Making Pickled Beets

It’s wonderful to pull out a jar of home-grown, home-canned pickled beets for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  They are very easy to make, so get your canning supplies ready…

First you pick the beets.

Medium sized beets work best. 

Then you either cut the tops off to stir fry or, if you have goats or chickens, they love them too!


Once you’ve removed the tops and trimmed off the long tap root, simmer the beets until they are tender, which you can test by piercing them with a fork.  Peel them, then cut them into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices.  I have a tool that gives them a pretty wavy edge.

I got this tool at Fred Myers. 

Pack the slices into sterile jars and add in about a teaspoon of pickling spice.  Make up a pickling solution of 3 1/2 cups vinegar to 1 1/2 cups water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of pickling salt.  Be sure to use 5%, store bought vinegar as acidity levels can vary in homemade vinegar.  It’s the acid in the solution that will keep your food safe.

Toasting the spices first can bring out the flavors.

Fill to within about a half inch of the top.  Then seal up and boil in a water bath for 30 minutes.  This will help to ensure that the beets are truly safe to eat.

Let sit for at least two weeks for flavors to blend.


A Great Cracker Recipe!

This is still one of my favorite recipes! These crackers rival the 5 dollar a bag ones from the market and you can experiment with all sorts of herbs and flavors.

Panzanella Croccatini

  • 1.5 cups of flour
  • .5 cup very cold water
  • 1 tsp salt, play with this so it is to your taste, I am using less salt
  • dash sugar
  • 1/8 c rosemary chopped
  • 1/8 c olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and put a pan for water in the bottom of the oven.

First put flour, salt, sugar and rosemary in a food processor fitted with the cutting blade and pulse to blend.

Next add the oil and pulse to blend.  Add the water in a stream until the dough comes together and run for about twenty seconds.

Turn the dough out and knead to a smooth ball.  Divide it into four pieces and cover with a cloth to let rest for five minutes.

Roll each section in a pasta roller.  The next to thinnest one tastes very good.

Cut into sheets and place on parchment paper.  Spray with water water and sprinkle with herbs.

Put parchment paper directly into the oven on a baking stone, add a half cup of water to the pan in the bottom.  Turn crackers from front to back after about two minutes.  Watch them closely as they burn easily.  You just want a hint of brown.


Plum Crazy

So many plums!

So many plums!

With all the heat this summer the plums are ripening sooner than usual.  Yippee!

I never really understood the term “plum crazy” until this year’s banner harvest; I can’t stop picking when there is ripe, juicy fruit to be had and every possible space is covered with some plum related project.

“Are you nearly done?” asked my daughter somewhat plaintively through a fruit fly induced haze.  “Uh getting closer” I said as I stirred up a new batch of plum wine.  “So what are these projects?” you ask with trepidation.

Have you ever seen the part in Forest Gump where Bubba talks about everything you can do with shrimp?  Here’s the plum version:  “You can make plum torte, plum jam, plum sauce, frozen plums, dried plums, pickled plums, plums in brandy, plum sauce and this is only the beginning!”

Here is a lovely plum sauce made by putting plums face down on a cookie sheet covered with melted butter and a bit of sugar in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  When the skins easily come off it’s ready to go.

Caramelized plum sauce

To dry plums you can either quarter them or pit them, push them out flat and put them skin side down on a dehydrator tray.  It takes about 24 hours for them to try to the point they won’t mold.

Dried plums

Each year I make plum tortes with a recipe from the New York Times.  These tortes are super easy to make and freeze beautifully.

Easy and delicious

Easy and delicious

Here is the recipe for an absolutely wonderful blue plum conserve from my Mother’s 1946 version of the Joy of Cooking.  I use the Italian prune plums but Damson plums work equally well.  This recipe does have walnut meats and be aware that there is some concern about canning preserves made with nuts.  I have never had a problem but do want to let you know about this.

Here is the mixture before cooking.

Here is the mixture before cooking.

