Photo credit: Zen-Design

What Do You Put on a Hot Dog?

A dear friend posed this question to me just as I was making pickles for the first time in over 25 years — and judging by the struggle that I went through to make them it will be the LAST time I ever make pickles too!

Having never been a very good hot dog fan, I will have to say that I would put some of my homemade green tomato piccalilli on it. I think that my first encounter with anything to do with the making of hot dogs came in school when my teacher came home from a trip across the country and stopped in the Midwest at a meat packing company. She described watching them being made and that’s all it took.

But to get back to the piccalilli. I have been desperate these past several weeks as to what to do with literally thousands of green tomatoes! I’m not kidding. This has been one fluke of a year and it is still going on — people are complaining that the leaves aren’t turning here nor on the mainland either. I had a jungle out there in my 300 sf garden and this is what happened. Tomato vines spread all over the flowers and other vegetables, some over 6 ft. long with fruit hanging down all the way to the end! I just couldn’t put all of this in the compost bin! So I started making recipes using them and the first try — green tomato mincemeat — came out to be quite delicious and was fairly easy to do.

Then I thought that I had often heard about piccalilli and could I make that? Seems as if I made it years ago when I spent summers in Maine and had a normal garden up there. So I knew I had some of the tools out in the garage (I NEVER throw anything away and THIS is why). So I dragged in my water bath canning kettle, hosing it off first outside. Luckily, the wire basket was still in it. Over at the Stop and Shop where they are doing a reorganizing project I found some jars with the help of Duleen, the girl who puts all the orders back on the shelves when the customers found out that they don’t have enough money to pay for them…can you believe it? She does this all day long!

I had to read up on pickling in my Putting Food By cookbook — in luck again as I still had it! It was then that I was getting a little scared as it is TERRIBLY involved. I had to go to the store again as I did not have some of the ingredients, such as a small cabbage, more red and green peppers and some whole allspice as I needed three of them to put in the spice bag. When I saw that a bottle of whole allspice was $4.50 I decided that my piccalilli would have to get along without it!

So I began making a dicing cut on top of the tomatoes then turning them sideways to cut across the dice to get little square pieces. I DON’T want a food processor as that sounds like I will be doing this every summer! So I must have cut up at least a hundred little plum tomatoes almost all day, along with the peppers, onions and cabbage. I know that there is a time now at my age when exhaustion comes. I have to stop and that’s exactly what happened before the cabbage was cut so I had to put the whole thing into the refrigerator to finish the next day.

But I did not make an allowance for the timing as I hadn’t read the next step very well. In the morning I finished the chopping BUT I had to add the salt and let it sit all day! Thus bringing the boiling and canning into the evening. When that time came I knew that I done it wrong and I didn’t have the wherewithal to do anything like that after supper! Oh, my this was getting too much!

So the whole thing went into the refrigerator again until the next morning when I dragged it out, rinsed off the salt several times and added the spices and other ingredients to boil. In the meantime, I prepared the rings and covers in a pan and put the jars in the dishwasher. Then I started the boiling water in the canning pot…all on my apartment-sized stove. I noticed that the book said that this canning should be done on a regular-sized stove as there isn’t the room on a small one. That’s for sure!

So now I had a problem. The wire rack’s holes were too large for the pint size jars that I had. What to do? I thought to myself…I have to be resourceful, I have to figure this out. So I got some popsicle sticks, some foil, and some string and rigged up something to block the jars from tipping over in the boiling water bath. Then I had to get everything hot all at once. What a challenge! I was glad that it was morning and that I still had lots of energy as this was going be very hard to do. I didn’t want to burn myself.

So I slowly filled up each jar, going around the inside edge to get out the air bubbles. I could use seven for this bath and so I put them on the wires with the water boiling in the kettle. Then I realized, “Oh, LORD, I didn’t have the tongs that are used to remove the jars when the ten minutes are up. I lowered the jars into the boiling water in the wires that were holding, slowly using oven mitts. I covered them up and waited until the water was boiling fiercely and then timed ten minutes. Then I had to think hard about how I was going to these %$##@# jars out of the water without tongs. The only solution that I could think of was to bail out the kettle cup by cup so that’s what I did. And I got them all out, hearing the delightful “POP” of each as it sealed. Now I had to do the whole thing all over again with the final five jars but it was a little easier this time and I got through it without any mishaps. I really do believe that most accidents occur when one has lost focus and is thinking about something else or is just going far too fast, especially if one is older.

I sampled a bit of the quart that was left over and needless to say, I was not impressed with this piccalilli. It was biting and strong but hopefully, I can find some people out there who like their pickles to taste like this. I had to take some Maalox.

The thought that passed my mind was that I had spent the better part of three days making 12 jars of HOT DOG RELISH! What a waste of my life!

So, I guess I should put some on that hot dog, don’t you think? But you live and learn and hope that the Maalox holds out.

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Gardener, artist, and keeper of family history

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Bethia Robinson

Bethia Robinson

Gardener, artist, and keeper of family history

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