• Pickle Fail {Gypsy Magpie}

    Food Storage Lessons: Pickle Fail

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    When I was growing up I learned the value of a garden and how to preserve food. It was just an every day way of life. I enjoyed going to my grandparents’ home each fall to pick grapes and make juice and jelly. Peeling peaches became mom and me time. I loved seeing the plants grow in the garden, even if I hated weeding them. We kids looked forward to seeing the apricot tree in the backyard full of blossoms in the spring and, even more, the dried fruit come winter. My family went hunting. We drove by the dairy farm on the way church and talked about where milk and beef came from. We occasionally filled assignments as volunteers on the church pig farm down the road. We worked together at home and at the shop.

    I grew up knowing where food came from, that it didn’t just appear on the grocery store shelves or on my plate. I never realized how rare a childhood like that really was until I had children myself.

    As a young mother of tiny kids, I was asked to teach a canning class in my church. I had originally been a little embarrassed when they told me I would be teaching on freezer jam. “Why? Everybody knows how to do that! They’ll think I’m talking down to them.” were the thoughts that came to my mind. But, I said yes anyway. Class started and the ladies showed up. There I was glossing over the basics and whipping on through because I assumed that it was information everyone already knew. It wasn’t until 1/3 through the class that a woman spoke up, asking me to slow down and thoroughly explain why I did each step. As we got talking I was shocked at how little some of these fantastic ladies actually knew. It was all so natural and basic to me. I was so confused. I took a deep breath and then started from scratch. It ended up being an amazing experience for me.

    I taught several more classes after that, but I will never forget that first one, or the look on a sweet friend’s face when she showed up to my door a few days later with her very first jar of jam that she had proudly made all by herself.

    That class gave me food for thought. Why did my family teach me the things they did? Why on earth in this day and age did we still do this stuff? Was it really more cost effective to bottle food? Wasn’t it easier just to buy a can at the store? Why was it so deep down innately important to me to have my own little plot of land and put away food? So many questions and I didn’t really have the answers.

    A couple months later I found myself working by my dad’s side cleaning out his food storage. There on a back shelf I found my answers in the form of a few dusty old quart jars full of venison. The second I saw those jars I was a little girl again and there was a deer hanging in our garage. My mama would send me out to grab things for her because the smell made her queasy. I remember helping my parents to put the chunks of meat in the bottles. Even more vividly, I remember having to eat it.

    And, eat it… and… eat it…

    It was the 80’s, Utah was in the middle of a recession, and our family flooring business had been hit hard. My parents were young with a growing brood and bills to pay. My mom tried her hand at sewing and made my brothers MC Hammer “boogie” pants that to this day the mere mention of still gets a round of giggles. We grew a garden in the back yard. We harvested fruit from the trees from which we filled mason jars, dried fruit, and made homemade fruit roll ups. We would go down to my grandparents’ house and splash in the water as dad would help grandpa irrigate the back lot. I will never forget how beautiful that little orchard and garden was. My cousin, Jonathan, and I would sneak under the grape vines and hunt snakes to scare our grandma with. Rotten kids! We went camping and hunting. We were taught how to use a knife and shoot a bow. We ate venison, lots of potatoes, and crazy amounts of squash. {Hmmm, maybe that’s why Jer hates squash? Haha!}

    My parents taught us to work hard and to play hard, too.

    Life was so rich that I never knew that money was scarce.

    All those years later, as I dumped out jars of stinky old meat and talked about how bottled venison still made me gag, my dad told the story that I was too unaware to see. He talked about how hard it had been to keep things going. Of how incredibly proud he was of my mother for doing so much with so little. You see, my parents had prayed long and hard and that deer had been a blessing. Those jars of nasty venison were like gold to my dad. I’ll never forget the testimony he shared that day of self reliance, working together, and trusting in God.

    Hard times will come.

