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??

21 thoughts on “Ready, Aim, Fire!

  1. Great post. It reminds me of the Okanagan Valley in B.C. where I grew up. Fall was when the apples were harvested, applesauce made, tomatoes, peaches, and pears canned. Pickles brining in crock pots, potatoes in burlap to the root cellar. 🙂


    • Archon's Den says:

      And here I thought all you guys did was harvest hemp, and strip out the seeds and stems. Seriously though, aren’t the memories of childhood great? 😀 The large Mennonite population around here still do all of the above, plus make sauerkraut.


  2. BrainRants says:

    Nothing beats a good home-made pickle. Except bacon.


  3. aFrankAngle says:

    Hail to Archon – the canning king …. bummer news about the market. Recently had a burger at Bobby Flay’s burger place … and a half of a large pickle!


    • Archon's Den says:

      More like the wife is the Queen – and I’m just the Jester. Fresh produce still available outdoors, and do-nuts and hot drinks in the Peddlars’ Market building they saved. We’ll just have to go elsewhere temporarily for meats.

      The pickle slices go right on/in sandwiches and burgers so we don’t have to stop grazing, to take a bite. Really??! Bobby Flay’s burgers? Another food place in Cincinnati to research? I just found out about Skyline Chili, particularly the one down at Seventh and Vine, at/in the big Macy’s tower building.

      I also just found out about the Roebling Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge’s father. Wish I’d known about it when we were still travelling. Got off I-75 in Covington one weekend, but were looking for something else, and missed it. Have you ever written about either of these? Might be interesting post subjects. 😀


  4. Jim Wheeler says:

    My mother, a farm girl by birth, used to can dill pickles regularly and one trick she used was to add some grape leaves to each jar. She said it kept the pickles crisp, and it seemed to work.Have you heard of this?


    • Archon's Den says:

      The wife says she’s heard of the grape-leaf trick, but unless you have vines, or know someone with them, grape leaves are almost impossible to purchase. My Mom used to can dill spears she called Icicle Pickles, adding alum for crispness. Now, of course, alum is thought to cause Alzheimer’s. The wife’s process and liquid mixture keeps ours crisp. 😀


  5. whiteladyinthehood says:

    mmm…I don’t think I’ve ever had home-made pickles – I bet they are so good! I was kinda caught off guard when you said part of the market burned down! That’s a shame .
    I love the Farmer’s Market! In fact, the last time I went – I thought about you. There was a young lady in a long powder blue dress (billowy skirts) and wearing a bonnet (really young, no make-up, very very shy) She was selling home-canned jellies, and relish. I wondered if she was a Mennonite..If you would have been with me you probably would have been able to start a conversation with her…(I bought some cashew brittle that was to die for!)


    • Archon's Den says:

      Plans to replace the main market building are already underway. Realizing the tourist interest, and income, the Provincial Government has offered assistance.
      Your young lady probably was a newer-order Mennonite. Amish tend to remain stern and dressed in black. Did she have any accent?
      You’re right about striking up a conversation. I could stop at the Lincoln Memorial and get Abe to pass the time of day with me.
      We have some cashew brittle in the basement. The Mennonite candy vendor who was burned out also sells peanut, the obvious, and pecan and almond brittles, as well. Isn’t it great??! 😀


      • whiteladyinthehood says:

        I didn’t really notice if she had an accent (she was very soft spoken) Pecan and almond? Oh, I’m going to go back and see if I can find her again…the cashew was addictive!


      • Archon's Den says:

        And Macadamia!! I forgot Macadamia. All these nuts have to be imported here, but the Brethren (and Sistern) know how to make a buck, and great candy. 😉


  6. aFrankAngle says:

    Off topic … but about our bridge. Some good photos here.


  7. Greetings my friend! Just dropping by to let you know that I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Award. You’re at the top of my list!


  8. benzeknees says:

    Sorry, can’t do corn – I can no longer digest this favorite vegetable!


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