In 1976 we moved to a small town in No. Illinois. I've written about this town many times before, but I wanted to tell more about my summers there...so here goes. We lived next door to a couple who had no children. He had his own business and his wife took care of the books and was a homemaker. They had a huge garden behind the family business. This garden was meticulous...rows straight as an arrow. 65 tomato plants that he grew from seed....everything from spring onions to corn. We were lucky to live next to these generous people. Everything was shared. She would bring me samples of everything she made. Zucchini cookies, rhubarb strawberry freezer jam, German potato salad, stir fried cabbage with bacon come to mind. He would bring me "bouquets" of radishes...all nicely cleaned....new potatoes, with skin so tender and pink...shucked corn, right at supper time..ready for the boiling water....and cucumbers and zucchini ...buckets of them. What would I do with all these things, I wondered? I visited one day, and noticed as I went in the door that flies had gathered on the screen door. They were attracted by the sweet smell coming from the house. The kitchen smelled so spicy and delicious.There were two canners boiling away on the stove. Her counters were covered with cotton towels and jars of pickles were pinging.These were her special sweet pickles that she called 7 day pickles. After we visited, she sent a jar of these home with me. I cooled them in the frig and we had them with our supper. Crisp, sweet, crunchy, bright green morsels filled my mouth with a sweet sour taste. I was hooked. I started searching garage sales for a canner...an old blue granite canner. I found boxes of canning jars at homes where elderly people lived...who had given up canning. I heard stories about their canning days as I went from sale to sale. My trunk was loaded with all the supplies I would need. I started buying books on canning, books about living off the land, even the FoxFire books. These books were full of ideas. Making my own soap, crafts using twigs, how to build a campfire, how to dress a hog. Well, I didn't ever dress a hog. I sat and waited for him to bring me something from the garden....and bring something he did. Buckets of tomatoes, beautiful juicy ripe tomatoes. By this time, I was getting into gardening as well. I had my own tomatoes and other veggies too. There were ideas in my books on how to make the canning area more attractive with hanging ropes of garlic, and peppers, Drying bunches of herbs tied with jute. A pretty stenciled shelf paper.I opened the cookbook and started in. When my husband came home for lunch, the tomatoes were lining my counter pinging away. He smiled at his wife's new hobby. The shelves in the basement were ready...a perfect spot for these treasures. I lined the shelves with jars of tomatoes, chili sauce, chow chow, salsa, beets, applesauce, dilly beans,grape jelly, and an empty shelf for the pickles that I would make next year. My basement had crocks of sour kraut and the following year...a crock of dill pickles and those wonderful 7 day sweet pickles. The next year, I had flies on my screen door and we two were in sort of a competition ..."What did you can today? Can I have the recipe? Here, try this." I got so many buckets of things from these generous people and I returned the favor by sending over many, many baked items. Cookies, bread, cake...and candy. I cherish the memories of living next door to someone who taught me about generosity and how to can.
7 DAY SWEET PICKLES
7 lbs. cucumbers water to cover
7 lbs. cucumbers water to cover
1 quart vinegar
8 cups sugar
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons mixed pickling spices
Wash cucumbers and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 24 hours, then repeat this process daily using fresh boiling water until the fifth day. On morning number 5, slice cucumbers into 1/4 inch thick rings.
Prepare a vinegar brine:
In a non-reactive saucepan, boil vinegar, sugar, salt and spices. Pour over cucmbers. Allow to stand for 24 hours.
The next morning, drain brine. Bring brine to a boil; add cucmbers.
Pack in sterilized jars and seal while hot.
Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.