The sound of canning jars sealing is a pleasant one to home cooks.
"I love the ping of jars sealing," messaged Terrie Martin Walker of Vancleave, Miss. "Twenty-nine pints of tomatoes and 21 pints of bread and butter pickles this week. Productive, I'd say."
I would say the same thing. Walker is a terrific cook who uses treasured family recipes from her mother and grandmother.
"My mom had the easiest recipe for bread and butter pickles," Walker said, when I asked her for the recipe. "Please feel free to share."
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I love cooks like Walker who do not mind sharing family recipes. Too many relatives take those treasured recipes to the grave, either not willing to share or loved ones simply failing to ask or write them down.
Take it from me: Get those recipes in writing. I have some of my grandmother's that are in her own hand, but without protective sleeves the writing fades and I struggle to read hers and some of my mother-in-law's because of neglecting to protect them. Like our special relatives, we think the recipes will always be there.
Walker and another reader, Lynette Faul of Gulfport, Miss., heated up their canning pots for the last couple of weeks. Faul made grape jelly and Walker made pickles and canned tomatoes.
Now is the time to "put up" the fruits and vegetables of summer, since summer gardens are on the wane. Canning and preserving fruits and vegetables allows home cooks to enjoy these good-for-you foods all year long and not just during the summer.
I did some watermelon preserves that had a wonderful flavor, but I goofed by not cutting off all the
hard green rind. They tasted good, but the rind was tough. I will never make that mistake again. I wasted my time and all the good ingredients.
Here is Walker's recipe for pickles.
BREAD AND BUTTER SLICES
4 quarts medium-size sliced cucumbers (do not peel)
6 medium white onions, sliced
2 green peppers, sliced
3 cloves of garlic
Cover these with crushed ice for 3 hours.
1/2 cup salt
5 cups sugar
1- 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1- 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed
3 cups cider vinegar
Mix thoroughly and pour over cucumber mixture. Heat to a boil, but do not boil. Seal in hot sterilized pint jars. Make 8 pints.
-- Submitted by Terrie Martin Walker
Though they have been busy, both Walker and Faul need readers' help with their canning projects.
"I have a friend who grows grapes over a wooden arbor. She asked if I could make her some grape jelly. Well I had the recipe in my 'Ball Canning Book,' Faul said.
"To get the juice, you have to squeeze the grapes in a jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth. Does anyone know if you can let the grapes cool down before squeezing as they are really hot. Also does anyone know where to get a jelly bag? Seems this might be easier.
"Grape jelly came out great, but haven't tried it yet," Faul said.
Readers, can Faul let the grapes cool down before squeezing out the juice? Where can she buy a jelly bag? Please let me know.
"Have you ever heard of pear relish? It kind of looks like hotdog relish after it is canned," Walker said. "If you have, do you have the recipe?"
I looked for my grandmother's recipe for pear relish but could not locate it. I did find one called pear chow relish that seems similar to pear relish in the first "Bell's Best" cookbook. Readers, please send your pear relish recipes that can be shared with Walker and fellow readers.
PEAR CHOW RELISH
4 quarts pears (measured after you grind)
2 quarts onions
8 large sweet peppers (mix red and green peppers for color)
12 large cucumbers or 12 large dill pickles
2 pods hot pepper, optional
4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons turmeric
4 tablespoons dry mustard
8 tablespoons sifted plain flour
1 teaspoon celery seed
1- 1/2 quarts white vinegar
Peel, cut and grind pears, onion, peppers and cucumbers. Press out juice and salt to taste. Mix sugar, flour, celery seed, mustard and turmeric and add to ground pear mixture. Use 1/2. cup vinegar with the dry ingredients, making a paste, before adding to pear mixture. Stir in remaining vinegar and boil until mixture is thick, approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly. Place in sterilized jars and seal. Chill before serving. Makes about 10 jars.
-- Recipe by Beth Harbour of the Meridian Council in "Bell's Best"
Another fruit that works well for canning is peaches, and peaches are so sweet right now. I love pickled peaches with their fragrance and spicy taste.
Here's a recipe from one of my grandmother's friends. I did keep the cookbook that my grandmother and these ladies put together in 1929.
SWEET PICKLED PEACHES
Scald peaches to facilitate removal of skins. Drop the peaches into thick boiling syrup made of white granulated sugar and let boil 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through. Have ready spice bags, 2 inches wide, 3 inches long, made of thin cheesecloth and in each bag put 1 teaspoonful of whole cloves, 1 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. Tie or sew up the spice bags, put them in a saucepan of vinegar and simmer on back of stove while the peaches are cooking. Put peaches in jars: When each jar is half filled with peaches put in 1 bag of spice and about 2 tablespoons vinegar, finish filling with peaches and seal.
-- From "Cedar Bayou Missionary Cook Book 1929"
Here is an easier recipe that is even older, dating back to 1908.
4 quarts peaches
2 pounds sugar, preferably brown
3 or 4 sticks cinnamon
2 cloves for each peach
1- 1/2 pints vinegar
Make a syrup with sugar, vinegar and cinnamon, cooking them together for 20 minutes. Remove the skin of the peaches by dipping them for a moment in boiling water, then rubbing with a cloth. Stick 2 cloves in each peach and then cook in the syrup until tender. Do not try to cook too many peaches at one time. Boil the syrup 10 minutes after all the fruit is done, then pour it over the peaches in sterilized jars and seal.
-- From the "Rumford Complete Cook Book," published in 1908
If you have other canning recipes, please send them to me. Also it is fig season, so send those fig preserve recipes, too.
A Pass Christian, Miss., reader would like simple gluten-free recipes. Another reader wants no-oven-required or cool food recipes. Please check your files and recipes.
Andrea Yeager, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and takes contributions or requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.