Sunday, August 08, 2010

Aunt Mary

Candy D wanted to know more about Aunt Mary’s pickles, so I thought first of all that I should talk about Aunt Mary.

My mom came from a family of nine children. She was the second youngest - the youngest lived only a few months, so was the baby of the family. My grandfather was one for nicknames and almost everyone in the family had one. My mother’s nickname was “Mush” – don’t know why, for sure, but it’s funny to hear my cousins call her “Auntie Mush.” Mom, being the youngest, had nieces and nephews that were almost as old as she was. One of my favorite cousins played at the family farm with Mom when they were youngsters.

Mom’s oldest brother, Hugo, was always called “Hookey;” he and Mom’s other brother, Vernon, took over the farm from my grandfather and worked together. Uncle Vernon (he never had a nickname - strange) sold out to Uncle Hookey and went off to find his fortune elsewhere. After my grandfather died, my grandmother, Nana, helped on the farm until Uncle Hookey married Aunt Mary.

The two of them raised four boys, Bob, Jake (John), Jim and Tom and then one daughter, Jean Marie.

One of my mother’s sisters, Pete (Mildred), married a local farmer Goosey (Gus), and owned a hotel which she ran while Uncle Goosey farmed. Nana lived in a small apartment in the same town. This town, McClusky, was the town that my mom was born in, so she knew a lot of people there.

When our family traveled back to the hometown and family farm for vacations, we usually stayed at the hotel (there was more room for a family of six there than at the farm). I was a country girl at heart (haven’t changed much) and would beg Mom to let me go out to the farm and stay there for the duration. Mom wanted me to be a “lady” but I was a dye-in-the-wool tomboy.

Mom would allow me to spend time at the farm if I promised I would help Aunt Mary in the house. Mom’s idea of “help” was to clean, cook, bake, in the house. Aunt Mary’s idea of “help” was to help with breakfast, wash breakfast dishes and do chicken chores. After that, I was free to be outside with the boys.

Uncle Hookey taught me how to milk (his was a dairy farm) because I would get up with him for the morning milking. The boys taught me how to drive a tractor; Uncle Hookey allowed me to drive for rock picking, raking hay or collecting hay bales. He would not allow me to drive for plowing or planting or for the more dangerous job of mowing. He would allow me to drive the John Deere tractors but not the big Allis Chalmer - it was too big for me. (We have an identical AC here that is “not too big” now).

But Aunt Mary - blessed be her name! She understood what I needed to have and it was NOT lessons in the house while I was fretting for being outside. When the boys and Uncle Hookey were doing field work that I couldn’t join in with, I would stay in the house with her and I would help make the morning or afternoon lunches to take to the fields. Then I would learn baking and cooking at her shoulder.

Aunt Mary had a pantry in the basement that I still dream about - a whole room that was set aside for shelves and shelves and shelves of beautiful jars of food. She had a large garden (I would help her weed on my “off” days from MY field work) and “put by” nearly everything that they ate during the year.

Of her many recipes that I have copies of or remember helping her cook / bake, my favorite has to be her sweet pickles. I have seen recipes very much like on the internet and also in my favorite recipe book (that has recipes for about every type of fruit or vegetable and many different types of pickles). I believe that they are called “Seven Day Pickles.” So, Candy D, here’s the recipe - enjoy — they are sweet and spicy and dancing-in-the-kitchen good.

Uncle Hookey and Aunt Mary at an anniversary party - can't remember which one

Aunt Mary’s Sweet Pickles

4 quarts of cucumbers after slicing and coring
Soak 3 days with 1 ¾ cup pickling, kosher or sea (not table) salt and water to cover


Soak 3 days in clear cold water


Simmer in weak vinegar solution (½ cup vinegar) and 1 tsp alum in water for 10 minutes


8 cups sugar
6 cups white vinegar
1 oz whole allspice
1 oz stick cinnamon
Heat, then pour over pickles

Let stand for 24 hours

For 3 days, drain and reheat syrup and add cucumbers

4th day – pack and seal with hot syrup. Add green food coloring to syrup.

1 comment:

Lynda said...

Mmmmm....they sound good. I usually make dill pickles, but I think I'll try some of these too....Your Aunt Mary sounds like a great gal!