It’s a sleepy, chilly morning here already – 54 degrees, which is a little odd for August. It almost feels like fall is arriving early, but this is New England, so we’ll likely get a heat wave soon.
It’s been a while – not because I was too busy (although I was pretty busy) or because I ran out of things to say, which I do once in a while, but because just as life was humming along with the final wedding details being ironed out, the downstairs bathroom renovation moving along, and the garden starting to produce tomatoes, my computer died. And died just as I was about to kick off nearly 4 weeks of nonstop travel, which made the shopping for a new one a bit complicated.
While losing my computer for a few weeks wasn’t the end of the world – I have other electronics – it was beyond irritating, not in the least because it was yet another unplanned expense. But today I finally made the time to sneak out and acquire my fabulous new HP Chromebook, and I am already in love. I carry my laptop everywhere, and this one is going to be a pleasure to use every day.
So let’s see…where was I before all of that?
The garden is once again a jungle, this time of tomato plants, rather than the squash run amok from last year. Sungolds are ripening, and this year, having trained the squashes and pumpkins up, they are not the majority of the chaos. I planted a lot of tomatoes, and I think in a few weeks I may begin to regret that.
But despite that and all the busy, this year I’m making more time to preserve the fruits of my – and the CSA’s – labor. The first of our endeavors was to freeze strawberries and raspberries that we had picked, but the more labor-intensive but utterly worth it effort was put into making bread and butter pickles, which are a favorite of mine. Our CSA has had several weeks of all-you-can-fit-in-your-bag pickling cucumbers, and I’m taking advantage.
The key for pickles is the prep. Salting and soaking the cukes, making the brine, prepping the jars. Other than just setting the expectation that you’ll get a few dish towels messy while ladling the cucumbers into the jars, and you really do need a jar lifter so you don’t burn yourself,
It will take about 2 hours from start to finish to make 5-6 quarts, but in the end you will have the best pickles you have ever tasted.
I learned from my neighbors that pickle crisping additives can be replaced by putting a single grape leaf at the bottom of each jar. Since they happen to have mature grapevines and don’t mind when I crib a few leaves here and there, I availed myself of them. That said, there’s plenty on the market if you don’t happen to have neighbors with grapevines.
Today I’m on to dill pickles – I like this recipe from Practical Self Reliance, but there’s a lot of good ones out there. The key for dill is to use pint jars and make sure you are using a recipe meant for canning.
Canning your own food is not scary. I repeat, not scary. Anyone can do it, I promise. And when you are done you will have the best
Couple dish towels
Wet towel for wiping off the rims of the jars
Big pot of water
Recipe for pickles (or whatever)
That’s it. Add to that a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon, and you will have deliciousness to eat and give away. And here’s the great news – you can often find jars free (get the lids and bands new) and once you have them, reuse them. This can be a cheap, and tasty, hobby.