Pipi’s Pasture: Mom’s atomic pickles

Diane Prather
Pipi's Pasture

My family likes pickles — all kinds of pickles — but dills are probably at the top of the pickle list.

When sons Jody and Jamie were young and we were living at Severance, Julia — our neighbor lady across the street — shared her home canned pickles with us. She canned the pickles with peppers so the dills were spicy. As far as I’m concerned, it isn’t enjoyable to eat a food that burns as it goes down the esophagus. That’s how “hot” the pickles were, at least to me, but Lyle and the boys loved them.

Since we had a large garden space on our Severance property, I decided to plant cucumbers and dill and attempt to can pickles. The climate at Severance was just right for growing cucumbers so we harvested a lot of them. I bought a bunch of jars and vinegar and a big pot for processing and consulted a “Blue Ball Canning Book” as to how to can dill pickles.

As I remember, I put salt and dill (I love the “smell” of freshly cut dill) into sterilized jars. Sometimes I added a grape leaf from our garden grapes because the leaf is supposed to keep the pickles from going soft. Then I selected just the right sizes of cucumbers and packed them into the jars. (There’s a “knack” to getting them packed just right.) Last I added hot vinegar and lids, screwed them into place with rings, and processed them in a water bath.

As I remember, we had pickles. We ate them, but they certainly weren’t as popular as Julia’s pickles, possibly because I didn’t put peppers with them.

Thinking back to my growing-up years on the ranch, I remember Mom canning pickles, too. She made a variety of pickles — watermelon, green beans, crab apples, bread and butter pickles and both sweet and dill pickles, to name a few.

In the fall she got cucumbers from Palisade. The cucumbers destined to become dills were put in a crock of salt and water brine for awhile (I’m not sure how many days) before canning. The crock was covered and kept in the basement. When she was ready to process the pickles, Mom rinsed off the brine and then worked them pretty much the way I did with my pickles.

One fall after Lyle and I were married, we visited the ranch. Before we left, Mom asked Lyle to bring the crock of pickles up from the basement. The crock was heavy. As Lyle walked up the stairs, some of the brine sloshed on his Levi’s pants.

A little later, he found holes where the liquid landed on his pants. For years after we laughed about Mom’s atomic pickles. Not only that, but we exaggerated a little bit in teasing Mom that when the lid blew off the crock, she’d know the pickles had been in the brine long enough.

A few days ago I found a recipe Mom had given me that gave directions for the pickling solution she used when canning pickles. At the bottom of the page, in bold letters was written: “DO NOT LET THE BRINE GET ON LYLE’S PANTS.”

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