Blue Plum Conserve


  • 2 oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 and a 1/4 pounds of raisins
  • 9 cups sugar
  • 5 pounds blue plums
  • 1/2 pound broken walnut meats


Peel and chop the thin rind from the oranges and lemon and put it in a large bowl.  Chop up the pulp from the citrus fruits and add this and any juice to the bowl.  Next add in the raisins and the sugar.  Pit, slice and add in the plums.  Mix well then place in a large pot and cook until thick.  Be careful to stir continuously or your mixture will burn.  Add in the walnut meats.  Cook ten more minutes then put into sterile jars.  You can then water bath can your preserve if you so desire.

Here’s the finished product.

Year before last when we had an insane amount of fruit I did a plum wine.  It actually turned out to be more of a brandy and while quite strong, we liked it.

Streissguth Gardens

Streissguth Gardens is a hidden garden located just west of St. James Cathedral on Capitol Hill in Seattle. A family labor of love this delightful public park is open for strolling.

Japanese Garden-13

Botanical walks

Several different types of sunflowers thrive.


Hollyhocks en pagaille

Hollyhocks en pagaille






Garden Fresh Potato Salad

A summer staple for my family is a hearty garden fresh potato salad.  We have this sustaining dish with almost every outdoor meal and prepare it for guests as well.

Walking through the garden I found onions, nasturtium flowers, peas, purple potatoes and new eggs from the hens. Ready for 4th of July picnics it’s time for a fresh as can be garden potato salad!  Best of all you don’t need to leave your yard and head to the grocery store.


  • Roam your garden and pick what’s ripe.
  • Make the vinaigrette dressing with a dollop of Dijon mustard, a clove of garlic, red wine vinegar, a bit of salt and olive oil.
  • Quarter and boil your potatoes, drain them and put them in the bowl.
  • I add the eggs in with the potatoes to hard boil as the cooking time is about the same. Peel and slice the eggs.
  • Add in whatever other tasty items you can find in your garden.
  • Drizzle with the dressing and enjoy.
Fresh garden potato salad

Fresh garden potato salad


How to Use Anise Hyssop

Anise hyssop is a lovely plant that grows well in our climate. This edible licorice flavored member of the mint family can be grown from seed, divided from another plant or purchased at a nursery.

use of anise hyssop

Minty anisey and delicious!

Here are some of its many uses:

  • Cut flowers
  • Dried flowers – the flower heads dry to a pretty navy blue
  • Pot pourri – it blends well with lavender and lemon balm 
  • Tea – it makes a nice tea on its own or can be combined with lemon balm and/or chamomile, it is reputed to calm nerves
  • Addition to fruit salad – the minced leaves add zest
  • Flavoring for sweet breads or cookies – mince flowers and add them to the dough for an anise touch
  • Sprig in a glass of ice tea – simple but tasty

This plant will self seed and it’s roots will run underground as will other members of the mint family but it is not invasive.  It is beloved by rabbits but supposedly avoided by deer.

Let me know if you find other delicious uses for this delicate herb!





Garlic Braids

Right now is a good time to harvest garlic.  Braiding it then hanging it in a cool, dark place is a great way to store it for later.

how to make garlic braids

If the garlic isn’t well dried it will rot.

First dry the garlic until the leaves are limp and the outside of the bulb is getting papery.

how to make garlic braids

It’s ok to leave some of the dirt on the bulbs.

Gently brush off the dirt and trim the roots off.  Be careful not to bruise the garlic as it will spoil more quickly if damaged.

how to make garlic braids

If you’re new to braiding then getting someone to help will make a smoother braid.

Line up three bulbs with good long stalks and begin to braid.

how to make garlic braids

Make sure there is some space between the bulbs so they can continue to dry.

With each cross over add in another bulb until you have a braid that is about a foot long.  If you go longer it can be quite heavy and hard to hang.  It’s also nice to keep the braids a bit shorter to have more to give as gifts.

how to make garlic braids

Ready to hang. If you are a big garlic user then hang in your kitchen, if not put in a cool, airy place and take off heads as needed.

Here is the finished braid!

