|Mitchell's homegrown and preserved gherkins|
Mitch made these just over two weeks ago. He grew the little cucumbers himself. Not without drama. The vine began to climb and weave through the pool fence and our Josie the Kangaroo had quite a bit of fun pulling the little fellows off the vine. No kidding. She was turning into quite a pest. We reprimanded her constantly. She received the message and finally left them alone. This left just the bugs. A nuisance, but an expected one. Mitch was vigilant every afternoon, checking on them, watering and manually removing any unwanted visitors. He never once used a pesticide. His cucumbers were truly 'organic'. And yummy.
Our Mitch is turning 22 this week. As I sit here and ponder, I can't think of anyone his age that is remotely like him. He is certainly a 'rare' boy. He is quiet, self-assured, smart, loves older folk and is a true "greenie" in every sense of the word. I could honestly write pages about my "special" boy, but he would hate that. As much as I am bursting at the seams to tell the world about my beautiful son, I must contain myself and simply count my blessings.
Philomena and Romano adore him to bits. Philomena tells us of her plans to take Mitch to Croatia when they return there to live for good. She talks about finding a "good" girl for him. We all laugh as she tells us how she intends to find this girl. Our crazy neighbour declares, "the girl who has no trouble lifting a shovel and digging, is the girl for him. No fancy makeup. No fancy clothes or shoes. No smoking. No drinking. And, most importantly, she must know how to cook!" We all crack up with laughter as I have a feeling Mitchell's future betrothed doesn't actually exist. Still, we all have a mighty good chuckle listening to Philomena.
I can't take any of the credit for Mitchell's gherkins. He has done it all. The only thing he asked of me, was for a recipe explaining how to preserve them. I lay out my table with about seven books each containing it's own version for pickled cucumbers or gherkins. He perused them all, picked one, and proceeded with the recipe. He went to the shops to get mustard seeds and Philomena gave him fresh grape vine leaves from her vine and fresh dill sprigs from her garden. Everything else was in my pantry.
The result. They looked fantastic. We found eating them on their own a little strong. The vinegar certainly dominated, but the taste of the cucumber and other flavourings were not lost. Infact they came through brilliantly when eaten together with some cheese or ham and crackers. The gherkins also had a lovely "snap". I mean, they weren't soft and mushy. They retained a firm bite. I am really impressed son. His father was blown away. "More. Make some more mate", he pleaded. Our Mitch is working on it.
(adapted from Jams and Preserves by Nerys Purchon)
4 cups water
500gm fresh gherkins or small Lebanese cucumbers
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 or 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
several fresh dill sprigs
2 cups white vinegar
extra 2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
a couple of fresh grape vine leaves; optional
Mix the salt and the water in a bowl until dissolved.
Add the gherkins and leave for 12 hours, stirring often. Drain. Rinse several times.
Layer the herbs and spices with the gherkins in a wide-mouthed sterilised jar or crock.
Bring the vinegar, extra 2 teaspoons salt and sugar to a boil in a non-aluminium pan. Pour over the gherkins.
Seal immediately with a non-metallic vinegar-proof lid.
Leave for at least two weeks before opening.