Dill Pickles and Sharing Traditions

Pickled cucumbers

Americans are a fortunate nation of blended cultures and freedoms. Our great grandparents and grandparents lived much different, culturalized lives than we currently experience. While it is true we are certainly a blended cultural mixing pot, what can we say culturally defines American traditions? If our traditions had to be represented in one image (of food) what would we see? Unfortunately, some of our generational traditions (related to food and otherwise) have been lost. While our children may uphold a grandmother’s or grandfather’s name, much of their experiences and cultural traditions have been lost or forgotten (unintentionally). Our fast-paced world has changed the scope of how we see, understand, and do things in our lives and our children’s lives. One commonality of people will always remain…food. Food/nutrition is one necessity we must all retain in order to survive. We can bond, learn, and make traditions through our food. It is a subject worth understanding and protecting. Food has the capability to connect generations and cultures from our past and into our present. My three-year-old daughter sparked this intrigue this summer when we embarked on our annual pickle processing “tradition.” For years, my Grandma Bev gifted one jar of pickles to each of our families for Christmas. Along with some other sewing projects, like a frilly jean pocket pot-holder and decorative hanging towels, this jar of pickles was the coveted center piece to our Christmas package. Unfortunately, we only received one jar and the conundrum became how to make one jar of pickles last until the following December. My husband and I let this go on for a few years until we finally asked my Grandma Bev for her pickle recipe. She was thrilled to fill out our recipe card with the ingredients and instructions, along with a few extra tips for a successful batch of dill pickles. Now we have a jar for each month of the year, and our kids love them as much as we still do. However, my daughter was utterly confused the day we had to pick up our “pickles” from the farm. “Mommy, when are we getting to the Pickle Factory?” she asked over 100 times that day. I continued to explain to my insightful little girl that we were picking up small cucumbers from one of favorite local farms in the area (Nelson Shine Produce, Brainerd MN), and we would be bringing them home to make them into our own jars of pickles. Every explanation was greeted with a furrowed brow and of course a new question.


“Why aren’t they in their jars?” “Why doesn’t this ‘pickle’ taste like a pickle?” After a few short hours of stuffing little cucumbers, garlic, and dill into quart jars, she began to ask fewer questions and even participated in our efforts. I had hoped by having her help, she would begin to understand the pickles we enjoy have a process behind the simple pop of their jar lids. She did. From that day forward, she has explained to anyone who will listen how pickles are made and they do not come from a “Pickle Factory.” We assume everyone knows where their food originates in tradition, form, and production. In the eyes of a child, a pickle is clearly a pickle and there must be a factory specific to “growing” these wonderful jars of deli delights. While we know there are production warehouses dedicated to mass producing all sorts of different foods, it is important to remember where and how foods are produced and grown. Many of our grandparents and great grandparents made foods according to their cultural backgrounds, financial means, and growing environments. These factors not only formed consumption and labor practices, but the traditions attached to each harvest, each process, and each meal. It is important to take the time to teach ourselves and our children traditions rich in our cultural past. Our forefathers paved an incredible path for our future generations to have a better life. In return, teaching our children their customs and sacrifices related to this plight is the ultimate testament. Sharing the traditions of the past, keeps our future rich in tradition.  
Tatro Family Dill Pickles 12 Cups Water 2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar or White Vinegar (We use Apple Cider Vinegar) ½ to ¾ Cup Salt (We use Redmond Sea Salt) Boil water, vinegar, and salt together. Put pickles into your jars with a head of dill and a toe of garlic in the bottoms of your jars. Pack your pickles as tightly as possible. After you have completed packing all of your jars with your raw pickles, garlic and dill, fill the jars with your boiling mixture and seal with your canning lids. Process your jars in a canner or pressure cooker. We use a simple canner tub and canning rack. We simply process our jars by inserting them into the water and bring it to a full boil. Once the water has boiled, remove your processed jars to a safe place to cool. Once cool, check each lid to ensure they have sealed properly. Label your lids or jars by item and year to keep track of what canned items are freshest. *Clean, HOT jars and lids are essential, along with HOT contents (like your vinegar mixture) to ensure a proper sealing process. Never try to reuse old lids.
  Photos via: Nikodem Nijaki -- Andreas Duess      

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