Alyce Faye Bragg column: With cool weather, thoughts turn to pickling
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There is a cool note in the brisk breeze that is blowing today; a warning sign that summer is fast slipping away. The song birds are still singing merrily at daybreak, and there are nestlings yet in the maple tree. Soon they will be warbling a farewell song, and leaving for warmer climes. The katydid’s chorus is heard now at twilight, and the fireflies lights grow dimmer.
This reminds me of a song we used to sing at church, “Soon the summer will be ended, and harvest will be o’er, Soon the day of offered mercy will be past forevermore.” This was taken from the scripture in Jeremiah 8:20, which says, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” This admonition should be carefully considered.
We scurry around salvaging the late garden crops to preserve them for winter. It’s time to pickle and make sauerkraut, pickle corn and relishes. A good friend of mine, Connie Fugate, has requested a recipe for chow-chow, and I started wondering how that recipe acquired that name. The dictionary says that it is probably a Mandarin-Chinese word “chou” meaning “mixed.” Many believe that relishes originated from the need to preserve vegetables for the winter. More specifically, it was probably the last gleanings before the first frost.
*** Chow Chow
2 quarts water
1 gallon chopped cabbage
12 large onions, chopped
12 green bell peppers
12 red sweet peppers
4 hot peppers
2 quarts green tomatoes
1 quart green cucumbers
Mix all vegetables together, and add 1/2 cup salt. Let stand overnight. Drain.
In large kettle mix:
5 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon turmeric
4 tablespoons mixed pickling spices
1 tablespoon ground mustard
1 tablespoon celery seed
2 quarts vinegar
1 quart water
Tie mixed spices in cheesecloth bag. Add sugar to vinegar and water; drop in bag of spices. Simmer 20 minutes. Add all vegetables and simmer until vegetables change color and are boiling hot and well-seasoned. Remove spice bag. Pack in hot jars and seal at once.
We made tomato kraut (or hot pepper kraut as some call it) this week. This is a delicacy that we love in the winter, and I’ve never seen it in the grocery store. There is no specific recipe, but we chopped cabbage (we used a kraut cutter made like a washboard). We chopped green tomatoes and green peppers with a can, and added salt. We placed it in a churn and put it in the cellar to ferment. After it reaches the degree of sourness desired, we will put it in pint jars and process it in a hot water bath. It is so good in cold weather with brown beans and cornbread.
Early fall flowers are blooming now, with the first sprays of goldenrod appearing along the roadside. When we see these flowers bloom, we can be sure that fall is on its way. Joe-Pye weed is in full bloom, rearing tall mauve heads above the rest. It overshadows the lavender flowers of the wild mint that we call “horse mint.” This particular mint has a strong, pungent odor.
There are several mints in our area, including the common peppermint. It grows in profusion along the edges of the creek and has a small lavender flower on it. It can be gathered now and dried to make tea through the winter. I like to gather it fresh, crush all I can get in a quart jar, and cover it with water. Let it set overnight and pour off liquid to make hot tea. You get the full flavor of peppermint this way. It can also be sweetened and drunk cold.
Peppermint is a very useful herb, used in lots of stomach medicines and other preparations. We always liked to drink it because it tasted good. Many years ago our son Andy came home from work complaining of a bad bellyache. I decided to make him some peppermint tea to soothe his stomach, when my mother interceded and sent him to the hospital emergency room. The doctor diagnosed a “hot” appendix and promptly operated on him. For some reason, the family didn’t have much faith in my diagnosis.
While most mints are agreeable, there is one that I detest. It is ground ivy, and known by many other names such as gill-over-the-ground and creeping Charlie. My late brother-in-law Cornelius said that it made a tea that was a good cold remedy, but I don’t even like the musty smell of it. It completely overtook our strawberry patch, entangling and strangling the plants until they gave up the struggle. I think it is a pest.
Touch-me-not is in full bloom now, and it is an excellent remedy for poison ivy. Merely rub the juice from the stem on the afflicted place. It also makes an effective dandruff rinse. Boil the fleshy stalks in water (it will turn orange) and rinse your hair in the water. You can also freeze the liquid in ice cube trays and store in zip-lock bags in the freezer for further use.
Gail Asbury, of Clay, is looking for a salt pickle like Grandma used to make, and I found an old recipe.
*** Salt Pickles
3-4 pounds cucumbers (small to medium)
3/8 cup sea salt (I use pickling salt)
Optional: 3-4 heads of dill; 2-3 heads of garlic
Handful of fresh grape, cherry, oak or horseradish leaves.
(I always use grape leaves in my dill pickles)
Pinch of black peppercorns
Rinse cucumbers carefully; don’t bruise. Dissolve salt in 1/2 gallon cold water; stir until dissolved. (If more brine is needed to cover cucumbers, mix one tablespoon salt to a cup of water. Place cucumbers in jar, pour brine over them. Weigh down with plate (make sure brine covers cucumbers at all times). Use jug of water or a boiled rock (this may sound funny, but I have a rock I have used for years) as added weight on plate. Cover with cloth; check every day. Remove mold if needed. Will be fully sour and ready to use in one to four weeks.
Mrs. Ida Virginia Pitt of Bradenton, Florida, sent a copy of an old hymn (1821-1877) that some of the seniors may recall. I have never heard it, but the words are beautiful.
The King of Love My Shepherd Is
The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His,
And He is mine forever.
Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul He leadeth;
And, where verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedeth.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.
And so through all the length of days,
Thy goodness faileth never.
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever.
Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at email@example.com or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.