Best Pickles Ever.

July 6, 2010

I am officially kicking off the summer pickling season today.  Making “kid pickles”.  My kids have dubbed them as such because they want to eat the whole jar and not let any grownups have any.  Good luck with that, kids.

The following is from Gogol Gastronomy:

What you will need: organic cherry tomatoes or gherkins. No, supermarket oversized cucumbers just wouldn’t do..even if you cut them up. Try getting gherkins at a farmers market when they are in season. Another thing you will need is a big glass preserving jar (make sure the glass is thick) and a large pot. And of course put any spices you like. Cardamom gives it an extra kick.

Ingredients:

  • Water – 1 litre
  • Coarse sea salt – 4 full tbs
  • Sugar – 2 full tbs
  • White vinegar(6%) – 2 tbs
  • Garlic cloves (peeled,whole) – 4
  • Bay leaves – 2
  • Black pepper corns – 4
  • Corriander seeds – 2tsp
  • Dried dill – a bunch
  • Celery leaves – a few
  1. Wash your gherkins or cherry tomatoes (choose how many you want to pickle yourself).
  2. Put cold water, salt, sugar and vinegar into a large pot and bring to a boil.
  3. Put the gherkins (or tomatoes) into the jar together with the herbs and pepper; pour the hot brine over them and close the jar (not too tightly).
  4. Put the jar in a warm place for 3/4 days (the longer you leave them out, the stronger they will taste), transfer it into your fridge after that.

They are ready! Enjoy them after taking a shot of the best quality vodka (preferably out of a slender crystal liqueur glass, with some salmon and rye bread on the table, so you look and feel like a decadent intellectual from the 1920s, not an alky)

More pickles.

October 28, 2009

I’ve been so busy making pickles that I have had no time for blogging!  My pantry shelves are overflowing and I’ve spent way too much money on canning jars.  It’s a problem.

Just kidding.  The truth is that sometimes my life gets whirling away and my internet life suffers for a while.  Which I think is OK.  I’m sorry if I have disappointed anyone.  But I’m quite sure it will happen again sometime.  Usually in summer.

But… getting back to pickles!  I have a recipe for pickled pears that I got out of my trusty Joy of Pickling book by Linda Zeidrich.  And have been meaning to post it for months now.  (Sorry Abby)  so here goes.  Hopefully not to late.  there are still pears out there right?  Here goes:

Pickled Pears

4 3″ cinnamon sticks

2 tbs whole cloves

1 1″ piece fresh ginger, sliced thin

3 c water

2 c distilled white vinegar or white wine vinegar

4 c sugar

6 lb pears, peeled.  (I like to cut them in quarters and remove the core.)

1: Tie the dry spices and ginger in a spice bag or piece of cheesecloth.  In a large, nonreactive pot, combine the water, vinegar, and sugar, and add the spice bag.  Bring the syrup to a boil, stirring ot dissolve the sugar, then reduce the heat.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Add a single layer of pears and cook them gently until they are just tender, about 5-25 min, depending on size.

2: Transfer the pears to quart or pint jars and cook the rest in the same manner.  When all the pears are cooked, pour the hot pickling liquid over them, leaving 1/4 ” headspace.  Close the jars and process in a hot bath for 15 minutes.

3: Store in a cool, dry place.

note: when I purged my pantry shelves of all the old pickles, I kept these.  They are still yummy one year later.   And with all that sugar, vinegar, and heat, it is no wonder.

Putting up pickles.

August 25, 2009

It’s the height of summer!  My garden is producing cucumbers and tomatoes like wildfire.  I love taking some time out to preserve the bounty of summer.  Cucumbers are my favorite thing to preserve, but I also can pears from our pear tree, and make Quince jam from the Quince bushes that were here when I bought the house 10 years ago.

My husband and I have been pickling for a few years now, and are still getting the hang of it.  There certainly is a learning curve to produce pickles that are not soft and will keep a few months.  Our favorite book on the subject is The Joy of Pickling by Linda Zeidrich. This year I am taking to heart her admonition that “Vinegar is not embalming fluid” and throwing out all the pickles from previous years.  I don’t know why I let old jars of pickles stack up but I resolve not to do it anymore.  I’m also resolved to get all our pickles consumed by us and our friends and neighbors by spring of next year.  The point of canning is to prolong the harvest, and enjoy your garden veggies through the winter.  When spring comes I will be ready to eat fresh again!