    Recently I found myself relearning that same lesson, but this time it involved a shelf of pickles. Three years ago, I had worked so hard to put to use a giant crop of cucumbers. We ate them until we couldn’t eat any more and then after a lot of researching recipes and techniques, I turned the rest into pickles. For the first few months my kids devoured jars and jars of the homemade treat. They loved them! But, as time went on, the pickles grew soft and were no longer appetizing. There they sat gathering dust in the back of the bottom shelf of the fruit room until a few weeks ago when our basement flooded. As I cleaned out wet cardboard and ruined bags of grout, my eyes fell on that shelf of ruined pickles. It made me angry just looking at them!

    What a waste… or was it?

     

    Pickle Fail {Gypsy Magpie}

     

    This week I got up the courage to face the inevitable. As I hastily started dumping nasty soft pickles down the drain, disgusting jars of old meat filled my mind, and I started to bawl.

    In January and February, we were hit with medical bills. Who knew a tiny little unnecessary organ could be so expensive to remove? My husband asked me to trust him, then cleaned out our entire savings plus all the extra from his paycheck and paid off the bills. He had faith that it would all work out. We relied almost solely on our food storage to help us get by. I don’t know why it scared me so bad. It wasn’t the first time in our 13 years together that things have been tight. I guess as we’ve made more money and have gotten accustomed to more and more extras it’s made it harder to let things go than when we were young, as poor as church mice, and didn’t have a clue? Had that little taste of financial sweetness spoiled me? This would not do.

    I guess the Lord saw fit to humble me and He did it with a flood and some dusty jars of pickles.

    What I had seen as hard work and time getting washed down the drain along with my pickles slowly turned into precious memories of the day I had made them. I imagined my children helping me wash those very jars. I remembered my daughters using the dried dill weed as funny little umbrellas and singing silly songs. I was reminded that I had sliced my finger while cutting the cucumbers and a certain spunky child had then repeated my cuss word for the next ten minutes. Next came me begging her to stop so her daddy wouldn’t know I had unintentionally taught it to her! {Like somehow he wouldn’t know where she heard it? My husband doesn’t swear. *face palm*}

    I lost that batch of pickles, but that really isn’t the point.

    What matters is, I made them.

    The lesson of the venison had been instilled in my soul. I was teaching my children where their food came from. How to prepare for a day in the future when we might struggle. By spending time with me in the garden and sitting with me as we bottled the harvest, they were learning how to work. And, hopefully they were learning to appreciate the numerous blessings they each have been given.

    Even though it’s an old fashioned tradition, I will continue to pass it on.

     

    Pickle Fail {Gypsy Magpie}

     

    I want my children to know where their food comes from. I want them to appreciate the eggs their chickens lay and the first peas they pluck from the pod. I want them to find joy in watching the neighbor’s bees as they pollinate each child’s own little row of veggies. I want them to be proud of their friend’s dad out working hard in the fields and realize the incredible power in what he is doing.

    I want them to have a little root in the old as they spread their wings into the new.

    I hope they grow up to feel confident in themselves as they provide for their families, knowing that if they put their skills to work and rely on our Savior that they can make it through the rough patches, because hard times will surely come.

    Even though it sounds a little odd, I wish for them their own little jar full of humble, in whatever form it may come.

    But, when it does, I hope they remember the venison… and the pickles.

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3 Comments
  • Eric n Deborah Jacques
    16 March 2014
    Reply

    Beautiful. Simply beautiful. So far as I know, my mom never canned a thing in her life and I never saw a home-canned jar until I was 17 and living away from home. Those were the BEST canned peaches I’d ever tasted! I first saw tomatoes being canned in my early 20’s. The closest I’ve done yet, at 55, is freezing a good bit of produce. I now have a canner and the beginnings of a jar collection. I pray that I get some canning done this summer! You don’t know how blessed you are to have had the early life that you did, canned venison and all.

    • Missy
      2 April 2014
      Reply

      Thank you for reading and for your kind comment!

  • northstorage
    11 January 2018
    Reply

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