Helen's 2004 Container Garden

August 15, 2004

Often I stop at a nearby farm to visit my septuagenarian friend, Millie Zack, and her centenarian mother, Bessie Gildersleeve. One time when I joined them for a meal, Millie, served some homemade pickles. When I commented on how much I liked them, Millie said she would give me the recipe. I tried to decline the offer, saying that I had never made pickles, but Millie said that they were refrigerator pickles and easy to make. 

Although I generally don't like cucumbers and seldom buy cucumbers or bring them home from the community supported agricultural distribution site, I decided that I should get some this year and try the recipe. Actually, I got what seemed like a ton of cucumbers from the Magic Beanstalk CSA and the farmers market at the North Grand Mall in Ames. I wasn't able to get at processing them for a few days, and I was disappointed to think that I wasn't making the pickles within 24 hours of  when the farmers picked them. But I decided that I didn't have to be a perfectionist and that the delay probably wouldn't hurt the final product.

My attempt to make refrigerator pickles, using Millie's recipe, was so successful that I wanted to make more. However, I didn't want to have a refrigerator full of jars of pickles. So I decided I should learn to make pickles and can them.

Last year was the first time that I ever did any canning. My friend, Marilyn Anderson from rural Roland, loaned me a pressure canner and another friend, Mary Richards from Ames, helped me with my first experiment ... vegetable soup. Later that fall, I canned more soup as well as several jars of applesauce.

Once I decided to make and can pickles, I researched my recipe books then found a recipe for bread and butter pickles on the web site for the Iowa State University Extension Service. I downloaded the document and forged ahead. Some of the instructions weren't as clear as they could have been, but I was working on the pickles late at night when I couldn't call the Extension Service hotline or some of my friends, who might be able to answer my questions. So I had to rely on my own judgement.

As it was, the pickles turned out great, and the quart and pint jars are tucked away in the coolest part of my house ... under the bed in the room least affected by the heat generated by the sunlight.

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