Posts Tagged ‘Toni Childs’

Saturday Single No. 550

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

It’s pickling season!

In the past few days, I’ve set up the temporary table in the kitchen. It’s now home to boxes of canning jars with their rings and lids, envelopes of pickling mix, extra kettles, various canning implements, and a stack of fresh kitchen towels. I’ve brought the big canner up from the fruit cellar and wiped it clean of cobwebs and anything else that might have gathered during its off-duty months.

In the past few months, we’ve been giving away the 2016 batches of pickles, clearing the shelf in the fruit cellar as well as we can. There are maybe two pints left of last year’s pickles, as well as the big – two gallons, I think – jar of whole kosher pickles the Texas Gal made for herself last year. She’s still leery of opening it: As big as the cucumbers she chose were, she’s not entirely sure that nearly a year in the jar has pickled them to her taste.

And this morning, the Texas Gal is off to the farmer’s market downtown to bring home a bushel of early cucumbers from a woman who grows them on a farm near Browerville, about seventy miles northwest of here. It looks like our garden will supply plenty of cukes this year, but for the past few years – ever since we had one very poor cucumber season – the Texas Gal has ordered early cucumbers just in case.

So as of today, the Thirteenth Avenue Pickle Factory is open. Varieties this year will be kosher and Polish dill, bread & butter (both regular and zesty), sweet pickle relish, and a new variety of mix the Texas Gal grabbed during one of her preparatory shopping trips, spicy pickles. (I also noted that she’s picked up a mix for pickling okra and other vegetables; we neither grow nor regularly eat okra, so she has something else in mind for that mix, and she also found a package mix for salsa with the spices premeasured, so when we get enough tomatoes, she’ll be doing a couple batches of that.)

As I’ve noted other years, she does most of the work when picking and canning season rolls around, loving it during the early part of the season and maintaining good grace during the later portions of the season when the time spent in the kitchen gets a bit wearisome. I help with chores that require lifting or climbing the stepstool, and I pitch in and slice onions or whatever else needs to be done when required.

And we both get a good measure of satisfaction from all of it, first from the “plink” that each jar of pickles or other canned food makes as its seal sets in and later from the pleasure of giving away (and eating, too) pickles and other delights over the following winter.

To go along with this piece, I looked for a tune with the word “pickles” in its title. I found one, a jaunty little number by Allen Toussaint from 1970 titled simply “Pickles.” It wasn’t quite what I was looking for, so I searched for the word “kitchen” instead, and got back forty-seven results. Most of them, of course, are versions of Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen,” a song I love but that isn’t quite what I was looking for today.

So here’s “Mama’s In The Kitchen” by Toni Childs. It’s from Childs’ 2008 album Keep The Faith, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 505

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

Well, pickling season has come.

The Texas Gal is in the kitchen, sorting a bushel of pickling cucumbers she picked up at the local farmer’s market this morning. Yes, she has cucumbers in her garden in the side yard, but just to make sure she has enough for an early batch of pickles each summer, she orders a bushel from a woman from Browerville, a burg of about 800 folks about sixty-five miles northwest of here.

The vendor called yesterday and said those cucumbers would be available at the farmer’s market today, and the Texas Gal brought them home a little bit ago. By that time, I’d gotten the canner and its accessories and about eighteen quart-sized canning jars up from the fruit cellar. And in a couple of hours or so, the smell of pickling brine will fill the house, and by sometime this afternoon, the first batches of pickles – combining the Browerville cucumbers with the first ones this season from our garden – will come out of the canner to cool.

It’s remarkable to realize that until we moved into the house not quite eight years ago, the Texas Gal had never gardened and never done any canning. She learned quickly, even with some missteps along the way, both in the garden and in the kitchen, and one side of our fruit cellar is almost always pretty well stocked. Well, the shelf space devoted to pickles is pretty empty right now – one lone jar of Hot Texas Mustard Pickles remains from last year – but that’s intentional: Over the winter and into the spring, we gave away everything else we had left on the shelves from the past few years to clear the space for this year’s batches.

It’s not just pickles, of course. Over the past few years, she’s canned green beans, wax beans, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, chili starter and various relishes that are staples here. She’s also tried some things that weren’t as successful, like the sweet and sour curried vegetables from last year. It was an interesting idea, but the reality was a little less tasty than we hoped.

This year’s canning efforts, however, will be mostly devoted to pickles. There will be green beans and wax beans galore from her portion of the community garden, but most of those will go to the Dream Center, a residence for ex-felons on the North Side that we help support through our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. The same holds true for a lot of the tomatoes we’ll get, although I imagine she’ll make and freeze some pasta sauce, as the large batch she made and froze two years ago is now gone.

But that will come later in the summer, probably in mid-August at the earliest. Today and tomorrow, it’s pickling time. I’ll contribute where I can, but my role is mostly limited – as I’ve noted here in other summers – to the literal heavy lifting, moving the filled canner from burner to burner and lugging jars of cooled, sealed and labeled pickles to the fruit cellar as the last part of the process.

So with all that, it seemed like a good time to look for a tune with “kitchen” in its title. I dismissed twenty-seven versions of “Come On In My Kitchen” and looked further. And I came upon “Mama’s In The Kitchen” by Toni Childs. It’s from her 2008 album Keep The Faith, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.