Dear Sun Spots: For two years now, my cucumbers have started fine. But they end in just a ball. Can you please find out why? – No Name, Livermore.

Sun Spots checked with a coworker who does a lot of gardening. She notes that this happens to her occasionally when the garden soil is allowed to become extremely hot and dry and then becomes extremely wet from a long hard rain. The weather two weeks ago is a perfect example of this. The stunted dry cucumbers get a blast of moisture and pump up to not very appetizing balls. My coworker recommends mulching the cucumber hills area to retain water during dry spells, grass clippings work nice. Or, water during dry spells to prevent moisture extremes.

She also kindly provided the following recipe for relish and hopefully you and family will be able to make some with next year’s bumper crop.

Cucumber Relish – makes about 12 pints. Ingredients and Method: Put through a meat grinder, rough cut setting: 12 cucumbers, 2 pounds onions, 2 cups green peppers, 1 medium cabbage. Sprinkle with ½ cup salt, cover with water, stir well. Leave to sit overnight. In the morning, drain water and mix in the following: 4½ cups sugar, 2½ tablespoons mustard seed, 2 teaspoons turmeric. Gradually blend in: 5 cups vinegar (cider or white distilled), 2 teaspoons celery seed, 2 teaspoons mustard seed. Bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes. Pack hot into hot jars, leaving ¼-inch head space. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

Boiling water bath method: – from Ball Blue Book’s guide to home canning and freezing. High-acid foods, such as tomatoes and foods with vinegar added, can be processed in a boiling water bath canner, which is any kettle large enough for the canning jars to be fully surrounded in boiling water and completely immersed under 2 inches of water.

Generally, they have a tight-fitting cover and a metal basket to hold the jars off the bottom of the kettle and to separate the jars from each other. The jars must be held off the bottom so the heat can penetrate properly. The jars are divided so they will not bump into each other or tip over in the boiling water. The jars must be covered by one to two inches of water when it is briskly boiling so the heat thoroughly penetrates the food at the bottom of the jar. An additional one to two inches of air space should be allowed between the top of the boiling water and the top of the kettle.

Adjust the caps on the clean rim of filled jars. Bring kettle water to a simmer. Place hot packed hot jars in the kettle. Add boiling water if necessary to bring the water an inch or two over the tops of the jars. Do not pour water directly onto the glass jars. Cover the canner and bring the water to a rolling boil. Start counting the processing time at point the rolling boil begins. Allow the water to boil gently but steadily for the time required. Add boiling water if needed to keep the tops of jars covered. Remove the jars from the canner immediately when the processing time is up.

Allow jars of food to cool thoroughly. Do not adjust the caps during the cooling process. After jars of food have thoroughly cooled, they should be checked to see if a proper seal has been obtained. The center of the lid should be pulled down by the vacuum, creating a slightly concave surface that made a pinging sound as the jars cooled.

Dear Sun Spots: I sent a notice to the column to the lady seeking wooden hangers (Sun Spots column Aug. 22). However, my telephone number was wrong. Probably my fault. I can be reached at 743-2292. Thank you. – Rosine Durgin, Paris.

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be posted at in the Advice section under Opinion on the left-hand corner of your computer screen. In addition, you can e-mail your inquiries to [email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.