Sunday, August 24, 2014

Chicken Salad and Hot Dogs, what do they have in common?

One morning this week I was busy chopping cucumbers, peppers and onions and all I could think of was chicken salad and hot dogs.  No not on the same plate, not served at the same time but there was a strong common thread running through my mind.  In my kitchen I can't make a bowl of chicken salad without adding some of the sweet cucumber relish I can or could I think about chomping into a hot dog not loaded with the same cucumber relish.  I grew up eating Momma's chicken salad and that is what I look for today when I think of chicken salad.  No grapes or pecans just good chicken salad.  Momma always pulled out the big blue roaster when she cooked hen/roosters.  Not only did we have chicken,  Momma would make a pan of noodles,  How I would love to have another plate of her chicken noodles.  So plain and simple but greatly looked forward to each and every time she made chicken.

When picking the garden my basket was filled with cucumbers and peppers, must be time to make relish.  I am having to buy my onions so I picked up a couple of bags of them the last time I went in for provisions.  I gather my supplies to start the relish,  I chop away making small pieces of the veggies, following the recipe I make the salt brine and cover the veggies, time for them to soak and become pickle.  Off to check and be sure I have all of the spices I need for the syrup.  Mamma did not use all of the different spices, she would add up the amount needed and use her pickling spice.  Later in the day the syrup is made and now the veggies are soaking up the brown sugar syrup with lots of seasonings.  Jars are ready and it is not time to fill the jars and do the hot water bath.

You ask why do you can relish?  Because I have never found one that I enjoyed the way I enjoy the relish made with the veggies from the garden.  And this is the ingredient that makes my chicken salad taste like Momma's chicken salad.

Momma would pick the chicken meat from the bones and then secure the meat grinder to the table, always using a kitchen towel to protect the table from being damaged by the clamps.  After grinding the chicken the magic would begin.  I made the mistake of asking Momma for her recipe, she was glad to share her recipe I just wasn't smart enough to follow it. 

 You need a bowl full of ground chicken, a couple of stalks of celery chopped fine, a couple of big scoops of sweet relish, a couple of scoops of Duke's Mayonnaise, a couple splashes of sweet cucumber pickle juice, poultry seasonings, salt and pepper.  Mix Well. Chill in fridge for several hours. Simple enough even a child could do this. 

Needless to say, I was an adult and it was Greek to me.  My first attempt was horrible, and several more were just as disgusting.  Momma was getting older and I knew I had to get this under my belt.  I showed up one day with my chicken, ground, and all of the makings.  Please, Momma, make me some chicken salad.  She said, "NO, you will make it and I will watch you."  If you could have heard all of sighs and hisses coming from Momma as I was trying to measure so I could refer to my directions later.  Then she looked at me and said, "It isn't about measuring it is about how it looks, make it look good."  It clicked, she had made her chicken salad so it was eye appealing just a good balance of chicken,  celery, sweet pickle relish and enough mayo to bring it all together.  Then she added the pickle juice and seasoning to taste.  I have been making my own chicken salad for a number of years and often think of this lesson she taught me.  

I have a few jars of sweet cucumber relish on the shelf of the pantry!!!  We shall have chicken salad and yes, I will be enjoying a hot dog with relish, mustard and onions.  My relish, from my garden, almost.  Momma did teach me many lessons. I cherish each one, because she cared about each of us being able to take care of ourselves.  

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