10 July 2012

Grandma's Mustard Pickles

My mother's family is big on pickles. In fact, pickles along with dried fruit, were a re-occurring theme whenever I visited my maternal grandparents as a child. They lived in the desert and I suppose were in need of preserving methods to avoid having absolutely everything in the refrigerator. Plus, with ten children it must've been handy having extra jars of food on hand. So, anytime I ever visited, there always were loads of dried apricots and apples around, along with things like pomegranate jelly, fig jam, bowls of un-shelled pecans and pine nuts, and generally lots of food in jars. 

These mustard pickles is my first attempt at pickling and, other than a few times making jam, my first real experiment with canning. It all occurred on a small enough scale with a few borrowed Mason jars and about ten phone calls to my mother to clarify the very un-specific recipe, er, instructions, she had given me in an email. Thus, my first pickles were born. 

For a first attempt I think these pickles, with their slightly sour, slightly sweet, and definitely bright yellow color, were very nice indeed. Following instruction from Mom I used the cucumbers I had on hand, onions, and some yellow wax beans and green beans which I thought would lend themselves nicely to the pickling, (the recipe also calls for cauliflower, which I would include next time but couldn't be bothered with this time around as I had more than enough vegetables to fill up the counter space in my kitchen during the "salting process"). I cut the cucumbers mostly in large chunks as per Mom and Grandma's instructions, however next time I would slice them thin like traditional sandwich pickles. 
Grandma's Mustard Pickles
From Pearl Robison, written from memory by her daughter Esther Olson 

*Note the recipe for the mustard sauce makes a ton. I cut it in half from what is written below and had leftover after filling 2 large mason jars, one quart jar, and a random small Tupperware. The recipe is written largely as Mom wrote it, but with additional clarifications in parentheses from me.  

"Cut up a large pan of cucumbers,  onions and cauliflower into small pieces and salt a little (*This translates to about 2 large sheet pans of vegetables). Let set overnight or for several hours.  Next morning, or later in the day, cover with water and drain.

Sauce: 1 gallon cider vinegar, dilute with water about 1/3 (this translates to: for one part vinegar, 3 parts water)
                 1/4 - 1/2 cup dry mustard
                 1 - 1 1/2 cup flour (try 1 cup first, don't want it too thick.)
                 2 oz. turmeric
                 3 cups sugar

Make smooth paste of dry ingredients, using lesser amounts first, and add a little vinegar. Boil rest of vinegar and add paste, stirring constantly. Taste and see if it needs more mustard.  If its too thin add a little more flour, be careful and don't make it too thick!  Boil about 5 minutes, add vegetables and bring to a boil again until crisply done (about 2 minutes once the vegetables are added into the mix and the sauce starts to boil again).

Pour into pint jars, seal. (Let cool slightly and then they can be kept in the cupboard or placed in the refrigerator once opened).

From Esther: This is one of Mom's "old timey" recipes. She made dozens of quarts of these. We especially loved eating them with boiled ham and beans.

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