Tag Archives: canning



Piccalilli piccalilli piccalilli: say it out loud. That's the reason I picked this recipe. 

Picalilli relish condiment canning recipe vegetables cabbage tomatoes preserved food garden
Picalilli: this relish pairs perfectly with meat.

This is a meat condiment with a tangy mustard flavor. I tried it with some leftover chicken and WOW it knocked my socks off. And last night I snuck it onto the table next to my husband's pork loin, and got a pretty good response from friends. Kate from England used to eat it as a kid, and her Mum called it Mustard Pickle.

I call it delicious.

Like salsa, Piccalilli recipes vary widely and are often centered around peppers and cabbage. Versions using green tomatoes like this recipe hail from the South and go by the name Chow Chow—another great name! Kate from England remembers pearled onions and cauliflower.

The moral of the story: all the vegetables that are about to frost, plus cabbage and mustard.

Imagine cooking in the 1940's, when you had a slew of kids and no refrigeration and not a lot time. My aunts tell of "harvesting" a chicken for dinner— not the plastic wrapped convenience of a grocery store we enjoy today. Forget about luxurious obsessions over sauces or 3-step cooking processes on a typical day; all of your time was spent plucking and gutting the bird.

Roasting or boiling was plenty.

Plus, in the dead of winter fresh vegetables were scarce at the grocery. You were probably tired of the stored onions and root vegetables in the cellar.

So you crack open a jar of the Piccalilli that you put up back in September right before the first frost killed your tomatoes and peppers, and voila!

Fast food, 1940’s style:

½ peck firm green tomatoes
6 cups chopped cabbage
6 cups chopped green bell peppers
4 cups chopped sweet red peppers
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped white onions
1 cup salt
1 cup white sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
6 cups vinegar
1/3 cup white mustard seed
2 Tbl cinnamon
1 Tbl celery seed
1 Tbl black pepper
1 Tbl yellow mustard seed
¼ tsp paprika

Wash and remove blossom ends from tomatoes. Finely chop and mix all vegetables. Add salt and let stand overnight or 6-8 hours. Drain well by pouring into a colander.

Stir in remaining ingredients. Boil 3 minutes. Lower heat to a slow boil, uncovered, until thick (about 30 minutes). Process in pint jars.

Yields 10 pts.


Salt: This recipe did not say to rinse the salt off after soaking. I have seen recipes do it either way. In this case I left the salt on.

Mustard: From my research I think that the recipe’s “white” seeds are Brassica alba, the most common mustard seed on store shelves. The "yellow” seems to be brown, the type used in Dijon mustard. If you can find it, by all means try it, but don't let that stop you from trying this out.



“Can you go to the basement and get a jar of peaches for dinner?” my mother asked me a thousand different childhood nights while she finished cooking dinner.

Canned peaches. If you are imagining the sadness that schleps out of tin cans bought from the grocery store, erase that image from your mind right there. These are not those.

Peach jewels

Home-canned peaches are divine. They are sweet jewels that kids fight over, truly a dessert without any help from ice cream or pastry. As a child I dared myself into our basement for them; that’s how good they are.

I’m sure dirt basements exist outside of Michigan, but that’s what we call them here: a Michigan basement. It is one step down from “unfinished”, a dirt floor with crumbly plaster walls and a close ceiling. It is where our Dr. Seussian steel furnace grumbled and inhaled wood by the truckload on the far end of the room. Not spooky, exactly, just not a place you want to hang out.

With my mother’s nightly request I slid my feet into my father’s too-big slippers that were reliably parked by the basement door and I scampered down the stairs. Trapped between the furnace and the steps was the pantry: a cool, dark little side room perfect for storing canned goods. I stepped up into the black cave, waving my hand in the air to feel for the string that pulled on the light, and willed my imagination not to think of the salamanders and spiders and other Things that might be watching me. Once the light was on I breathed again and went in for the loot.

There was the treasure hunt.

First the peaches. Sometimes I picked pears too, or gathered the shopping list of tomatoes and pickles and beets my mother often ordered. I liked to poke around and inspect the lost and forgotten jars:  plums in murky sediment, jam with that weird wax seal, the apple juice nobody liked. Experiments left behind.

Satisfied, I carried as much loot away as I could hold. And I never, ever forgot the peaches. Nobody wants to get sent back to the basement for forgotten treasure.


Peach Tips on Pits:

A few tips on buying and ripening peaches:

First, if you are canning ask for “freestone” peaches. They come away from the pit easily.  Red Havens are the most common, but new varieties are out there. Cling types, whose flesh sticks to the pit, are wonderful for eating but a pain to pit—don’t try to can those or you will come away cursing like a sailor.

Second, know that peaches don’t keep. If they are perfectly ripe when you buy them, can them that day or early the next. If they are hard baseballs, go to step 3 and wait a few days.

Third, To ripen peaches at home, lay them out on a cool floor on an old sheet. Do not leave them in the bag or basket; the bottom ones will be ruined as they ripen. Check morning and night to gauge ripeness.


Will you be canning peaches this year? Any questions or fears out there?


  A spicy sweet dilly flavor fills my kitchen this week, letting visitors know that pickles are afoot in this house.


pickle caption

 Lucie’s collection includes 15 recipes for pickles. Fifteen. It’s like the Bubba Gump version of pickles. Dill pickles, split pickles, sweet pickles. . . .

Because I am a recovering perfectionist I didn't try to tackle all of them this year.  I stuck with my staple recipes (dill and relish) and branched out with a couple of new ones. In summation:

Nine Day Pickles: This was the most intimidating recipe but turned out to be the most fun. First there was the floating of the egg. Then each day after that was just a little bit of work that I multi-tasked while making breakfast or washing dishes. No big deal. The result was a strong sweet pickle that will go well with meat or, if you’re fancy, on a charcuterie board.  And by the way, an ounce of celery seed is a LOT.

Pickle Relish: This sweet relish is my main bribing tool for a select group of sausage-loving friends. I know that it sounds weird because relish isn’t one of those things that you dream about, but this is some serious stuff. Sorry folks, no recipe at this time. You must be in my inner circle.

Lazy Wife Pickles: These were weird. Yes, they were easy to make, but the recipe calls for a cup (a full cup!) of ground mustard. It never fully dissolved. The powder just hung suspended in the liquid; I am guessing it should really be mustard seed instead. Next time.

'Pickle Roundup
Dill Pickles: Ah, the dill pickle. I used to buy seasoning kits but simple is best: salt, dill, maybe a clove a garlic, and diluted vinegar. And Aunt Helen’s tip to boil the packed jars in a water bath just until the cucumbers change color, about 7 minutes, guarantees a crisp crunch. But don’t sue me for that because it doesn’t follow the safety rules of Cook Your Food Until It Is Entirely Mushy, Tasteless, and Sterile. It’s just an idea you might try if you’re dangerous. Like me after this week.

Aunt Helen's Dill Pickles

1 pt. cider vinegar
1 cup canning salt
2 1/4 qt. water
2 stalks dill

Bring vinegar, salt, and water to a boil. Pour over pickles that are packed in a jar with dill. Seal with hot lids. Process in water bath just until they turn lighter.