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Aunt Wilma’s Dill Pickles

9/4/2013 5:11:00 PM

Tags: Canning, Gardening, Aunts, Lessons, Fun, Pickles, Jars, Dill, Cucumbers, Vinegar


I remember my Aunt Wilma as a very vibrant and happy person. She always seemed to be laughing when I saw her. I thought she was so pretty, and I still do. She is in her 90’s now, but she still has the same sort of sideways smile and laughs so easily. She made the decision a couple of years ago to move into an assisted living apartment because she was “beginning to forget things.”

I was looking through all the old photos and pictures of the signs from the war effort from GRIT and Capper’s Farmer on Facebook, and it reminded me of all the historic things this woman has seen in her lifetime. And even though she thinks she is “forgetting too many things,” there are so many things she still remembers.

Aunt Wilma

My Aunt Wilma many years ago.

My husband and one of my cousins were visiting with her one day and talking about things that had happened when she was raising her children. Little things, that at the time were probably very big deals, all seemed so funny now. We talked about raising children and gardens, and about canning and cooking, and all the work that girls do not need to know about now and all of a sudden she says, “I made ketchup once, and by golly, I’m not going to do that again!” It made me wonder how much more work there would be making catsup than baking bread. Or maybe, the difference between making a quilt, or just sewing a dress together. The only one of these three activities I have not accomplished is the catsup part, so I do know there is some work in putting a quilt together and baking bread.

I still wondered how hard it would be. (After all, I do make my own tomato sauce.) Most of the work to that is watching the tomatoes boil away on the stove. So I decided to ask her why it was so hard to make “ketchup.” She only smiled and shook her head before she giggled. She explained about all the work it took to take care of a house and try to work while you did all that “in those days.” She told more stories about moving across the state with her young son in tow, and how she managed to just “stop at the right place at the right time” and landed herself a job when she arrived in her new home town. But, you know, she never did explain to me what was so hard about making catsup. I did get her to tell me how she made dill pickles, though. And if that was any indication of how she made her “ketchup,” I think I understand a little.

Her recipe for pickles went something like this – “Well, you alternate putting your cukes in the jars with the dill. Your jars should already be sitting in the canner in boiling water, but not enough water to overflow into the jars. Then you make your syrup with water and cider vinegar and pour over the cukes and the dill in the jars. Make sure you have the cukes in the jars nice and tight. But not too tight, now! When that’s done you take your jars out of the canner, wipe the rims so as not to have anything on them, and then seal your jars. Just set them aside. You don’t want to cook them any further.”

Well, I decided to try her recipe for dill pickles this year. I have no clue how much dill to use, but hey, I gave it a shot! It’s going to seem like a shame to open them, they look so pretty here. 

Aunt Wilma's Dill Pickles

Aunt Wilma's Dill Pickles

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9/5/2013 3:39:38 PM
D.J., the older generation have indeed lived through several difficult times. My mother-in-law, who's 86, has lived through the great depression, world war 2, and many other hard times. There were very few if any government programs to help those in need back then. When she was a child, her step father had a contract with Campbell's soup to raise tomatoes. She and her siblings help raise 10 acres of tomatoes which were all planted, hoed, and picked by hand. I just have 10 plants and get weary taking care of them. If I had to depend on my gardening skills to survive, I'm afraid I'd be pretty hungry. Have a great Aunt Wilma's Dill Pickle day.

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