Here’s a pic of this year’s crop so far.  I’ve made pickle relish, olive oil pickles, dill pickles, and some cornishons I am very excited to try in a couple weeks when they are fully pickled.  I put up a batch of 14 pounds of fermented pickles in a crock and they all ended up in the compost.  I just can’t get the hang of fermenting pickles.  They always taste awful. I made the dutch lunch spears and LOVE them.  I made a batch of four quarts, gave 2 away, and am almost through the last jar.  I’ll probably make more next week.  They are refrigerator pickles, ready in only a week and last a few months in the fridge.  Also pictured are the quince jam and pickled pears from last year.  The fruit seems to last longer but I promise to throw them out before I harvest this year’s pears and quince!

I am switching over from my ball jars to glass jars with rubber rings.  I’m concerned because the dome lids on Kerr or Ball jars contain BPA, which releases nasty stuff into my home-grown produce when heated.  I do still have an inventory of these jars, and use them when cold-packing pickles.  Anything that calls for hot pack I will use my Weck jars. The only trouble I have with those is that the jars are so beautiful I am hesitant to give them away!

I have also been using some old style ball jars with rubber rings and glass tops.  They seem to work fine but I am a little suspicious of the rubber rings, as they are made by the same company that makes the BPA dome lids.

yum!

yum!

Slugs

July 9, 2009

Oh. It’s been a stellar year for slugs.  I’ve never really had a problem with them before.  But now I do.  The unrelenting rain has created the ideal environment for them and they are blossoming like daffodils in spring.  They ate up my little bean seedlings.  And now they’ve started on my lettuce, and my peppers, and my cucumbers.  I am mad.Slug guards

So, I am fighting back.  Here’s my strategy.  Their little soft bodies can’t handle the rough texture of metal screening, so I made little cuffs from it to wrap around the stems of the pepper plants.  (they already had paper cup cuffs to ward off cutworms) I also pulled back my straw mulch and found lots of them hiding under the straw.  Yuck.  So I picked them up with my garden shears (If you touch slugs with your bare hands you will get this disgusting slime that really really doesn’t want to come off.  Really.  Ask me how I know.) and stuck them in an old peanut butter jar.  (or the slug jug, as the 4 year old calls it)  And closed the lid.  I am going to decide what to do with them later.  For now, they are trapped, and the slithering around inside the jar is very entertaining to the 4 year old.   I got about 8 of them today.  Yucky little creeps.Slug hiding under my straw mulch,

Reel Mower

10: Exercise!

No need to go to the gym after mowing the lawn with  reel mower.  Truth be told, they are only a little bit harder to use than a powered mower.  I also have a plug-in electric mower which I use when the grass gets too tall for the reel.  I get just as much of a workout using that one.

9: Cheap!

You will spend is hundreds of dollars less on the purchase of a high-quality reel mower than a high quality power mower.  In addition, you don’t have to buy gasoline, or oil, or take the thing in for repairs anywhere near as often.

8: Kid-friendly!

I can mow while my little girls are playing in the yard.  There is no loud scary noise, nor danger of them being whacked by fast-flying sticks or rocks that get caught in the mower.  It’s also less frightening to dogs.

7: It’s actually kind of relaxing!

I’d never say that about a power mower.  But the simplicity of the reel, the spinning blades, it’s sort of meditative.

6: Quiet!

I can have a conversation while mowing the lawn.  And I can hear when the kids get into trouble.

5: Easy start up!

For so many years as a teenager, I wrestled with my dad’s pull-start gas mower.  I am glad to be rid of that struggle. VERY glad.  In addition, for some reason it feels easier to just pick up the mower and work for 15 minutes if I only have a little time available to go out and mow 1/3 of the lawn when using the reel.  I think it is because I don’t have to deal with the production of start up that the power mowers require.

