Saturday, July 12, 2014

Grief Pickles

I'm on another culinary bender.

I cook and craft when I'm stressed. It's safer and healthier than drinking.

My Father passed away July 1st, exactly 14 weeks after my mother died. My sister was the main caregiver and is an amazing person. I live half way across the country, and last saw them right before my mother died. 

My kids were off at camp when he died. While picking them up I stopped at a roadside farm market and bought 5 lbs of blueberries and several pounds of pickling cucumbers. I needed to cook.

Cooking to Cope. Should be a separate blog, eh?

 I've made about 10 pints of blueberry preserves since that first disastrous episode of  "scalding while sterilizing." I'm big on alliteration today.
(see previous blog post on Blueberry preserves)

Since then, I've learned a few things: 

1.) The canning rack will sit up on it's handles on the sides of the canning pot and so I don't need to reach deep into the pot to take out my sterile jars. There is less risk of dropping them and splashing myself with boiling water.

2.)  I have two different types of jar tongs. I can grab a jar sitting on its side easily without dropping it. 

3.) I use a candy thermometer to gauge the temperature of the jam

4.) I use a very tall pot to cook the jam so it doesn't foam up and boil over the top

But now: 


I've always wanted to make pickles. As a child, one of my favorite memories was going to Ernie's deli in Rutherford, New Jersey. He had a barrel of sour dill pickles behind the counter. My sister, friends, and I would save up to buy a pickle (25 cents each pickle) and have Ernie slice it up into the requisite number of slices. We amused him to no end. Most kids bought chips, cookies, gum, and candy. 

We bought pickles. 

I miss them. I can't get really good sour dill pickles in a barrel easily here in Chicago. 
Yes, I miss my parents too, even with all the baggage, and this is a way to remember my childhood and cope. A weird substitute?---- Yes. I'm not apologizing or explaining.

SO, I purchased perfect pickle cucumbers at the grocery store and decided I was going to try my hand at making CANNED pickles. I read a bunch of recipes and made a batch of bread-and-butter pickles and a batch of garlic dill pickles. 

Bread and butter pickles

The bread and butter pickles were AWESOME. 
The dill pickles were good but they were soft, and not exactly what I was looking for.

 Next, I made refrigerator garlic dill pickles with other vegetables as well as cucumbers.  My favorite pickled vegetable turned out to be the carrots. They were similar to Lalo's Mexican Restaurant's pickled veggies. I've also tried pickled cauliflower and I'd like to try pickled peppers.

The refrigerator pickles were close to what I was jonesing for, but no cigar. They were crisp and garlicky, but not the same as the sour dill pickles in the barrel from Ernie's Deli.

 So I've taken a plunge and have purchased a fermenting jar.

I've been reading all about making fermented sour dill pickles and since the weather's going to be cool next week, (Thank you Polar Vortex-the weather pattern that just keeps on giving)  I think this is as good a time as any to make them. If the weather gets too warm, pickles ferment too quickly and go bad.

 Wish me luck.

I hope I don't give myself Ptomaine poisoning. 


  1. Hi Schell,

    Yes, I cooked soup for months while my father was ill.

    And of course, he was complaining that the hospital did not have 'cream' in the 'cream soup'.

    I made all sort of soup. Creamed of carrot, creamed asparagus, chicken soup, gumbo, split pea, mushroom barley.

    And it was in giant vats. Douled out in quart-size take-out containers, dated and frozen. I was more into the production of soup, then in the consumption of it.

    Was thrilled after surgery, when he lapped it up hungrily. It made me smile. And then the days when he would not eat at all, or I had to add a thickener instructed by the nurses so that he would not choke. Those were tough times.

    A day after his death, a painting workshop was offered online. 'Leading a Legendary Life"-- a six month course in painting your Legendary Self, and writing a Novella.

    Just what the doctor ordered. Painting became my path to grieve. Then another class, and another, and another

    Three and half years have passed. I have a collection of paintings worthy of a major gallery exhibition. My work has changed, and I now am helping my online teacher, with the NING site, and art doctoring in several courses. I know offer classes for woman and children in Intentional Creativity- painting as a spiritual practice.

    Who knows what doors open up, when other doors close. Just keep walking through them. Whether it is eating, making and pickles luscious cucumbers or stirring up some love in a vat of warmth...

    One thing is for sure.

    Our parents, (and I do believe we chose them...) have made indelible marks in our lives. Taught us things we never could have learned on our own. And they shape us in ways that don't always seem conventional.

    So I say... "Hold up thy Pickel!" "Paint with Passion" and enjoy the crazy ride this life seems to offer.

    Love to You, My Dear Friend!

    1. Thanks Les. Soup. Pickles, Jam, all are comfort crafting foods. (What is with my alliteration lately?)
      Love you back.

  2. Dr. Diva, you have to try pickled jicama. Yes, you read right, pickled jicama. :) If you are ever in the Brighton Park area and in the mood for Mexican food, you should stop by Tio Luis (on Archer, West of Western), they have the yumminess that is pickled jicama.

    My condolences on the passing of both of your parents.

    1. Thank you.
      Jicama? Hmmm. Sounds Delish.

      Our beloved Campech (I know, weird spelling) seems to have closed on Lincoln Ave. We're looking for a new place for Mexican. We'll have to try it. Sounds yummy! Thank you for commenting.