Archive for garden

Tomatoes (not enchiladas)

gibbily francis
gibby is waiting for the enchiladas…

I sat down to talk about enchiladas. Tasty enchiladas. Tasty, authentic, homemade enchiladas. Enchiladas from the fabulous Pati Jinich of Pati’s Mexican Table fame. That will come someday, because they were really *really* tasty enchiladas!!

This morphed into a garden post. It’s mostly about tomatoes, with a wee bit of my outlook on life. The good, the bad, and the ugly πŸ™‚

A riddle:

Q: What do you get when you cross a man with a disappointing tomato crop and a lady whose glass is half-full in spite of the tomato vines dying too soon?

A: I’m not sure what you would get, but around here we got a mess of watery, tasteless tomatoes tossed on at the compost heap.

That is sure to make some raccoon very happy tonight πŸ˜‰

the little tomatoes that could
little tomatoes that could — left to right: park’s whopper, mr. stripey, golden jubilee, and a generic beefsteak

Ahhh, garden tomatoes. They can make your heart leap with joy, or they can crush it like a vise. How we yearn for them in the winter. We gaze longingly at the colorful pictures in the catalog, and after much discussion, choose and order the seeds. We watch for the postman, and worry that the package may arrive to an empty house and oh — horrible thought — freeze if we aren’t home! It may sound crazy but it’s true. That’s how we think up here in the north woods.

Then comes the happy day when the seeds arrive, to be safely carried into the warm house. There is much oohing and aahing over the pictures on the packets. We feel like pioneers. The garden is everything, and the tomato is king. Surely our tomatoes will look just like those pictures, and taste even better. We get out the calendar and talk about the last frost date.

From tiniest seeds planted with care by the warmth of the wood stove while the frigid February wind blows, the emerging seedlings are tended as one would tend a child. As winter wanes, we watch them anxiously — are they too leggy? too wet? too dry? It’s all in the hands of the garden gods. When spring finally arrives, the hopeful little babies are set out in the garden. If it’s a good year, we are rewarded with more fruit than we can handle — jam and chutney flow through our veins. Other years, the vines struggle and the fruit we harvest may not be as tasty as we’d dreamed way back in the chill of February. Still, any tomato plucked from the garden is a thousand times better than the hard, waxy balls from the grocery store.

If the tomatoes aren’t great, one could argue that it’s an off year for the garden. I respectfully disagree.

In the spirit of my lately-completed law class (with a hard-won “A”, too!), I offer the following evidence πŸ˜‰

corn in silk and tassel
Corn is in tassel and silk

The peppers (hot and sweet varieties) are a success as usual, and there will be carrots for weeks to come. Papdi beans are coming on now. Pole beans are flourishing among the sunflowers and we are entertained by the bees (finally!) visiting.

sunflowers reach for the sky
sunflowers growing heavy with seed for the birds

Brussels sprouts plants are standing tall. The winter squash and Korean radish have exceeded even my optimistic expectations — with the latter literally vaulting out of the ground! Who knew?

brussels sprouts
brussels sprouts plant ~ waiting for the autumn chill to form the sprouts along the stem

korean radish
korean radishes average over a foot long ~ can’t pick them fast enough

The herbs are growing nicely — some already dried for winter use.

fresh basil
yes, that is the outdoor garden sink full to the brim with fragrant basil ~ I made pesto with that πŸ™‚

It’s true: with the notable exception of those pictured here, this year’s tomatoes have been something of a bust.

Still I can’t complain!

amish paste tomatoes
amish paste tomatoes grow in various sizes and shapes

amish paste tomato
amish paste tomato showing few seeds

For years I dreamed of attending the Carmel Tomatofest in sunny California — not for the California sunshine but for the amazing array of heirloom tomatoes on display. Check out the photo on the link above — it’s good enough to eat, and lucky attendees could try each and every one! The classic Tomatofest has since merged with another festival featuring even more good things, but its tomato-only avatar lived on in my mind. I always wanted to have a mini-version of my own. Today, thanks mostly to dear G’s hard work, I finally made it happen. Only four varieties were featured — all the testers could handle πŸ˜‰

mini tomato fest in my kitchen
lined up for the taste test from left to right: park’s whopper, mr. stripey, golden jubilee, and beefsteak — tomato fest in my kitchen!**

We may not have a huge tomato-canning venture this year, but nevermind. There is plenty of tomato bounty left from last fall, and crop is not a total loss. There are some ripening yet, and the cherry tomatoes are doing well. If the garden gods smile upon us, we’ll have tomato fest part two in a few weeks with a few other varieties — either way I have a feeling that tomatoes will be simmering before September is out. Besides, I managed to make a small batch of ISG’s tasty thokku the other day. And that made me very happy.

