I’m not going to lie, nor do I think that I should feel shame at the confession I’m about to reveal.
Mom fed us Velveeta when we were kids – and we liked it.
Who could blame her? The stuff was marketed as a superfood in the 1960s and early ’70s. Only later did people begin a collective wonder whether a shelf-stable “cheese food” was a particularly good notion. It’s hard to argue against one thing: Velveeta melts beautifully when packed between bread for a grilled cheese sandwich. (Hardly surprising, though; it was engineered for melting.) What goes well with a grilled Velveeta sandwich? Bread and butter pickles. My modern day cheese choice would be a locally produced cheddar such as the Flagship cheese from Beecher’s in Pike Place Market or Kerrygold Dubliner. Dad loved them so much that even though Mom put up dozens of jars every summer, they still ran out well before spring. Before starting, be aware the cucumbers will need to soak overnight with the onions. Makes about ten 1-pint (500ml) jars. Excerpted from Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good (Viking/Penguin).
8 pounds (3.6kg) medium cucumbers
4 pounds (1.8kg) small onions
1 1/2 cups (300g) coarse or pickling salt
4 1/2 quarts (4.5L) water
Cooking and Pickling
7 cups (1.75L) white vinegar
9 cups (2.25L) water
6 cups (1.2kg) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) ground ginger
1 tablespoon (15ml) mustard seeds
1 tablespoon(15ml) ground turmeric
For the overnight soak: Wash the cucumbers well. Trim off the hardened end and slice into 1/4-inch (6mm) rounds. Peel and slice the onions and rinse in cold water. Combine in a large stainless-steel or enameled preserving kettle with a brine made by combining the salt and water. Cover the kettle. Let stand overnight.
To cook and pickle: Drain the vegetables and rinse with cold water. Return to the kettle. Cover with a solution made with 3 cups (750ml) of the vinegar and the water. Place on high heat. Bring just to the verge of boiling, then immediately drop the heat to low. Do not boil. Keep hot until the cucumbers are translucent and tender, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden or silicon spoon.
While the cucumbers and onions are cooking, sterilize ten 1-pint (500ml) canning jars and lids according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep hot.
Remove the pickles from the heat and drain. Pack the pickles in the hot sterilized jars to within 1 inch of the top.
In a large saucepan, combine the remaining 4 cups (1L) vinegar, the sugar, ginger, mustard seeds, and turmeric to make a pickling syrup. Blend thoroughly. Place on high heat and bring to a boil. Pour the boiling syrup over the pickles to within 1/4 inch (6mm) of the tops of the jars. Run the blade of a silver knife or the flat handle of a wooden spoon down the inside of each jar to release air bubble. Seal at once. Once opened, refrigerate contents.
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