My grandmother, Sarah Maud Pomeroy, was born in rural Canada back in 1884. When her mother died in 1898, fourteen year-old Maud became the woman of the house. She shouldered the cooking, housework, and the raising of younger siblings, and by the time of her marriage to John Wesley Andrus four years later, she was well-versed in domestic skills.
Around 1905, Wes and Maud moved to an acre of land in Chili, NY, just west of the city of Rochester. Wes found employment, but he also put considerable effort into growing fruit and vegetables and in raising chickens and selling eggs. In those days, every home had a larder, and theirs was filled with the food he grew and Maud canned or root cellared. Along the eastern edge of the acre he planted a long row of grapes.
Some years later, Maud’s sister, Elizabeth, had a recipe for 7 Day Chunk Pickles, and Maud decided to make them. She copied the recipe. It was one of those old methods in which you put a whole bunch of cucumbers in a large crock in the basement, fill it with a salt/water brine, and let it sit. In this case, you were to add something to the mix each day for a week before putting it in individual canning jars. On Day 6, the recipe said to add 203 grape leaves, so Maud went out to the grape fence and began to pick. By the time she finished, the vines were nearly bare. She put the resultant pile of grape leaves in the crock, but things just didn’t look right to her. She called Elizabeth.
“Elizabeth, I’m making those 7-day pickles, and today I was supposed to put in 203 grape leaves. It seemed like a lot, and when I got to 200, I said, ‘Good enough, but it doesn’t look right to me.”
Elizabeth told her to hold on while she checked her recipe.
Moments later, Elizabeth returned to the phone, howling with laughter. “You were supposed to put in 2 or 3 leaves, not 203!!!
When I inherited my gramma’s recipe box many years later, there was the pickle recipe, with the directions to add “2 o
r OR 3 grape leaves” firmly corrected in ink.
And that’s the story of Gramma’s famous Grape Leaf Pickles.