ISGs tomato thokku
ISG’s tasty, spicy tomato thokku

We take the bitter with the sweet in this life.

I firmly believe there’s no great loss without some small gain (though I am not sure dear G would count attracting raccoons as a gain). πŸ˜‰

For me, it’s all about enjoying the moment and trying to be happy with and thankful for what I’ve got. It’s really not that hard. Anyone can choose to be happy, or choose to be unhappy.

I choose to be happy, and I won’t let anything stand in the way πŸ™‚

**For anyone interested (and for my own journal!) the results were:
Park’s Whopper (7.6 oz) — tartest taste, my #1, G’s #4
Mr. Stripey (9.2 oz) — sweetest taste, a little spicy, unanimous #2
Golden Jubilee (5.6 oz) — a little sweet, peachy, unanimous #3
Beefsteak (5.9 oz) — G thought “pretty good” I thought “bland, watery”, G’s #1, my #4

Amish paste was not rated — it’s more a mealy cooking tomato.

Comments (3)

Gardening in the Cool of the North Woods

back garden complete with bat house
the little garden in the north woods ~ the red house on the pole is the bat house that dear G built to entice the creatures to our yard and gardens ~ first he built the house, then he hauled in a tree trunk and affixed the house to the top, then he *dug a hole* to set it in the ground ~ he is so clever πŸ™‚

Hello friends!

I’m thankful to say that the 5th term of school is over and there are still a few days before the 6th begins. We were able to take a quick trip to the Upper Peninsula in search of boats and birds and agates… then home to tend the gardens before heading back to work tomorrow.

grand sable dunes
sunset over grand sable dunes in the UP ~ storm rolling in

It’s been a very cool summer — things are growing, but s l o w l y….

back garden
the little garden out back ~ corn tops out at about 8′ high!

brussels sprouts
brussels sprouts growing in the big garden ~ waiting for fall to produce

korean radish
korean radishes have been a surprise success ~ I’ve already made Maangchi’s Kkakdugi with a few!

korean squash
korean squash baby with blossom waiting to open

maybe a kobocha?
winter squash have been another surprise success ~ this one’s a mystery ~ buttercup? kabocha?

pepper plantation
the pepper plantation is flourishing in spite of the cool weather

ridge gourd blossom
beautiful ridge gourd blossom

summer squash
summer squash was planted late

sunflowers
sunflowers bring the goldfinches and other birds

Tonight I made rasavangi with the first of the brinjals (yep, first! in August!?) and a Korean squash. It was based loosely on this recipe from Sruthi’s Kitchen — completely delicious!

Sadly the tomatoes all have a disease which is killing the foliage — but doesn’t seem to stop the fruit from growing. Here’s hoping for heat to ripen them before frost.

How does your garden grow?

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The Little Garden in the North Woods

Hello friends!

It’s been a long winter/spring/start to summer — I have hardly had a moment to play at blogging since I went back to school in October.

law book
they called the class “criminal procedure” ~ really it is Constitutional law to keep me awake nights reading πŸ™‚

The terms are 8 weeks long, with no break in between save at Christmas and late August. Finally the school heard the students crying for relief; beginning the end of August we will have a week’s break after every term. At last!

