Archive for September 20, 2013

Autumn In The Air

apple after early morning storm
ripening apple dripping rain after an early autumn storm ~ right in the front yard!

I arrived home to Michigan five months ago, but it feels like only yesterday. There has been much hustle and bustle around here of late, and every day seems to bring an exciting change!

A new roof sits on both house and garage and a brand new room was created in the old entry porch out back. While contractors worked, DG gave the little red house a fresh coat of paint, complete with tan trim.

Then it was time to clear out the garage so two cars can fit inside during the snowy weather to come.

front view of wood pile
woodpile seen from the front door

wood pile side view
side view of the impressive woodpile ~ a tremendous amount of work done by dg

For winter warmth, DG has worked hard, splitting and stacking over thirteen cords of wood. This is fuel for the wood-burning stove which, to me, a thing of beauty — presiding over the living room in its own fresh coat of black paint.

the all-nighter wood stove
patiently awaiting the first fire ~ the trusty wood stove

I envision a pot of bean soup bubbling on this stove during a winter storm, and it makes me smile.

In the kitchen, DG removed an old dishwasher and is building an open cabinet in its place, complete with tongue-and-groove paneling to match the rest of the room. Included with this new storage area will be a shelf, sized perfectly to accommodate the mixie in its box underneath.

building the new open storage cabinet
dg is building the new open cabinet

DG envisioned that project — a few days later, it’s becoming a beautifully built reality. I don’t have that sort of talent, but I am so happy to be here watching these ideas come to life 🙂

And now, regarding pickles…

cukes and tomatoes in late june
cucumber and tomato seedlings

Way back in June, it seemed the little cucumber seedlings would never take off and produce a fruit. Patiently we waited through June and July. Then, all through August and into September, the cucumber vines marched onward and upward. They now spill over the tops of the teepees we made, climbing over tomatoes on one side and weaving through the beans on the other.

bunch of unruly cucumber vines ;)
riot of cucumbers

Inundated with cucumbers (happily so, I might add!), we have been making pickles to beat the band. Refrigerator pickles are fun and easy to make — they require only a few ingredients and a little bit of time. You can tweak the amount of sugar and add or subtract seasonings to suit your taste — I would not recommend changing the salt or vinegar however — as they both act as preservatives.

I should mention here that these are not canned or processed pickles and I cannot vouch for their safety. They should be immediately refrigerated and kept so at all times. My own experience has been positive. Follow your instincts, and rely on food safety guidelines. Here is a good place to begin.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

1 lb cucumbers, preferably small
2/3 c white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 c water
1 1/2 TB canning or pickling salt
1 TB sugar
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed whole
fresh dill stalks (with leaves and heads) to taste
fresh green or red chiles to taste (I used serranos and the occasional jalepeno)
peppercorns to taste
yellow mustard seed to taste (optional)

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Prepare your jar and lid by washing in hot, sudsy water and rinsing completely. While it is still warm from rinsing, sterilize it by filling it with boiling water. I always let the water run over the top to hit the rim as well. Leave this boiling water in the jar and lid until you’re ready to fill it with pickle mixture.

Collect your cucumbers from the garden or very fresh from the farmstand. Wash them carefully under running warm water. Slice a bit off each end (this helps to keep the pickles crisp) and lay them aside.

cucumbers from the garden
cucumbers fresh from the garden

Prepare the brine: in a non-reactive pot (ie don’t use aluminum), mix the vinegar and water. Add the salt and sugar and stir well to dissolve. You can heat the mixture to aid in this, if you choose. Once dissolved, keep aside.

Prepare the garlic by peeling and slicing off each end — then crush each clove lightly with your hand or the back of a knife.

Prepare the hot peppers by removing the stem and cutting a slit through the side.

Prepare the fresh dill by rinsing and draining.

dill, garlic and chiles for pickles
dill, garlic, and chiles for pickles

Starting with the garlic, mustard seed, dill and peppers, pack your ingredients into a quart-sized jar. Add cucumbers as they fit best — some may go in straight up and down, others may do well laying crosswise.

laying on the cucumbers
cucumbers ~ washed, trimmed and packed for refrigerator pickles

When everything is packed into the jar, pour on the brine. Be sure all the cucumbers are submerged in the brine. Wipe the rim and threads of the jar with a paper towel. Fasten the lid and refrigerate at once.

In a couple of days, the pickles will be ready to eat. They taste even better as time goes by.

refrigerator dill pickles
just one of the many jars in the fridge now

Refrigerator dills are just one of many pickle projects. I have a bread and butter pickle recipe from my mom which turned out great — I’ll share that soon. Still working on the pickled banana peppers!

In the meantime, we are off to my beloved Lake Superior for a few days next week… I can’t wait.

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