Over the past couple of years, my family has been making steps toward healthier eating and healthier living, not as a concept of vanity–wanting to look great or live up to a certain “post-worthy” image–but as a matter of stewardship–stewardship of our bodies, our communities, our land, and the living things God has given to us as gifts and as responsibilities. I will be posting a blog shortly talking more about this pretty significant commitment our family has made. It’s been a life change brought on by a reality-check in growing older and experiencing certain physical difficulties and health complications, as well as a fairly dramatic perspective change. More on this to come!
One of the joys of this journey has been our first community garden this summer. My parents had a plot in a community garden provided by their church last year and shared much of their harvest with us–it was a great experience–inspiring and delicious. This year they rented two plots and are sharing one of those with us. Though three of the crops I had been excited for and planted as seedlings didn’t make it (rainbow carrots, salad bowl lettuce, and romaine lettuce) my cucumbers, tomatoes, and one pepper plant have been doing fantastic! This experience is beyond the joy of sharing in the crops of local farmers, family, and friends (which is a great experience in itself). To actually collect and eat food that you have grown yourself (with God’s grace and provision) is empowering, enlivening, and fulfilling.
I planted cucumbers for 2 reasons. I make a lot of juices and cucumbers juice beautifully and add a good, mild flavor, as well as working as a great diuretic (among other health benefits). And also,
I have wanted to try making pickles for years!
Some interesting things I learned while collecting my cucumber harvest :
- Cucumber plants are vining (I should have known that)
- Cucumbers come off the vine with little-almost-prickly-bumps on them that you can just rub off with your finger (or fingernail) -you never experience that part when you just buy them from the store.
- Cucumber plants have yellow flowers
- Some cucumbers curl as they grow (very funny)
So now that I have gathered quite a cucumber crop, I had to research how to make pickles. I found just the recipe I was looking for in one of my absolute favorite cookbooks. I’ve mentioned it here before on my blog, but here it is again:
It actually took me a few days to get everything lined up and make sure I had all the right ingredients and equipment. Luckily this book does a fantastic job of not only including the recipe, but laying out all the materials and tools you will need along with sharing personal stories and advice about pickle making (and canning).
Finally it was pickle making time!
I had to meticulously clean all of my ingredients and utensils, sterilize my jar and lid, and cut my cucumber spears while I boiled the brine. Its a little labor intensive, but not as much as it initially sounds like. The main thing that was daunting to me was how careful you have to be not to touch the inside of the lids and bands…. I am still feeling a little paranoid that maybe I didn’t wash something well enough, sterilize long enough, or maybe I accidentally touched something I wasn’t supposed to touch. It’s probably first-time gitters. If my pickles cure properly at the end of 2 weeks, I’ll know I did everything sufficiently, and probably will have a bit more confidence next time.
Either way, it was a very exciting endeavor, and I felt thrilled as I screwed on the top of my first hot jar of just-canned-pickles! There are many things you can add into the mix along with your cucumbers to add flavor. I chose to add fresh garlic cloves, organic fresh dill, and mustard seeds. In two weeks we’ll get to try them.
However this first batch turns out, I’m hooked.
I look forward to tasting my first batch, learning from it, tweaking it, and making the next and the next. Cucumber pickles for now, and hopefully on to other ingredients. Maybe even some canning too.
Happy are the hands that make from what was planted and grown and happy are the homes filled with fresh, clean, beautiful food.