Here is where I am working these days… wouldn’t you like to come visit!!? πŸ™‚

view from work
view from my ‘office’ window ~ beautiful caribbean-colored grand traverse bay πŸ™‚

And here are some photos from summertime in the north woods.
Dear G built the ‘little’ garden for me — a giant raised bed — and the plants are growing huge. Now if only we would see a little fruit!

little garden in the north woods
view of the new little garden from the dining room window ~ pure green joy!

tomatoes and ichiban eggplant in the little garden
heirloom tomato plants and ichiban eggplant grow large in the little garden ~ waiting for the heat to bring the fruit

little garden in the north woods
the little garden grows corn and various squashes…

korean squash vines
hoping for some korean gray squash

three sisters garden
a ‘three sisters’ garden ~ plant corn, plant beans to grow up the cornstalks, plant squash to keep the weeds down ~ but the squash are taking over!

buttercup blossom
a buttercup squash blossom with baby squash ~ we need bees to pollinate and there is hardly a bee to be found

indian gourds vining out
snake and ash gourds are vining out…

hopeful beefsteak tomatoes
hopeful “beefsteak tomatoes” of an unknown heirloom variety

black prince tomatoes
black prince tomato plants grown from seed ~ they are flowering now

amish paste tomatoes
the big garden is full to bursting with plants ~ here are amish paste tomatoes and carrots

amish paste tomatoes
amish paste tomatoes coming on ~ we were picking these in October last year

sweet 100 cherry tomatoes
sweet 100 cherry tomatoes are reliable

pepper plantation
Dear G’s favorite ~ the pepper plantation with about 10 varieties! already picking banana peppers here πŸ™‚

serrano peppers in the pepper plantation
yummy serrano peppers ~ my fav!

korean radish growing
korean radishes are starting to heave out of the ground ~ time to make kimchi soon

garden table by dear g
the awesome garden table complete with a sink ~ dear G built it so we can wash veggies outdoors!

first korean radish
and the first korean radish ~ ready for a bath

cherries in the yard
we got a few cherries from the trees in the yard before the birds claimed them…

bird pond
the bird pond with teepee of brush for the bathers to hide in ~ that huge pile in back is just part of the wood dear G has already split for winter warmth

philadelphia vireo
a philadelphia vireo waits to snatch a drink from the pond

male redstart at the pond
dear G got this great shot of the male redstart at the bird pond ~ he’s the orange and black fellow on the right πŸ™‚

And last but not least, the kitties πŸ™‚

lemur the dreamer
lemur the dreamer is the outdoor kitty in summer

gibby
his name is gibby (like gibbous moon) but I like to call him gibbily francis πŸ™‚

kitties
pinks snoozing and daisy snuggling ~ view to the front yard behind

All is cozy in the north woods. How does your garden grow?

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Weather With You ~ Spicy Brinjal with Shelly Beans

spicy brinjal with shelly beans
spicy brinjal with shelly beans

More lyrics, tonight πŸ™‚

This time it’s an old favorite by Crowded House.

Listen here or just read, here πŸ™‚

“Walking ’round the room singing Stormy Weather
At 57 Mount Pleasant Street
Well it’s the same room but everything’s different
You can fight the sleep but not the dream

Things ain’t cooking in my kitchen
Strange affliction wash over me
Julius Ceasar and the Roman Empire
Couldn’t conquer the blue sky

Well there’s a small boat made of china
It’s going nowhere on the mantlepiece
Well do I lie like a lounge room lizard
Or do I sing like a bird released

Everywhere you go
Always take the weather with you…”

— excerpt from Weather With You
(Neil Finn / Tim Finn)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Given that choice, this bird will sing, thank you πŸ™‚

If only Nupur had time for another series; let’s say: The A-Z of Weather and Veggies!

I am prepared with “S is for Snow and Spicy Brinjal with Shelly Beans” πŸ˜‰

wall 'o beans oct 4
wall ‘o beans ~ beginning of october

wall o'beans oct 23
wall o’beans ~ this morning

A heavy, wet snow fell overnight and the sun rose feebly over a winter wonderland complete with frosted trees and garden. Sadly, the weight of the snow was such that the sweet old apple tree out front was nearly toppled. Time will tell whether it recovers.

apple tree snowed under
the poor apple tree ~ nearly touching the ground

With snow covering the plants, and more lurking on the horizon, we hurried to finish harvesting the last of the garden. A few days ago we got in the last of the tomatoes and brinjals, a lot of peppers and a few other goodies. It had been unusually warm so we let the garden grow…

late harvest in northern michigan
late harvest in the north woods ~ few days ago

Today, in the fickle in-and-out sunshine of late afternoon, we picked all of the shelly beans and *another* big mess of papdi beans. I have no doubt these papdi would keep growing and growing. They are flowering yet. Perhaps next year I will plant them where they don’t have to be taken down with the fence! πŸ˜‰

fresh papdi beans ~ variety priya
latest, greatest, and probably last mess of papdi beans ~ these will be prepared simply so DG can get a taste of them πŸ™‚

OK, but what on earth are shelly beans? Good question!

