The Civic Holiday weekend signals Kempenfest for most of Barrie. Two days before signal Dill Pickle time for me! As you read this, I’ll have many many litres of sealers all sterilized and ready to go. Lids boiled and waiting. Dill weed cut so stalk and bloom can both do their work. Coarse salt. Alum. Vinegar. Significant cloves of garlic… significant. And one more ingredient.
Julie Zieba gave me this recipe in 1973 when we were neighbours on Penetang St. So, while I’d love to take credit for this superb recipe, it’s really her legacy. But, I do put out the energy to buy a bushel of #2 cukes from Greg Garrett and turn the kitchen into one big pickling effort for two nights.
The family counts on this. My friends count on this. Some people are applauded for their banana bread; others for their pie. My applause centres around dill pickles. How can I possibly let anyone down, even though I’m a day away from leaving on vacation?
This tradition takes me back a few years. We were living in a sprawling bungalow with terrific neighbours. (We still have terrific neighbours, but we’ve traded down to a small bungalow) Depending on the hour, I could go out on the street, check the lights and see who was awake and who wasn’t. It was a handy trait of the neighbours, and one I came to count on.
So, on a Friday night, I was peeling garlic into a large bowl, and cutting dill stalk and getting out salt and alum. I peered into the cupboard for that final ingredient. A few crumpled leaves were all I had. Darn! It was about 9:30 pm. Kid three was at work; kids one and two and first husband were at the cottage. It was the dog and me and a drastic shortage of a key dill pickle ingredient.
I stepped out onto the kitchen deck and looked about. Hallelujah! There were lights on at Dick’s house across the street. I phoned. “Would you happen to have any bayleaves I could have,” I asked. “I’m in the middle of making my world famous dill pickles and I have everything I need except bayleaves.”
“Of course! I haven’t seen you in weeks! I’ll be right over,” he countered. Within seconds the screen door opened and in he came. “Thank you! I’ve put on a pot of coffee,” I said.
He was pleased. “Just the ticket for this,” he said, holding out a full, large, bottle of Bailey’s.
Well, I didn’t connect the dots immediately. I was very focussed on the pickles. “Well, you’re right. This will go great with the coffee and…” and then I realized this was the ‘ingredient’ he thought I needed. Well, it could contribute to getting ‘pickled!’
Bayleaves. Baileys. Hmmm. I poured coffee. He poured Bailey’s into the coffee. I asked if by any chance he had any of the little green leaves that look like this–and I held up one of the few bayleaves that I had. I needed about 60 of them, maybe 70. We enjoyed our coffee, caught up on our lives and he headed back over to check his kitchen cupboard for little green leaves while I watched my brine come to a boil.
Voila! Bayleaves appeared. Pickles got pickled. I caught up with a wonderful neighbour.
Tonight, I’m pickling again. I stopped at Bulk Barn this week and picked up bayleaves and alum. As I reached in the bin to fill my bag with bayleaves, I thought of Dick, and his kind enthusiasm for a late-night-pickler. And a neighbour, too.
I should call him… Thanks, Dick!