It’s summer time in Memphis, which means that my house has seen us buying the air, grabbing a beer, and getting the water bath canner boiling. Four years ago, I decided that I wanted to learn how to make dill pickles. My Mema has always made what I consider to be the gold standard of pickles–salty with a hint of garlic and so vinegary they make your eyes squint. She passed her recipe down to me, and after a few early mistakes, I have at least come close to her perfect pickle. I will also be making dilly beans, pickled jalapeños and rosemary pickled cherry tomatoes.
Lest you think our house has only smelt like vinegar this summer, we’ve also been peeling, hulling, chopping and crushing our way to jam. The half pints of strawberry jam are finished, paving the way for peaches, blueberries and blackberries. With the help of a friend with a raised burner stove, we’ve bust out the pressure canner and put up tomatoes to use this winter.
Living in the Mississippi Delta provides a home food preserver and aspiring gardener with an astounding variety of produce with which to work. My mom, husband, and I grow some of the vegetables that we’ve used at our plot at the Shelby Farms community gardens. I will pick up the fruit from Jones Orchard and Nesbit Blueberry Plantation. There is no shortage of farmers at the local markets who can supply anything I want that I have not grown myself.
Whenever I tell people that I can food, I get asked why I bother. It’s simple really. I like having jam that actually tastes like fruit and pickles that make my eyes water. But most importantly, I like sharing a skill with my grandmother and being able to ask her for advice. It made us closer. The good food is just a bonus.