Shelly beans are described nicely here in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and also here at BBB Seeds.

I have grown them in the past, but I didn’t know them as shelly beans. I knew them as horticultural or cranberry beans, and cooked them in succotash only.

Mom sent a few seeds of those cranberry beans for the Michigan garden. Planted in July alongside the Priya papdi beans and the long beans (of mixed variety), they flourished as did the others. When I mentioned the pods were turning cream-and-red, Mom told me to hurry and pick them for shellies.

Shellies. Who knew? I think we picked nearly two quarts of them today.

It may be a little late for them in stores or farm markets. It’s certainly late for them here.

shelly beans in the pod
shelly beans in the pod ~ greener pods yield plain beans, while the ripe cream-colored pod yields speckled beans

After learning about them, I knew what I had to do. I shelled those lovely beans. And then…

I thought of my great kitchen buddy, ISG — and how she always pairs brinjal with beans to such great effect. I know a good dish when I taste one; after years of tasting ISG’s recipes, I had no hesitation. Shamelessly taking my cue from her, (and mostly from her recipe), I dove under the bed to dig through my stash of spices. Armed with fresh coriander seeds (is that an oxymoron??), I headed for the kitchen.

Thus was born…

Spicy Brinjal with Shelly Beans

for the curry

a mess of brinjals (I had about 20 in all, small and medium)
one large red onion, diced, divided
4-5 medium fresh tomatoes, pureed (about 2 cups)
1 c shelly beans, shelled and boiled 30 min in salted water, drained
thick tamarind water from a large piece (about 1/2 cup)
jaggery to taste
salt to taste

for the paste

dry roast:
1/4 c coriander seeds
2 TB cumin seeds
a few methi seeds
a few curry leaves
3-4 red chiles, seeded (I used fresh from the garden chiles!)

Saute half the diced onion until lightly browned, then grind with the above to a paste.
Set aside.

for the seasoning

1-2 TB canola oil
curry leaves
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of hing
half the diced onion

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To prepare:

In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat. When the oil is ready, add urad dal, curry leaves, hing, and mustard seeds. When the seasonings are hot, add half the onion and saute for a few minutes while you prepare the brinjals.*

Add brinjals and saute over med heat until they begin to brown and wilt. Clear a space in the center and add the ground paste. Cook this over medium heat, stirring, until the paste is fragrant. Keep stirring to coat the brinjals.

After five minutes or so, add tamarind water and pureed tomatoes. Mix well. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook about ten minutes. Now taste and add jaggery depending on the sourness. Add a pinch of salt, cover, and simmer until brinjals are tender.

Uncover, stir in the cooked shelly beans and additional salt to taste.

Serve with hot rice to soak up the spicy gravy, and pass the ghee, please!

spicy brinjal and shelly beans curry
oh so spicy brinjal and shelly beans curry ~ thanks for the great idea, ISG!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*Slit long brinjals in four pieces, leaving tops intact. Make four cuts in smaller round brinjals. Cut any large brinjals into pieces to match the size of small brinjals. I even had some really tiny ones which I just slit in half as above. I did this while frying the seasonings, so I did not have to worry about discoloration.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are now five cats in the house…

lemur and gibby
the golden boys ~ lemur and gibby

pinksdaisy
pinks and daisy

Little 22 yo Squeaker is out in her cozy bed by the furnace…

All the kitties are safe and warm. All is well, and winter is coming…

I love it here πŸ™‚

the kitties are in :)
the kitties are all snug inside

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Surti Papdi Lilva Valor!? It’s All Poriyal To Me

beans and green chiles
just picked! beans and green serrano chiles

Surti papdi lilva valor!? I am so confused about these beautiful beans, I don’t know what to call them!

I’ve seen these in the Indian groceries for years and they were usually called papdi — this was on the east coast of US… for some reason I never tried them. Shame on me!

