Saturday, November 7, 2009

Liquid Gold

     Ladson Stringfellow left a gunny sack of jerusalem artichokes and a bushel of peppers on the porch last week, signifying it was time to make artichoke relish. Each fall after the first good frost, the chokes are ready to be dug up from the ground and turned into a delicious concoction of vegetables, mustard, spices and vinegar-- a tangy relish that enhances everything from turnip greens to pork roast. I only give a jar of it to very, very, VERY special friends, and they only get one chance to decide if they like it or not.  The jar comes with a must be 100% honest, on your knees before God honest, about whether you like the relish or not,  because I will not waste this liquid gold on people that politely say "Oh, I just love your artichoke relish" then sneak inside and pour it down the disposal.  If I do not believe your response is sincere or truthful after you have tasted your first bite of relish,  it will be the last pint of pickles you'll ever get; if, however, I sense that your response truthfully and enthusiastically comes from the heart, or rather stomach, and that you will secretly dream of relish  when you lay your tired little head down at night, then I will put you on the  list for Christmases to come.  Once on, you're on for life, but if you get cut, it'll be harder than getting tickets to the Master's to get back on my relish list.
     Mama and I started scrubbing dirt off the artichokes, chopping the peppers, onions, and cabbage, and assembling all the spices yesterday in preparation for today's relish making. We got up early this morning, but took time to have a few cups of coffee and a morning chat before delving into the rest of the recipe.  We finished preparing the artichokes, snipping off the eye buds, roots, and other unnecessary appendages, before giving them a final scrubbing. After chopping up the chokes, peppers, onions, and cabbage, all the veggies had to rest for the remainder of the day in a bath of salt water. Sort of like a day at the spa--not a bad ending for a veggie tale.
      We had  a few hours while the vegetables rested, and it was just enough time for a quick trip to WOW! for a little Christmas shopping. Two wicker all-weather rocking chairs, a coat rack, a birch-bark carved angel, a birdhouse, and some assorted decorations later, it was time to head back home and finish the task at hand.
      As we crossed the railroad tracks and turned onto the street headed for home, Mama noticed a huge flock of buzzards circling an old warehouse beside the train tracks. 
      "Beth, look at all the buzzards. There are about thirty of them flying over that building," Mama pointed out, "I wonder what they are doing."
       Sure enough, the buzzards were circling and dipping and soaring all around the deserted building. They were ominous looking black shadows as they conducted their death march across the sky.
      Jokingly, I answered, "There must be a dead body in that warehouse."
      "Do you think so?" Mama asked. "Then I think we should call the police."
      "Mama, you've got to be kidding.  What are we going to say? 'Excuse me, officer, but there's a flock of buzzards flying by the traintracks. Come quickly, there's been a murder!' They'll be locking US up if we do that."
     I tried not to laugh, realizing she was perfectly serious, but just picturing the officers actually responding to our call, then trying to chase down the buzzards for questioning, was too much.
     Officer: Excuse me, Mr. Buzzard, but did you notice any peculiar behavior around the tracks this evening?
     Buzzard: I see nothing, I know nothing.
     I just kept driving and changed the subject.
     Arriving home, it was time to drain the relish mix, boil the vinegar, sugar, and mustard paste, and combine the final ingredients into a big stainless steel pot on the stove.  After bringing the mixture to one last good, rolling boil, we ladeled the golden relish into pint jars, wiped off the rims,  and quickly sealed them with lids and rings.  The only thing left was to listen for the "ping" of the jars sealing, Mama's favorite part of the whole process.  We finished up this, our third batch, with a total of 14 pints and enough artichokes waiting for one more batch. It was a good days work.
     Now we'll have to wait and see which good little boys and girls made the list for this year......

No comments:

Post a Comment