), and we now have four of the cutest little baby bunnies I have ever seen! The pictures aren’t the greatest, but those little fuzzballs are adorable.
This one is “Awwwww”
This one is “Cuteness”
I must bid adieu my Farmgirl Friends! Have any of you gone-a-pickling in recent weeks? Do you have any favorite pickle recipes that must try sometime?
Until next time,
Alex, the Rural Farmgirl

  1. TJ says:

    Congratulations on the pickle bounty!! Total crunchy deliciousness! We’re having similar weather here in Montana, and I confess to being somewhat relieved that the harvest season is winding down, at least for the heat-loving veggies.

    You MUST try fermented pickles – the Nourishing Traditions recipe – super simple and they are so good they curl your toes! Also much faster pickling than standard canned pickles (which you aren’t *supposed* to open for at least 6 weeks)… 3 days on the counter, a week or two in cold storage, and YUM!! All those incredible happy probiotics in a crunchy delicious pickle!! SOOOOOOO good! 🙂

  2. Wendy A says:

    There is a special good feeling you get when you have to "put up" food for the winter. I remember my first efforts at canning and how I loved to see the rows of canned goods lined up and looking so pretty! You will have successes and disappointments along your journey. I had to throw out an entire batch of applesauce one year. How disheartening! However I still enjoy canning, pickling and jam making some 40 years later! Keep on keepin’ on and you will always have that "special relationship" with your food! P. S. Your bunnies are too, too cute!

  3. Ok for my first pickling experience, I grew my cucumbers and then pickled them without tasting and they were so bitter. But all was not wasted, as my cousins husband does not have the ability to taste bitterness something about that tastebud of his not working?? soooo, he enjoyed all 12 jars. lol. Now I taste the cucumbers first. lesson learned
    by the way, love the bunnies

  4. Joy Pascarella says:

    If you have problems with your pickles and they are still firm, but just too bitter, this is what I would do. Make a new brine with sugar pickling spices, garlic, vinegar, what ever tastes good. Open one jar and rinse of the pickles. put them in a crock or large jar and cover with new brine. Let sit a couple of days and try them, I bet they will have improved a lot. If that don’t work, I would grind up and make relish or add mayo to make a batch of tartar sauce for fish night. Well good luck, and never give up!

  5. Lori says:


    My mother canned pickles only once when I was a child, and it’s possible for a pickle to taste like a sock.There were simply awful!
    Each summer we canned a variety of beets,tomato sauces, and hot peppers with cauliflower and carrots.This was in addition to the many frozen vegetables we had in the freezer,but the pickles and some pears were a disaster.
    Being a lover of pickles I must try again.Thanks for a reminder that try we must.

  6. Jane says:

    I am so proud of you and happy that you want to keep the traditions alive. Maybe making pickles is one of the reasons farm people live so long – you have to wait for them and in that you are trusting in the future.

    Beet pickles are my favorite, especially for holiday dinners. They bring back fond memories of my grandma.

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