Oh, it’s that glorious time of year when the tangled web of verdant vines produce an embarrassment of cucumbers.
As soon as you return from vacation, you know a crop of cucumbers are soon to manipulate your life and take all your stinking time. Ahem.
Yes, it is canning season, folks — my least favorite time of the year. Also, it’s what I lovingly refer to as… pickle hell season.
It starts with the first basket of cucumbers proudly placed onto my kitchen counter. My husband and I stand back and gawk like proud parents. Proud that once again, my husband has conquered the tragic Johnson County soil and the persistently invasive squash bugs. The urban gardener withstands countless mosquito bites, the early evening mugginess of Kansas summers, but huzzah, the fruit has prevailed.
The first pick is ever exciting. As with holding your newborn, the initial feeling is of happiness. A newborn (or gherkin) is going to bless your family. But why did you once again forget the pain of childbirth? Memories of previous births seem to metamorphose into pleasant experiences. Just like canning, the experience is painful, sweaty and takes much longer than you’d expect.
It all started in late spring of 2019. My husband decided again to grow a few vegetables. Now from past years, I know this means in August we will be able to feed an entire traveling circus cast. Peppers, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli and cucumbers — oh, the cucumbers.
In earlier years, my husband would grow ‘em in right into the soil. Then he moved on to raised beds. There was even the year he scratched his annual green thumb and planted our veggies on raised hay bales. Yes, farm-sized hay bales that filled up my entire minivan, minus the seats, one spring weekend day.
The first few days of sowing cucumbers, I find it cute and post the crazy stack on the counter. Then a bit of anxiety arises after the first week of crops. I have to find time to can pickles and a new recipe must be found.
You see I have my grandmother’s perfect recipe for bread and butter pickles. That would be great if I even liked them.
I’m more of a dill kind of gal. Any pickle you can buy at the store that’s sour is right up my aisle. So after 15 years of canning and 1,350 pounds of cucumbers, it would be a strong bet I’d found the best dill recipe in the land. Nope. Not even one dill pickle recipe has made it to a second date.
I’ve tried Betty Crocker, pre-made packages of brine mix, neighbors’ recipes as well as those from several friends, and I’ve scoured the web for a pickle that would tickle my fancy. But they were either soggy or too salty. Why wouldn’t Vlasic return my calls?
So you know what I did this year with my 65 cucumbers? I found one recipe of cucumbers and onions that doesn’t require canning, and made it several times. Then I started sharing with friends. The canning equipment didn’t even find its way upstairs.
Was my husband disappointed in my official canning ban of 2019? Perhaps. However, there are still 15 jars of my grandma’s recipe from last year, which should tide him over. Plus, the people over at the food bank had to have been appreciative of our green donation.