Friday, July 31, 2009

Beet Pickles

Opening my crusty old recipe box I wonder who sifted flour into it. It's a grey metal file card box from some forgotten office. In a Virgo moment early in my cooking career I had the insane idea that each recipe would live it’s life neat and tidy filed under its alphabetic letter. But that idea took a karmic turn somewhere along the way. Today there are folded yellowing snippets of paper with writing going round the edges, recipes written on (yes, sigh) napkins and papers worn and torn with love.

This time of year I usually make some kind of pickle in homage to the pickle makers of my ancestry. I like pickles. Looking through the box I found Ma Jess’ recipe for “Syrup for peach, crab or sweet apple or pear” with this little quote written on the side:

“You have to go over Fool’s Hill and Monkey Valley before you settle down.” I love that. Ma Jess was the beloved stepmother of my grandmother.

There is her recipe for beet pickles.

Cook beets – save cooking water – peel beets and cut in desired size. Reheat in juice.
Beet juice ½
Vinegar ½
1 cup brown sugar to 2 qts juice
Add cloves if desired. (I put in a stick of cinnamon with 10 cloves)

There is a note on the back of her recipe that says: “This was Tess’ recipe. Vinegar is stronger than it used to be so you may need to check taste for you.”

I wish I knew the year she wrote out that recipe but I can guess it would have been around 1930. Ma Jess lived on the family farm in Northern Michigan.

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