Tag Archives: pickling

Lucas Family Bread and Butter Pickles

The best sandwich I've ever made. Because of these pickles.

The best sandwich I’ve ever made. Because of these pickles.

When I was a little girl, most of my great-aunts, grandparents and others from “the greatest generation” were all still alive and active around the ranches. Since I was an only child, growing up on the ranch, these people served as my entertainment and playmates. Of course I didn’t realize how lucky I was then, to have interaction with these people, to learn from them and get to know them.

By the time I was 12, most of them had passed away. It was too late though, my family members left a deep and lasting impression on me. From huge, life altering things, like my passion for the ranch, to little, odd things, like my fierce love of bread and butter pickles.

My great Aunt Mary and I spent a lot of time together. I would walk down to her house after school and we would watch PBS while I rambled on about whatever it is kids talk about. She was an amazing cook that got this picky little kid to eat and like several things my Mom could never get me to eat.

I have a distinct memory of being at her house while she was trying to slice cabbage for coleslaw. At this point she had cancer and was in a lot of pain, but I never remember her complaining about it. I do however, remember asking me to slice up the cabbage for her because she could no longer do it. I felt awfully important and grown up, so when Aunt Mary told me to try the cabbage, I did (not something I normally would have eaten), and I liked it.

I also remember eating hamburger carpaccio at her house, the thought of doing that now makes me want to puke in my mouth, but hey I also drank out of mountain springs with the cows and lived to tell about it. Any way, Aunt Mary made the best bread and butter pickles I have ever had, to this day. They were like no other pickle I had ever had, and for most of my childhood I was spoiled with them.

After Aunt Mary died I realized her pickles were indeed rare, in fact, after years of searching I was fairly certain her pickles were extinct. I was pretty heart broken about it, actually. Until one day, I was talking about these pickles, sharing my memory of them and my second cousin (or something like that), said she remembered her Granny making the same pickles and she had the recipe.

Carrie and Helen were sisters. And they are my great, great aunts.

Carrie and Helen were sisters. And they are my great, great aunts.

Her family and my family are related through the Lucas side. Many of the Lucas sisters married and settled in Indian Valley, and according to my families old pictures stayed close friends. It’s only natural good recipes were shared.

THE recipe.

THE recipe.

I peed my pants a little over the excitement (food makes me happy, I’m not going to lie). After decades of searching for these pickles, after buying jar after disappointing jar, the recipe was so close!!! In fact her Mom texted it to me the next day. I immediately went to our neighbors garden and got some sweet onions, and out to  my garden to wrestle some cucumbers away from Silly Pig and started making the pickles.

Neighbor Pete's onion patch

Neighbor Pete’s onion patch

Know what? They are delicious. And the taste and smell brought back so many memories of standing in Aunt Mary’s kitchen as a little kid, it was wonderful.

The best damn bread and butter pickles you will ever have. The end.

The best damn bread and butter pickles you will ever have. The end.

I used to be a firm believer in secret family recipes, until I lost some secret family recipes. So in the spirit of not letting that happen ever again and because I haven’t seen many recipes like this (others use turmeric, this uses cinnamon), I give you:

The Lucas Family Bread and Butter Recipe. 

1 gallon sliced cucumbers

4 big onions, sliced

1/3 cup pickling salt

1 quart vinegar

3 cups sugar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon celery seed

1 teaspoon white pepper

3-4 cinnamon bark (sticks, I love old recipes!)

I found slicing the cucs into a gallon pitcher worked well.

I found slicing the cucs into a gallon pitcher worked well.

Soak the cucumbers, onions, and salt in an ice water bath over night. Rinse in cold water.

Ice bath. This is an important step. I don't know why, it's just what I was told.

Ice bath. This is an important step. I don’t know why, it’s just what I was told.

Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil. I let it boil about 5 minutes. Put about half of the rinse cucumbers and onions in the pickling mixture to scald. Then place in sterilized, hot jars. Do the same with the rest of the cucumbers and onions, making sure to pack them tightly and to remove air bubbles.

The flavor.

The flavor.

Adjust your lids and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Let them “pickle” for about two weeks to really get the full effect.

