Elkton — It’s about that time of year again; when It was around this time last year, that I was attending a family gathering when it was brought to my attention that both my mother and my aunt had been pickling (bread and butter pickles to be exact). This is something they had both done every summer since their childhood. However, I soon learned that unlike previous summers, last summer had provided them with two very different pickling experiences.
My aunt, who lives in the Fair Hill area of Cecil County reported that she had a very difficult time locating the necessary pickling spices (these include celery seed, mustard seed, and turmeric). She had apparently tried several local grocery stores, but no luck. My uncle and cousin had also tried to help her out by scouring several other stores throughout Cecil County, as well as neighboring Newark, but no luck there either. The stores were all sold out. My aunt finally resorted to purchasing the spices from Amazon. She had no other choice. The pickles had to get made!
My mom on the other hand, who lives in the Port Deposit area of Cecil County reported that she had no problem finding the necessary spices. My stepfather had apparently shopped in near by Havre de Grace for the spices and came home with everything needed. No issues were had.
I found myself sitting there with question marks flying through my head. How could two women, both living in the same county have two very different pickling adventures?
The wheels started turning in my head, “is everyone in the county pickling all of sudden?” Maybe everyone had read my article from last May on the Victory Gardens of WWI and decided to take up their trowels and plows and start planting gardens? After all, we were amid a pandemic so perhaps people were in fact doing more gardening and subsequently more canning and pickling. Was everyone in a panic, buying up all the pickling spices? Was Cecil County in another grocery store crisis? Or was it just one of those things whereby chance, every store in Cecil County was sold out?
I was so intrigued by this situation last year that I had even tried to get the inside scoop from an acquaintance that works for McCormick, but unfortunately, I was not able to get the inside scoop.
This year, everything seems to have returned to “normal.” I’ve been monitoring the spice aisle at the grocery store and I was pleased to see an abundance of spices available (at least the ones necessary for pickling anyway).
While I’m happy to see this, I hope this doesn’t indicate that people are not canning this summer.
Last year I would have never guessed that I would be writing an article about pickles; both canning and situational, but if 2020 taught me anything, it’s that we should always expect the unexpected. Generation after generation, we have become more and more removed from our ancestors and survival skills. Relying on grocery stores to supply us with all our foods has left us vulnerable and ill prepared. If we put food up in the summer, we’ll always have something to eat in the winter. Here’s hoping that everyone is continuing their gardening and canning this summer.
Fortunately, it seems as though the pickling spice crisis of 2020 is behind us now. Canning this summer should not be the adventure that it was last year. So, get out there and do some pickling! And please remember to shop local and support our farmers whenever you can!