Now that it’s a day trip to the nearest Indian grocery, I’ll have to grow more veggies next summer. With these little guys, I am encouraged to do just that πŸ™‚

A long time ago, I received a bonus packet of beans called Val Papdi, ‘Priya’ variety, in an order from Seeds Of India.

For some reason I never planted them. They moved with me to the north woods, where I doubted they would grow at all. As much as I love it here, the growing season can be much shorter than what I was used to — also, the seeds were old.

In spite of rather late planting and much company between dg’s pole beans and my mom’s cranberry beans — they have not only grown, but flourished!

wall o'beans
wide view of the ‘wall o’beans’ in august

cranberry bean from mom's seeds
cranberry or horticultural bean ~ seeds courtesy mom ~ they will be cream colored with red or purple streaks if they have time to ripen ~ you can see the streaks beginning to form

Suddenly we had all these lovely ‘Priya papdi’ beans and I didn’t know what to do with them. Over on facebook, Richa wisely suggested undhiyu! OH, that would be perfect, but I have no time at the moment to make muthia and no means of getting it frozen.

When I try my hand at undhiyu for the first time, I want to cook the *real deal* πŸ˜‰

what is my name!? lovely papdi beans growing...
beautiful beans…

So, for a first taste, I looked for something simple that would showcase the flavor of this veggie which is new to me.
I finally settled on this recipe by fellow WordPress blogger Cheryl of Kitchen Kemistry. It was whipped up in no time and made an awesome lunch today. Thanks Cheryl!

harvest of beans
freshly harvested pale green beans ~ I love their graceful shape!

thinly sliced papdi? beans
the thinly sliced (papdi?) beans

frying seasoning
frying the simple seasonings

an ice cube for water
adding an ice cube instead of water ~ this impromptu trick worked really well and I will remember it next time I want crisp-tender veggies!

the finished poriyal
about fifteen minutes start to finish ~ fresh and fragrant papdi(??) beans poriyal

Incidentally, the Seeds of India listing above says the entire plant is edible including the leaves. If anyone has experience eating leaves of this plant I would be most interested to hear.

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Out Of The Surplus Garden ~ Plus Pickles as Promised!

“Where have all the bloggers gone….”

Sung to that old tune Where Have All The Flowers Gone, this phrase keeps running through my mind.

~~~ begin tiny rant ~~~

Time and again when I click on a link, from my own blog archive or another, and I receive the same message:

“To access your blogs, sign in with your Google Account.
The new Blogger requires a Google Account to access your blogs”

Where *have* all the bloggers gone?

I mean the bloggers of yore (if ‘yore’ means several years ago!).
I know life can come crashing in — often unexpectedly.

It happened to me.

I understand taking an extended break — I had to do so myself.
I know there are times when I can’t get motivated to post a thing.

I know blogging takes hard work, time, and a certain desire and drive to keep plugging away. It’s not very lucrative for hobbyists such as myself! πŸ˜‰

I started my little blog venture purely for my own selfish pleasure. Along the way, I learned much, found camaraderie and friendship. For these reasons, I am thankful to be back once more. The thrill that accompanies each new visit to my old haunts — the same thrill that comes from a comment at my own humble blog-home — these have not diminished πŸ™‚

That said, I do confess to missing some old friends. For example, Suganya would have liked the kitty pics I took last night…

daisy playing
daisy playing with her jingle toy

pinks talking to me
pinkie talking to me about how hungry he is πŸ˜‰

Never mind, I tell myself… don’t look back. If you must, look upon the happy times and all you have gained from them!

And if you find yourself stalled in blog land with unpublished drafts in your dashboard, as I was for so long, here’s a thought. As miss m and I said to one another countless times throughout the past year of trial and tribulation… don’t stop, don’t give up! If you’re even thinking of giving up on just about *anything*, I promise you’ll think twice after viewing that little one-minute clip πŸ˜‰

~~~ end tiny rant ~~~

Meanwhile, back at my dashboard….. several recipes lurk!

Lucky me, I have good friends out there; they never fail to come to my aid. Take dear ISG, who blogs all that tempting food for thought and plate, over at Daily Musings. I peeked in the other day and there was her perfectly timed vellarikka pachadi. I made this last night and it was awesome! I added brinjal and a couple of rogue okra, too πŸ™‚ Since we are still eating down a huge pot of rice and (green) beans, I wanted a little something fun to float in the curry — a la kadhi pakora.

isg's cucumber pachadi
ISG’s vellarikka pachadi ~ YUM!