Oregon Grape Jam

Oregon grape laden with berries

Oregon grape laden with berries

The Oregon Grape in the park near our house is a luscious deep purple blue color and the berries are just a bit soft to the touch. On the way home I picked some berries then made jam with my harvest. This deep blue jam has a great flavor and pairs nicely with sourdough bread or vanilla ice cream.

The two species we have growing in the Seattle area are the tall Oregon-grape (Mahonia aquifolium) and low Oregon-grape (Mahonia nervosa).   The berries from both of these can be used to make jellies, jams or fruit leather.

Here’s how to make the jam:

Prepare the Oregon Grapes

  • Collect berries that are a deep blue purple color and slightly soft 
  • Wash and pick through your harvest removing leaves, stems and any berries that are over or under ripe
  • Put berries and enough water to just cover in a pot and cook until soft.  This usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes
  • Run the cooked berries through a food mill to separate out the seeds and skins from the pulpy juice

Turn fruit into jam

  • Measure how many cups of berries you have, you will need an equivalent amount of sugar
  • Check how much pectin you will need and measure this out.  I like to use Pomona Pectin
  • Get your canning jars and lids ready for filling
  • Add the amount of calcium water needed to your fruit mixture
  • Bring to a boil
  • Add in the well mixed pectin powder and sugar
  • Bring to a second boil and pour into waiting jars
  • Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes
Ripe and ready to pick

Ripe and ready to pick




Rose Hips

Growing up in the desert in Arizona rose hips always sounded so exotic but now that I live in the Pacific Northwest I can find these vitamin C rich tasty fruits everywhere. While all bushes make hips, Rosa rugosa is the variety that has the biggest, sweetest fruits.

You can see why these fruits are also called "rose tomatoes"

You can see why these fruits are also called “rose tomatoes”

They are ripe now and can be easily harvested. Be careful of thorns and make sure that no chemical sprays have been used.

This will be ready to be picked in a few more days.  Hips are ripe when soft to the touch.

This will be ready to be picked in a few more days. Hips are ripe when soft to the touch.

Rose hips contain 25 percent more iron, 20 to 40 percent more Vitamin C (depending upon variety), and 25 times the Vitamin A, and 28 percent more calcium than oranges!

Freshly picked rose hips

Freshly picked rose hips

Here are my top three favorite ways to use these tasty and healthy fruits:

  • Rose hip tea – you can use fresh or dried hips to make this comforting beverage. Just soak 3 to 4 hips in boiling water for 10 minutes then add honey or agave syrup to taste. This is great on a cold winter night.
  • Dried rose hips – split hips, remove seeds and spread in a clean area until dry. Once thoroughly dry put in jars or bags. If not completely dry they will mold. These can be added to recipes or just eaten as is.
  • Rose hip jelly
Seeded and ready to dry.

Seeded and ready to dry.


To make the jelly:


  • 3 cups rose hip juice
  • 2T lemon juice
  • 4 cups sugar
  • One package of pectin


  1. Wash the hips
  2. Remove the seeds
  3. Put fruit in pot and just cover with water
  4. Cook until soft then mash with a potato masher
  5. Put the fruit in a jelly bag or line a colander with a couple of layers of cheese cloth and strain out the liquid. To have clear jelly let the juice run out without putting pressure on the bag. This can take several hours.
  6. Combine the juice with pectin and lemon juice.
  7. Bring to a boil. Add sugar, boil hard for 1 minute.
  8. Pour into sterile jars then water bath can for 5 minutes.



Wire fences are functional but sometimes lack color and beauty.  To beautify your fence or trellis try this simple trick of hanging glass between the squares.

making glass decorations for wire fences

To attach wire to the glass I use sticky metal tape.

Pick your glass from a stained glass store or if you are in the Seattle area, Bedrock Industries has a great selection.   Cut two pieces of wire and lay them along the sticky side of the tape.  Smooth them along the edges of the glass and fold the edges of the tape over to cover any rough edges and attach the wire.

making glass decorations for wire fences

Once wire is attached go wild!


making glass decorations for wire fences

Here is a dangly piece. Be careful if you do this as the wire can break and the glass may shatter.