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!

Wowls

July 19, 2009

Recently we paid a visit to the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, Maine.  The park is set up to permanently house animals that can not survive in the wild due to injury or human intervention of some sort or another.  It’s a pretty interesting place.  Not exactly a zoo, but close.  It is greeat to see the wild animals that co-exist with us up there in the Maine woods when we are there for the summer.

The girls both had a great time, but the main attraction for the 1 year old were the big birds.  There were haws and eagles and owls, and she called them all “wowls”.  I taught her the baby sign for owls which she enthusiastically showed back.  And for the following week, she was constantly saying “wowl!” and putting her hands up next to her head in her version of the sign. We all just about died form the cuteness.

When we got home to RI I realized I didn’t have any owl toys.  NOT ONE.  I had a copy of owl babies, which frightens the 4 year old to this day.  Which is probably why we have no other owls around.  This situation had to be remedied quickly as the 1 year old was desperate to point at owls and tell me about them.

I recruited the 4 year old to make me a couple of drawings of owls.  She did a great job, and I was able to make a sewing pattern from the drawing to create a pair of “sister wowls” in under an hour.  Basically I just added an extra inch to the drawing that she made.  (1″ for seam allowance, 1″ for depth) and cut approximations of the shapes she drew for the eyes and feet.  For the main fabric I used an old wool shirt of my husbands that had been shrunk and felted from too many accidental trips through the washer.  The four year old picked out the fabric for the eyes, beak, and legs.  For the legs I used a double thickness of decorator canvas from my scrap box.  The legs need a fabric with a bit of body.  If I were to do it again I might use stitch witchery to attach the eyes to the body before top-stitching them down. But at the time I couldn’t be bothered to drive down the street to fetch it from my studio.  So the eyes are a little wiggly.  But the girls don’t care.  The sister Wowls are very popular and seeing a Original wowl artworkWowls eye and beak shapestracing the wowl footwowl legStitching wowl eyes

lot of play time.

zigzag the wowls legs edges.

pin the legs before stitching togetherWowl - unstuffed.Sister Wowls

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.

10: It ever-so-slightly increases my daily physical activity, which is good for my health.

9: It keeps my family safer. Did you know that approximately 15,500 fires per year are started by clothes dryers?

8: I am outside, listening to birds. Instead of in the basement, listening to the dryer.

7: It is easier on my clothes than being tumbled about in very hot temperatures. No shrinkage!

6: The smell. Clothes and sheets that have been dried on the line smell like summer. They smell like air. I also use scent free detergent, so this smell is as unadulterated as it gets. I have become so accustomed to this smell that now the perfumes used in most laundry detergents make me feel a little sick.

5: No ironing. I’ve learned how to hang items of clothing so that they dry flat and relatively wrinkle free. Especially men’s shirts. If you unbutton them and hang them by the tips of the collar they dry smooth enough for casual wear. Dress shirts will still need a light press. But cotton sheets dry flat, instead of all bunched up by the tumbler. Whatever you hang, it will dry in that shape, so if you spread things out cleverly you can avoid a lot of ironing.

4: No starch. You probably don’t use starch in your laundry. But the dryer does leave clothes all soft and puddingy. This does feel nice to some. However, I prefer the stiffer feeling that comes from line dried clothes. Especially in bath towels. They get a little scratchy and feel like they are more absorbent.

3: Natural bleaching. The sun will bleach light yellowing out of your clothes. Chemical free!

2: A smaller electricity bill. An electric dryer is one of the biggest power guzzlers in the house. Eliminating it’s use can save around $25 per month.

1: A smaller carbon footprint. Seriously. Why burn oil (or use electricity generated from coal or oil) to dry my clothes when the sun is right there, willing to do it for nothing?