Taking a stroll through my own archives, I found this recipe from Nags at Edible Garden, formerly Cooking and Me. Using that old standby Upvas Fasting Mix in place of besan, I mixed the batter and cooked it as a pancake, in a non-stick frying pan. Cucumber (yes, more cucumber!) took the place of potato and onion.

thick cucumber pancake
a thick cucumber pancake

It turned out better than I hoped — in fact it was great.
For once I didn’t skimp on oil for frying — I bet I used a whole TB! The pancake was crispy and crunchy outside, melting soft inside.

cucumber pancake
crunchy outside ~ soft inside

I broke this pancake up (after I ate about half of it hot!) and had it for my supper at work tonight, soaked in ISG’s pachadi — a loose and liberal adaptation of dahi vada with a double dose of cukes! πŸ˜‰

my dinner
my dinner tonight ~ thanks ladies!

Cucumbers in check, next up was the gigantic lebanese squash. You may recall I was thrilled to have these growing earlier in the summer — and far be it from me to complain. Like plain old zucchini in Nana’s garden years ago, these did take over and come on much faster than I could cook ’em. One day I thought they had all but gone by — I looked down to find this monster πŸ™‚

miss squeaker and the squash
little miss squeaker isn’t much bigger than this squash πŸ˜‰

Not to worry — as I was in backtracking mode, this chutney by Mythreyee’s hubby, originally using ridge gourd, came to the rescue! Lebanese squash is more watery than ridge gourd; it needed to be drained well before grinding and still came out a little thinner than I like. Nevertheless, it was as tasty as I remembered and also made a great, healthy alternative to guacamole. Served with Snyder’s of Hanover corn chips, it was a hit.

lebanese squash chutney
chutney made with lebanese squash ~ recipe by Mythreyee’s husband

Finally, we come now to the pickle section (just for you, dear sra)!

Disclaimer: Making pickles is fun and easy. Remember to follow safe food guidelines at all times. I have referred to USDA guidelines and others when preserving at home. I am not a food safety expert and am only relating what works for me in my kitchen.

Not to scare anyone off, just advising to err on the side of caution πŸ™‚ Here is a good place to start.

Food poisoning is nothing to joke about — if you make these or any other preserved product and you have the least inkling something is wrong — I would say follow that old addage: “when in doubt, throw it out”!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This bread and butter pickle recipe came from my mom. These are a treat because they’re not ‘sickly sweet’ like some bread and butter pickles from the store. I believe the addition of onion makes a difference too. The most important part, in my opinion, is to slice the cucumber and onion as thinly as possible. I like to use kosher salt — if you can’t find that, canning/pickling salt can be used. In a pinch, I am sure any coarse salt would work.

Mom’s Bread and Butter Cucumber Pickles

makes approx 2 pints

Vegetable preparation:

4 medium cucumbers
1 large yellow onion (preferably sweet)
2 TB kosher salt

cucumbers and sweet onion
cucumbers and sweet onion

kosher salt
kosher salt — my favorite brand is Diamond, but can’t find that in Michigan!

Pickling solution:

1 c white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 c white sugar
pickling spice (optional)

white vinegar and sugar
white vinegar and sugar ~ brand is not as important as freshness!

pickling spice
commercial pickling spice ~ you can omit, or make your own with yellow mustard seed, clove, bay leaf, and black peppercorns ~ this brand uses cinnamon but I remove that

You’ll need several pint or half-pint sized canning jars, also called mason jars. How many will vary depending on the size of your cucumbers. After you’ve made pickles for awhile, you know how much they will shrink after salting and can estimate. This recipe made 2 scant pints for me. You can reuse old canning jars and rings as long as they are clean. It’s preferable to use new lids each time you make pickles.

canning or mason jars
this package of half-pint mason jars came with brand new lids and rings

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wash the cucumbers well. Cut a bit off each end. Slice very thinly and place into a large, non-reactive bowl.

Next, peel and wash the onion. Cut a bit off each end. Slice very thinly and place into the bowl with the cucumbers.