4: Low Maintenance!

No spark plugs, no oil, no extension cords (as is the case with our plug-in electric push mower), no air filters, no gas cans spilling in your car on the way home from the gas station.  You may need to adjust your blades periodically, but it is easy to do yourself.  And you may need to have the blades sharpened every few years.

3: Lightweight!

Those engines are heavy things to push around.  And to haul in and out of the basement.

2: Clean Air!

It’s not stinky to walk behind a reel mower.  Most gas mowers do not have catlytic converters, and belch out nasty smoke at you and your family and all your neighbors.  Yuck.

1: Reduces your carbon footprint!

I think we all understand the importance of weaning ourselves off of Petroleum products now, right?  I don’t need to explain this one.

clean air gardening has some good info on reel mowers.  You could buy one from them, or get a used one for cheap.  I think we paid $50 for ours on craigslist.

I haven’t yet figured out how to embed vidoe files, but here’s a link to a video I made of the reel mower.  You can see it slicing the grass and sending the little bits flying through the air.  ( I love that)  And you can hear how quiet it is.

Find your Tools!

May 29, 2009

Garden tools are so easily camouflaged in the garden. You put them down and they disappear. I paint the end of my tool handles bright red, and I never have trouble finding them. This picture shows a Japanese tool called a hori-hori. If you don’t have one, you should really consider adding it to your tool box. It is my most used tool in the garden.Hori-hori in the dirt

I learned this simple trick from my Dad, who learned it from his Dad.

I found some strawberry planters at the job lot the other day.  And it has been time to relocate the strawberries that have been living in our raised bed garden for a long time.  They are getting crowded in there and they are taking up valuable real estate we could be using to grow other things.  Like cucumbers, or kohlrabi, or tomatillos, or melons.  mmmmm….

Anyway…. those planters are great but it can be tricky to keep the bottom sections watered.  They have a tendency to dry out and then it is very difficult to get the soil moistened again.  To solve this problem I cut a bamboo stick to length, just a couple of inches taller than the pot.  And drilled out the membrane between sections (actually I asked my husband to do it, because I was holding the baby and the camera). Then drilled little holes all over the piece of bamboo.

Drilling holes in bamboo

I inserted this in the center of the pot and the husband filled the pot with an organic potting soil.

Adding soil to strawberry planter

Now the pot is ready for the strawberries!

Strawberry pot ready for planting.

Snake house

May 18, 2009

Yesterday I was digging in the garden, making room for 2 blueberry bushes.  I had to remove 30 sq feet of “sod” (in quotes because it was probably 50% weeds) and a small pile of lumber scraps that had collected at the side of the house.  This task would have probably taken me a half day if working alone.  With my 2 daughters helping, it took about 3 days.  And actually I’m still not finished, so I guess it will take more than that!

As I was working I noticed that under the pile of boards was a little brown garden snake.  I called the 4 year old over to see.  She was moderately interested but soon ran off to dig in the sandbox or swing on her swing.  I replaced the board I had moved, to cover the snake again and resumed my work.

As the day went on I found I really wanted to get rid of the pile of lumber.  What looks messier than a pile of lumber scraps?  So I took them away and apologized to the snake.  “I’m sorry Mr Snake, you’ll have to find a new house” I said.  But Mr. Snake did not move.  I banged things around, I tossed chunks of wood and did lots of things that would generally disturb a snake.  Not on purpose, mind you, but I was working hard.  The snake didn’t move.  I had unearthed a colony of earwigs while digging, so I wonder if he was just hesitant to leave his food source.  Whatever the reason, he was clearly not interested in moving on.  Which is fine by me.  Snakes are great animals to have in the garden.  They eat lots of bugs and slugs.  And since I live in New England, there is no reason to fear them.  If I were in Arizona or Florida, I might feel differently.

So I made him a house.  I put 2 scraps of 3/4 inch wood down with a larger plank on top.  Right over the snake where he stayed still on the cement foundation of the house.  He slid right in and I think he is there still.  I hope he eats all those earwigs.  Those things are creepy.  If he sticks around we’ll have to name him.  Any suggestions?

Snake House