Since I know this is the best pickle recipe ever, I went ahead and snuck a few of my peppers into a couple of jars. The thought of these pickles with some slight heat to them, almost makes me cry. It’s going to be so good.

If you make these won’t you share with me what you think?

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, family, food, History, Know a California Farmer, photos, Ranch life, Recipe, Uncategorized

Pickled Beets

This has been the summer of pickling for me. Know that Portlandia sketch?

The one where they pickle everything? Yeah, that is totally me right now. I blame beets. Beets started my whole summer obsession with pickling. You see, we have this neighbor, Pete.

Pete gave me beers and produce. This made me happy.

Pete gave me beers and produce. This made me happy.

Pete has a garden that puts mine to shame, I mean his garden makes me want to cry is it so awesome. And he is very generous with letting me come over and pillage his garden. Every time I go up to our summer ranch, he invites me over and lets me pick produce (like once a week, between my garden and his, I haven’t bought produce in months). Needless to say, I’m a pretty big Pete fan right now.

The first time Pete turned me loose in his garden was after a long day working on the ranch. I had lost both pant legs to eye patches for the cows, I hadn't had a shower, I wasn't wearing make-up and I had eye patch glue all over my hands. Garden time was much needed and very much appreciated!

The first time Pete turned me loose in his garden was after a long day working on the ranch. I had lost both pant legs to eye patches for the cows, I hadn’t had a shower, I wasn’t wearing make-up and I had eye patch glue all over my hands. Garden time was much needed and very much appreciated!

Want to know the really funny thing? I don’t like most of the things I am canning. Actually let me re-phrase that, I didn’t like most of the things.  I finally tried the beets and they were amazing, why didn’t anyone tell me pickled beets are good?

I’ve decided to share some of my pickling recipes. Not that I am making anything that is super rare, or you can’t already find on the internets….

The beets I picked.

The beets I picked.

I got this recipe out of the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. I modified it slightly after lurking a bunch of other recipes. I am very happy with the finished product.

Pickled Beets

(this makes about 6 pints of pickles beets)

3 quarts beets (like 12 big ones)

2 cups white sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

1 Tablespoon whole allspice

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

3 1/2 cup white vinegar

1 1/2 cup reserved water from boiling the beets

This is what you do:

Wash the beets really well.

Silly helped! She tasted the greens to make sure they were good.

Silly helped! She tasted the greens to make sure they were good.

Place them in a large pot and boil until a fork is easily inserted (I cut them in half to shorten the cooking time).

Boiling beets.

Boiling beets.

Once your beets are cooked the skin should slip right off.

Beets remind me of breaking down a carcass. They are so messy and red!

Beets remind me of breaking down a carcass. They are so messy and red!

Slice or cube your beets. Combine all ingredients except the beets, in a large saucepan.

Your pickling mixture.

Your pickling mixture.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon sticks.

Packing warm beets into hot jars.

Packing warm beets into hot jars.

Pack beets into hot jars (I put my sterilized jars in an 180 degree oven and use as needed), leaving 1/4 inch headspace.

Wine helps.

Wine helps.

Ladle hot liquid over the beets, making sure to leave the 1/4 inch headspace. Remove the air bubbles.

Remove the air bubbles and clean the top so you get a seal.

Remove the air bubbles and clean the top so you get a seal.

Adjust the two piece caps.

Hot, clean caps help with a good seal!

Hot, clean caps help with a good seal!

Process pints or quarts (I used pints) for 30 minutes in boiling water.

Make sure you have at least two inches of water covering you processing cans!

Make sure you have at least two inches of water covering you processing cans!

Process for 30 minutes!

Process for 30 minutes!

The older I get the more and more I am realizing how lucky I am/was, to be born into a family that valued canning and pickling. I have wonderful memories of both side of my family canning fruits, vegetables, jams and jellies in the summer. I know many people are intimidated to try and can because it is unfamiliar to them. But you guys, I promise, it’s not really that hard and when you hear that “pop” of the can sealing, it is so worth it! I urge you try it! If you have questions, ask me, I’d love to help!

Pickled beets by me. The fruits of my labor. YUM!

Pickled beets by me. The fruits of my labor. YUM!

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, arts & crafts, food, History, Humor, Know a California Farmer, photos, Ranch life, Recipe, Uncategorized