Mix the cucumbers and onions well, separating the onion rings as you go. Add the salt and mix again. Cover and leave for four hours, stirring every hour.

thinly sliced cucumbers and onions tossed with salt
thinly sliced cucumbers and onion are mixed with kosher salt and left to stand

While the mixture is salting, prepare your jars:

Wash jars, lids, and rings well in hot sudsy water. Rinse well in hot water. Leave the jars upside down to drain, in the dish drainer or on a clean towel. Place the lids and rings into a clean plastic or metal bowl.

canning or mason jar
a pint-sized canning or mason jar, showing the three parts ~ jar, lid, and ring

When four hours is up, transfer the cucumbers and onions to a large colander. Rinse well under cold running water, tossing and squeezing to remove as much salt as possible.

cukes and onion after salting
cukes and onions after salting for four hours ~ you can see how they have wilted down

rinsing the cukes and onion
rinse the mixture well and squeeze to remove excess salt

Fill a pot or kettle with enough water for sterilizing the jars, lids, and rings. Bring this to a boil as you make the solution below.

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the vinegar and sugar together, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. When this solution is hot and the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Run the glass jars under hot tap water to heat and temper them. When the plain water is boiling, discard the tap water and fill each jar with boiling water. It’s fine to let the water run over the rim too. Fill the bowl of lids and rings with boiling water as well.

preparing the canning jars
canning jars, lids and rings prepared with boiling water to sterilize

Now it’s time to pack your pickles, one jar at a time.

Empty the first jar, taking care not to scald yourself with the boiling water. Set it on a clean towel to absorb heat. If you are using pickling spice, put a scant teaspoon into the bottom of the jar now. Using a clean spoon or fork, fill the jar with the cucumber and onion mixture. Pack it in lightly, leaving at least a half inch at the top to allow room for the pickling solution.

canning jar with picking spice
optional pickling spice goes in first

filled canning jar
the jar is filled with cucumber and onion mixture ~ leaving room for solution

Now carefully pour the hot pickling solution over the veggies in their jar. You can pour directly from the pot, use a clean ladle, or a clean canning funnel. Fill the jars nearly to the top. Don’t worry if you run out of solution, just make more using the 1:1 vinegar to sugar ratio.

canning jar filled with pickling solution
carefully fill the jar with pickling solution ~ use a clean fork to press around the side of the jar, allowing the solution to seep down to the bottom

Place the lid on the jar and then the ring, tightening gently.

canning jar with lid applied
first the lid is applied

canning jar with lid and ring applied
then the ring is fastened over all

If everything is sufficiently hot, you may hear a slight pop when you fasten the ring — this means the jar has self-sealed — it is nothing to worry about. You can test whether the jar is sealed by pressing gently in the middle of the ring. If it bounces back, it is not sealed. (Don’t worry if your jars don’t self-seal. These are not processed pickles and must be refrigerated at all times.)

Repeat the process until all the jars are filled.

Allow the pickles to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge. They should keep for about a month after opening.

mom's bread and butter pickles
mom’s bread and butter pickles!

I wish I could take credit for the beautiful red cucumber kimchi I made — alas I cannot. It comes directly from this recipe with all credit to Dr. Kim.

cucumber kimchi from Dr. Kim
Dr. Kim’s cucumber kimchi

And sadly, I am still working on the banana peppers. When it came time to open the jar, they were mushy and not at all what I hoped. When I get that recipe settled, I will post it.

banana pepper pickles
banana pepper pickles ~ heat packed and not crispy 😦

Leaving you now with a halfway decent shot of a halfway unusual bird sighting a few days ago — a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. He was lunching in a tree at the top of the steps that lead to beautiful, ever-changing Lake Superior πŸ™‚

yellow-billed cuckoo
yellow-billed cuckoo ~ in the upper peninsula

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Going “Up North”

beanstalks grow on this huge sunflower...
beans are climbing up this huge sunflower…

Now that I live in the “northern lower”, a trip “up north” to the Upper Peninsula isn’t such an undertaking — all I need is a few days off and a car as opposed to a few weeks off and a plane ticket!

Here is where I am headed…

When I get back I hope to have some great new photos — perhaps even some foodie stuff too! (such as pickles, sra?) πŸ™‚

lake superior ~ yum!
lake superior

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