Ready, Aim, Fire!

Canning season is upon us.  Our supply of dill pickles has been slowly but surely dwindling, and replacements must be made.  Cucumbers have been available for a month or more, but the dill plants are only now coming into their own.

We had massage/osteopathy appointments on Thursday, so we were unable to go to the Farmers’ Market.  We had to go Saturday.  Neither the wife nor daughter is an early riser, and usually we get there 10:00/10:30 AM.  This was Labor Day Saturday!!!  D-Day would have been easier.  With both of them handicapped, I insisted that we get there 8:00/8:30 AM, to be able to park in the same Postal Code, and we still nearly needed to bring our own parking space.

More and more, we are joining the ranks of the Lazy And Incompetent cooks I wrote about 15 months ago.  A couple of weeks ago, the wife found that the Wholesale Warehouse has gallon cans of diced tomatoes, which we could use for making salsa or chili sauce whenever they are needed.  The cost is less than the equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes, bought at the market, and they have already been skinned and chopped.

Dill pickles though, still require the personal touch.  We bought a half a bushel of small cucumbers from a favorite vendor, and some fragrant dill stalks from a Mennonite, and hauled them home.  The car still smells of dill – Mmmh!  Saturday evening, we scrubbed the cucumbers and put them to soak overnight.  Sunday afternoon, we started cutting and slicing.

Then we made up the first batch of canning syrup.  We had obtained a couple of pounds of de-skinned garlic, which needed to be blanched.  We used the water from that, to add garlic flavor to the pickling mixture.  We, (as in, the wife) cut the heads off the dill plants, to add to each jar, and cut up the stems to be boiled with the syrup, to add more dill flavor.

The first batch complete by about 9:30, we sent the son out to pick up a couple of pizzas for supper, and then mixed up another pot of witches’ brew, for a second batch.  By 2 AM we had canned (bottled) 15 quarts, 15 pints, and three half-pints, of slices, chunks, and quarters.  Actually, both the son and the grandson like to eat the garlic chunks which add flavor at the bottom of the jars, so, two of the half-pints were the last of the garlic which didn’t go in with the pickles.

Just as we were bottling the last of the pickles we’d obtained at the market the day before, the main building at the Farmers’ Market was busy burning down.  A passerby reported flames at about 1:30 AM, and by the time firemen arrived, all they could do was prevent damage to other, nearby buildings.  Designed to resemble a Mennonite barn, only the fittings and contents were metal and glass.  All the rest was solid, dry wood.

It will take a few days to establish the cause.  In the meantime, 60 vendors and countless customers are impacted.  Many of the locations on the main floor sold meat, as well as eggs, or Guernsey milk.  There were also a candy vendor, produce, fish, cheese, baked goods, a specialty tea/coffee place tucked under the stairs, and an eating area at one end with picnic-table seating, and several stalls selling donairs, pizza, perogies, cinnamon buns, hot apple fritters, Oktoberfest sausages and fries and burgers.  Outlets on mezzanines on both sides provided Mennonite quilts, footwear, leather clothing, dream-catchers, jewelry, semi-precious gemstones, and other various kitsch.  There may be a small puddle of melted gold in the ashes.

The market is a huge tourist trap attraction, with busloads of blue-haired walker-pushers being bussed in from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.  We met a nice couple from London, Ontario, over coffee, Saturday morning.  Management is not sure whether cleanup will proceed quickly enough to allow the rest of the market to open as soon as this coming Thursday.

The Market is Waterloo Region’s answer to Santa’s Village, Niagara Falls, or the Shakespeare Festival.  I am sure that the structure will be rebuilt, perhaps even larger, grander, more Mennonite-ish, but winter is almost upon us.  It could be up to a year to get it replaced.  Built just before legislation made it mandatory, it had no sprinkler system.  Any replacement must provide an elevator, if a second storey is included.

In the meantime, we can attend to get our vegetables, and apple fritters and hot chocolate.  We may have to follow that with longer, scenic drives to other Southern-Ontario tiny hamlets, with names like Heidelberg, Dorking and Elora, to get the quality meats we have grown used to. (Do you like Dorking??  I don’t know, I’ve never Dorked.  Yeah, right!)

Like fine wine, it takes a while for pickles to age.  By early next summer these could be ready to open, and let breathe.  Anybody up for a barbecue?  I could show up with the hamburger slices.  All you’d have to provide would be the burgers and beer – and potato salad – and corn….could we do corn??

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