Granma was born Moselle Margie O’Bannion in a small South Texas town called Leesville. She was one of 6 children born to farmers during the depression. She loved to garden, cook, and “put up” (aka canning) things from the garden. Every summer, she would position herself in an un-airconditioned, one room out-building that my grandfather built for her that she called “The Canning House”. When he built it for her, he put in a stove, countertops, and a refrigerator. There was room in the house for a kitchen table with 6 chairs and a book shelf where she kept extra pots and all of the jars she would need for the summer’s harvest. To say it was hot in that canning house would have been an understatement. Texas heat in August paired with pots boiling on the stove – I think you can picture it.
My brother and I would often be recruited to help with certain small tasks. We shelled bushel after bushel of black-eyed and crowder peas. We shucked corn until large oil drum trash cans were completely full of the husks and silks. We shelled mountains of pecans. We didn’t do much else since we were young and not that trustworthy for the more important tasks that involved using knives or expensive ingredients.
I remember lots of things that she put up each year. Her dill pickles, pickled green mustang grapes, many varieties of preserves from peach to fig, green beans, and many more things. My favorite though, was her squash pickles. She made them using yellow crookneck summer squash, although she would tell you that you could use any squash you had on hand - green zucchini, white patty pan, or the Mediterranean squash that we all called calabaza in south Texas. She pickled them in a sweet and sour brine along with onions, green bell peppers and mustard seed. These pickles were on the table all year round (till we ate them all) and I couldn’t get enough of them. They were tasty and also beautiful. Yellow jewels in a sweet brine.
I have changed her recipe just a bit to make it my own – she would expect me to do that. I swapped out red bell peppers for the green and I have added sliced jalapeno peppers to add a little extra punch. Other than that, the recipe is the same. I made the first batch from a recipe written on a small sheet of paper in her handwriting. I cherish that paper and this recipe. It is part of my heritage, passed down from Granma.