Memory of a Dollhouse
Pickles Season - Dąbrowa Mazowieckie (1910)
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As every Poles, our Książyk Grandfather was surprized by the small size of pickles when he came in France for the first time in May 1926. The French consider that "smaller is better" and cornichons fins (mini pickles) are enjoyed for their top quality. Our little kitchen scenery pictures the "pickles season" in the house of our Great Great-Grandmother. 1910 is the year our Ksiazyk Grandfather was born.
Pickles are very important for the Poles. They are the best friends of sausages and good fellows with vodka. The size of Polish pickles is impressive. Some of them are so big that you cannot even close your fingers around. The usual word for pickles is ogórek (pl. ogórki). Korniszon, from the French word “cornichons” is also used for small ogórki. A long time ago in Poland, pickles were kept in terracotta jars however, glass jars generalized at the start of the 20th century. Today, in Polish groceries, pickles are proposed either in glass jars or in plastic buckets.
Every Polish family has a secret to prepare ogórki kwaszone or kiszone (marinated pickles). For non-Polish palates, the bittersweet taste is rather acidic and quite strong. You may have some difficulties to identify the seasoning of the marinade. Still, with small bites and much concentration, you can get the subtle flavours of basic ingredients. Usual components are garlic, black peppercorns, dill, fennel, tarragon, mustard seeds, bay leaves, cloves, carrots and horseradish. Optional ingredients can be as unexpected as marjoram, black currant, cherry or oak leaves.
Making pickles preserves involve several steps. First vegetables are sorted by size and washed in hot water. Then, they are put in big wooden jar with plenty of salt for maceration during one night. The day after, a 50/50 mix of salted water and vinegar is broiled with aromatic herbs for a few minutes. Some of the Ingredients mentioned above are put into preserve jars. Pickled are added and covered by the hot broth.
The pickle season ranges from July to September. In the countryside, this is the busy time of preserves making, when fruits and vegetables are overcrowding every available space in the pantry. This hoped-for abundance creates a jolly chaos and the kitchen becomes the epicentre of the house. Many pickles jars were prepared and the pantry was way to small to store all the harvest. Many jars were dispatched in other available spaces, including underneath the stairs and along the corridors.
Long ago in rural Poland, the kitchen was the czarny pokoj (black room), as opposed to the biały pokój (white room) where the family was living. The black room metaphor refers to the walls coloured by the smoke of stove. This image is rather ironic considering that many household whitewashed the walls of their kitchen with lime once and sometimes twice a year, for Easter and Christmas. During decades, the kitchen of Dąbrowa remained a white nostalgia in the exiled memory of our Grandfather.