Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tradition and Heritage

Great-grandmother's recipe that
Mom typed years ago for me.
Those two words don’t necessarily have to be related. You can have a tradition in your family that is part of your heritage that you do year after year as if to honor ancestors from long ago; or, you can have a tradition that is a ritual that you’ve only been doing for the past few years, but you want to keep it going. Sometimes what your children feel is a tradition, may only have been done a few times, but seems as though it has been their whole life to them.

My Great-Aunt Pat's son visiting and
carrying on Pickle tradition with
future generations!

Well, Bread and Butter Pickles may well be an example of Tradition and Heritage in my family. When I was young and still at home, it was my family’s tradition to make pickles.  The time it really comes vividly to mind was when we were living on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea. I remember working with Mom in the kitchen and I was finally old enough to be given the task of slicing the cucumbers.  She was so specific in the size that she wanted them sliced. While I was slicing, and slicing, and slicing, and my fingers were becoming more and more shriveled, I remember listening to her tell me how she loved the smell of Bread and Butter Pickles being made during the summer by her grandmother; and, how she helped do the very thing I was doing. I felt proud to be given the task, and suddenly the pruned fingers didn’t bother me so much. 
My daughters in the kitchen

I hadn’t really known my great-grandmother.  Although she died when I was about 6 years old, we were living in Hawaii at the time, and we had been in England before that. So, all I really have are the stories of what a great cook she was and a few photographs that I cherish and share with my daughters.

Back to the Pickles----
We continued with all the steps: 1) slicing the peppers and onions.
2) Combining with the cucumbers and salt (to bring out the water). 3) Bringing the vinegar, sugar and spices to a boil before adding the other three.

I still remember how my eyes burned from the onion vapors, my nose was inundated with the steaming vinegar smell, and don’t forget that my fingers were still pruning! BUT, this was my HERITAGE and it was going to be a TRADITION that I was finally old enough to participate with.

Onions, peppers, and cucumbers! 

The recipe has been in our family for about 100 years. I remember hearing (and need to ask for clarification) that someone had won a Blue Ribbon decades ago with that recipe at a County Fair. Through the years, Mom has made the pickles, sometimes, I’ve been there to help, other times not.  However, the recipe is in a cookbook my Mom had made for me back in 1982 when I was young and on my own.  I never made them by myself until 2002. My daughters were finally old enough and I thought it was time to carry on the TRADITION and teach them a fun side of their HERITAGE!

Jars filling up with Pickles.
Next stop- the water bath!

That first year that we made them (2002), the whole house smelled of onion vapors. We all had tears that wouldn’t stop….we couldn’t even see.  We had fans on, windows open, and still it offered only minimal amounts of relief.  This warranted a call to Mom.  We analyzed the recipe and the steps I'd done. We laughed when we realized that 100 years ago when they said a “large” onion, it was by natural standards. So when I used 8 large onions by today’s standards, I was mega dosing!  We all made notes and vowed to use better judgment in the future.

Later that same summer, my parents and grandmother came for a visit and the ladies critiqued my pickles. That means color, taste, and presentation had to be up to Heritage standards! (hee, hee). But the best compliment of all came after they’d left my house and had taken a jar of my pickles on to my Great Aunt Pat. She was the real chef in the family and she called to tell me that my pickles were wonderful. She said I would’ve made my great-grandmother proud. I felt all the years of those different generations melt away. It’s funny how some things you do are just in your blood.  Whether or not you think something is your Heritage, it has a way of finding you, sometimes without you knowing it.

Excited to see that Blue Ribbon

In 2004, I entered the Bread and Butter pickles in our County Fair and took home a Blue Ribbon.  That recipe had come full circle, and I felt such a connection to my Heritage.

I hope there's something you'll think of today to help carry on a tradition or share a bit of your heritage with your children or even a good friend! Little things like this connect us all.


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