When I first moved to the Midwest I kept hearing the term ‘pitch-in’ and wasn’t quite sure what that meant; it didn’t take me long before I realized it was just another word for ‘potluck’.
Childhood summer gatherings almost always included some type of potluck – be it 4th of July barbecues, graduation parties, Labor Day gatherings or family reunions, friends and family would bring a dish to share; suddenly fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, chips, dips, a variety of pickles, olives, cookies, cakes, pies, brownies and rice krispy treats filled tables that seemed to groan under the sheer weight of all that delicious food.
Summer potlucks were the place to catch up with aunts, uncles and cousins as well as meet new family members who may have married into, or were born into the family since the last time we gathered. At summer potlucks we shared photographs, played baseball, the men played horseshoes and kids played as far away from the grownups as was permitted. Summer potlucks were a way to reconnect; a date was chosen, we marked it on the calendar and looked forward to coming together – everyone brought a dish and shared with those we loved.
Big Summer Potluck in Bucks County, Pennsylvania isn’t much different from the family reunions of my childhood. On this particular hot and sticky day in August, ‘family’ came from all over the United States and Canada to reconnect, to meet new friends, to offer up food and bits of knowledge with those we love and respect. And while we are part of a larger community, each of us are at different points in our journey – our ‘take-away’ might be the same or they may be different. But for me, Big Summer Potluck is all about the sharing, the hugs, the smiles. It’s about the offering – of ourselves, our time, generosity, kindness and sharing our experiences as well as great food.
Every year for the past three years, the Anderson family has graciously opened their home and invited our community to gather; the date is chosen and marked on calendars. We wait with childlike anticipation as that calendar flips from one month into the next. We reminisce about what a wonderful experience Big Summer Potluck is and how much we look forward to doing it all again. Big Summer Potluck is a summer family reunion of sorts. The table is set and food for our bellies as well as our minds is prepared and offered – we laugh, we share, we swoon over new babies, we connect. It is family. It is community. It is good.
- 8 cups beets
- 4 cups water
- 4 cups cider vinegar
- 2-1/2 cups dark brown sugar
- 3 sticks cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Wash beets, and cut off all but 1″ of the stems; leave top root intact
- In a large non-reactive pot, add washed beets, water, vinegar, brown sugar, cinnamon stick and salt
- Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook about 1 hour (or until beets are tender)
- Remove beets from liquid; reserve liquid
- Cool beets for about 5 minutes; cut off tops/stems – peel (wear gloves to avoid staining your hands)
- Slice into 1/2-inch rounds or you can cut into quarters
- Pack beets into sterile jars; pour reserved liquid to cover, seal
- Jars will keep refrigerated, unprocessed for approximately 2 weeks; otherwise process according to your specific manufacturer’s canning directions