Mrs. Valentine’s Pickles!

Summertime makes me think of cookouts, which makes me think of pickles, which inevitably makes me think of Mrs. Valentine.

Did I lose you there? I’ll explain. 

Among the many objects in the collection at the Valentine Richmond History Center is a jar of pickles made by Mrs. Valentine in 1870.  That’s right.  1870.  Those are some seriously old pickles.  So old that they really don’t look like pickles anymore.  Which may be because they weren’t jarred in a modern way.  These pickles were just stored in a repurposed Clover Honey jar and sealed with a cork.

This got me wondering just what kinds of pickles folks in Richmond may have been eating in the late 1800s.  Dill?  Bread and butter? Something else?  So I decided to check out the cookbooks in the RVHC Archives, and let me tell you. . . pickling was BIG in the 1800s.  And it wasn’t just for the kinds of vegetables that you’d find in the grocery store pickle aisle nowadays (cucumbers, peppers, onions, and chow chow).  There were recipes for pickling rhubarb, cantaloupe, walnuts, watermelon rind, peaches, mangos, and something called “martinoes,” which were pickled pods from the Devil’s Claw plant (a relative of the sesame family).

Is your mouth watering now?  Maybe your watermelon harvest did way better than you anticipated?  Or you’re just dying to find out what pickled walnuts taste like?  Just make an appointment to visit the archives at the Valentine Richmond History Center, and you can learn to make pickles just like Mrs. Valentine may have made.

Janet Lundy
Museum Technician
Valentine Richmond History Center