I sat in a circle of people this last week who recalled memories from their childhood. One woman told of how many of her summer memories included canning fruit from their own trees or orchards near their home. When I was young, my grandparents Miller would make an annual trip to Utah to purchase fruit along the “fruit way” –the highway near Brigham City. Each year grandma and my mother bottled applesauce, apple butter, peaches, pears, and cherries. They also bottled pickles: dill, sweet, bread and butter, and pickled beets. To this my mom added apricots, and apricot jam and plum jelly from our fruit trees, green beans and zucchini pickle relish. My grandma Hatch also canned raspberries by the quart from her raspberry patch and salmon that my grandpa caught in the mountain streams near his home.
I have a great book called, ‘We Had Everything But Money’: Priceless Memories of the Great Depression… In it one editor recalls watching her daughter purchase groceries for the week. She is astonished at the cost of feeding that family. Her daughter asked, “How in the world did people eat during the Depression when there was no money?” The editor wrote, “Truth to tell, we ate pretty well. . .” Food was simpler in those days and therefore cheaper. . .[today] we pay people to do most of the hard work that once was done in the home.”
One memory read, “during the summer I was dispatched at dawn on my bicycle to scout country roads for wild asparagus. After a while you knew where it grew, so in a half hour you could collect enough for a couple of meals. In the fall the whole family went with gunnysacks to a heavily wooded county park that had dozens of walnut and hickory trees. In a few hours we had enough nuts to last us until the next autumn.”
Another section recalls, “Most people had gardens. Big gardens. They not only provided vegetables and berries and rhubarb for the summer months, but also the raw material for canning.”
April is coming. Time to plant the gardens, start new fruit trees, and plan for the year ahead. This year, consider planting a young fruit tree and rows of green beans. Learn to prune the tree and be willing to pick the blossoms for a few years. The delayed gratification produces larger fruit and a stronger tree.
And go ahead and plant zucchini, but not with the intent of distributing it to the front porches of your neighbors (sorry to take the wind out of your scheming cackle). Here’s a recipe to tuck away for that fall harvest. It’s the one my mom used. It’s a bit of a bread and butter relish that is tasty on hotdogs—but I also like it on most sandwiches or in chicken salad etc.
Zucchini Pickle Relish
10 C. grated zucchini
4 ground onions
1 red pepper chopped fine
1 green pepper chopped fine
5 T. salt
2 ¼ C. vinegar
2 ½ C. sugar
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. celery seed
1 T. corn starch
Combine zucchini, onion, salt and let stand over night. Drain. Rinse in cold water and drain again Combine with the remaining ingredients. Cook 30 min. Pour into hot 7 hot pints. Seal and process in a pressure cooker.