Remembering my grandma through a special family recipe is a wonderful way to share history and memories.
Food is a visceral connection that all of us have to our past (think Proust’s Madeleines!), especially with my grandma. Beyond what food can do to trigger memories of our own experiences, it can tie us to our relationship with others. For instance, my husband has taken special care to prepare his mother’s cornbread Thanksgiving stuffing in the three years since she died. Reading the recipe in her own hand and re-living the many Thanksgivings she prepared it for the whole family has allowed him to both celebrate his mother and grieve her loss at the same time.
I feel the same way when I make my Grandma Jean’s Bread and Butter pickles. These pickles were a staple in her refrigerator long after she ceased to make her more labor-intensive Dill Pickles. When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate the flavor of Bread and Butter pickles, which are sweet. Now, I appreciate their sweet-spicy-oniony goodness. I have made them twice this summer. When I take a bite, I can hear my Grandma Jean saying: “Can I make you a sandwich to go with that?”
I really miss her, but when I make these pickles, it feels like we are spending time together again. Grandma Jean’s Bread and Butter Pickles (reprinted from Meredith Brokaw’s Big Sky Cooking)
Grandma Jean’s Bread and Butter Pickles
5 small Kirby cucumbers sliced into 1 inch rounds
1 Cup sliced white onion 2 Cups sugar 1 Cup cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon celery seed 1 Tablespoon mustard seed
1 Tablespoon pickling salt (or Kosher salt) Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.
Stir well to dissolve the sugar.
Transfer to Mason Jars (makes enough for 2), apportioning equal amounts of liquid to each.
Put in refrigerator for 2-3 days before eating, but shake the jars each day.
Last up to 2 weeks in refrigerator.