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Dill Pickles

My family loves pickles. We like them with bowls of steaming brown rice, on fresh crusty bread and sometime just straight up from the jar. They are easy to make and full of healthful probiotics.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup pickling salt
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1.5 pounds pickling cucumbers
  • 1/2 T red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 t dill seed
  • 1/2 t coriander seed
  • 1 t mustard seed
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • Several fresh grape leaves (to promote crispness)

Directions:

Make the brine solution by combining the salt and water and stirring until the salt is dissolved.

Put the spices and grape leaves in the bottom of a crock or jar.

Rinse the cucumbers and cut off the blossom end, (to prevent soft pickles). Pack the cukes into the container and cover the contents completely with brine solution. Weight the cukes to be sure they are submerged in the liquid. Anything not covered by brine could rot.

Check in a few days and skim off any scum. Begin tasting your pickles; if you like half sours then they need to ferment about 4 days, for full sours one to two weeks is usually needed. The liquid will turn from clear to cloudy and may fizz.

Place in the fridge when done to slow fermentation. Enjoy!!!

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Fresh dill, garlic, mustard seed, grape leaves, salt, coriander, dill seed

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Wash cucumbers and trim off blossom end.

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Put herbs and spices in bottom of jar.

Pack cucumbers in tightly and fill with brine.

Pack cucumbers in tightly and fill with brine.

Add rock or bag filled with brine to weight down contents.

Add rock or bag filled with brine to weight down contents.

Finished pickles!

Finished pickles!

Sun Tea with Fresh Herbs

Sunday it’s supposed to hit 90 degrees!!!  Pure heaven for this Arizona desert rat and high time to make sun tea.  My favorite way to make this popular summer drink is to take a couple of bags of high quality black tea and throw in a generous handful of fresh herbs.  You can use traditional mint or go wild with oregano or a fennel blend is nice too.  Let steep until a honey color then put in the fridge and serve over ice.

Fresh mint, lemon balm and Lady Jane Grey tea

Fresh mint, lemon balm and Lady Jane Grey tea

Steeping tea

Steeping tea

Ready to refresh!

Ready to refresh!

Zingy Dried Tomatoes

Our hot summer is bringing on the tomatoes early and in great quantity.  There are so many that for the first year in a while my family can’t keep up with the bounty.  The cherry variety is especially sweet and tangy dried.  These little gems can then be used in sauces, marinades, soups or any other place you need a little burst of summer flavor.

Red, orange or yellow varieties all dry beautifully.

Red, orange or yellow varieties all dry beautifully.

Cut them in half and place them on your dehydrator flesh side down.

Cut them in half and place them on your dehydrator flesh side down.

Dry for about 12 hours or until they are hard to the touch.

Dry for about 12 hours or until they are hard to the touch.

I like to store dried foods in a mason jar kept in a dark place to prevent discoloration.

I like to store dried foods in a mason jar kept in a dark place to prevent discoloration.

 

Herbal Caramels

Fennel seeds for a new taste.

Fennel seeds for a new taste.

I have been experimenting with herbal caramels for a while and the possibilities are endless.  You can use almost any herb such as rosemary, thyme or lavender.  I tried using green fennel seeds and the buttery sweet licorice result is delectable.

You can add herbal flavor either by infusing or by sprinkling the setting pan with dried seeds or dried leaves.  To infuse, melt the butter in the cream, put in the herb, remove from heat and let sit for 50 minutes.  Take out the herb and the resulting mixture will have a lovely herbal flavor.  (The easiest way to do this is to drop a whole sprig in.  If you just have dried herbs then place in a small square of cheesecloth before steeping for easy removal.)
To sprinkle, wait until the caramel begins to set then add the seeds on top so they just sink in to the top layer.  This is really gilding the lily but I like to sprinkle a small amount of sea salt on top as well.  (If you like chunky bits in your candies try the sprinkle route if you really like the smooth creaminess of caramels then I’d go the infusion route.)
Here is the recipe I like to use:
Herbal Caramels

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, (one stick)
  • 1/2 cup evaporated or regular milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Your favorite herbs

Directions

Grease a 9 inch square pan.
 
Put all the ingredients but the vanilla in a heavy bottomed pan and heat until mixture comes to a boil and the butter melts. 
Put all ingredients in a heavy bottomed pan. The mixture will boil up as it heats so make sure the pan is big enough.

Put all ingredients in a heavy bottomed pan. The mixture will boil up as it heats so make sure the pan is big enough.

Keep cooking, 25-30 minutes or until a thermometer reaches 244°.  If you don’t have a thermometer you can drop a small amount into ice water and when it forms a soft ball it’s ready.

Butter is just beginning to melt.

Butter is just beginning to melt.

Almost there! It takes 20 to 25 minutes to reach 244 and the last few degrees can rise quickly.

Almost there! It takes 20 to 25 minutes to reach 244 and the last few degrees can rise quickly.

Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and pour into your buttered pan.  Once cooled slightly add herbs on top.

Fennel seeds and salt.

Fennel seeds and salt.

When cool, cut into squares and wrap in waxed paper.  These keep best in the fridge.

These are wrapped in parchment paper but waxed paper works better.

These are wrapped in parchment paper but waxed paper works better.

 

Dried Apples

The apples on my front parking strip are starting to fall and it’s time to do something with those apples!  Over the years I have made apple sauce, apple butter, apple pie filling and several other types of apple based products.  The thing that my family likes the most are dried apples.  These can be added to morning oatmeal, put in cookies and muffins or just grabbed as a quick snack.  What I like about going the dried apple route is that they are quick and easy to make.

First pick your apples.  It's ok if they have blemishes or worm holes.  You can cut these out.

First pick your apples. It’s ok if they have blemishes or worm holes. You can cut these out.

I like to use this apple peeler and slicer.  It really cuts down on time and is great fun to use.

I like to use this apple peeler and slicer. It really cuts down on time and is great fun to use.

Here is what the apple looks like fresh from the machine.

Here is what the apple looks like fresh from the machine.

Lay the slices out on your dehydrator racks and fire them up.

Lay the slices out on your dehydrator racks and fire them up.

Here are the dried slices.  It takes about 5 hours for thin slices, more for thick ones.  You want them dry but not hard and brittle.  Once they are dried put them in Tupperware or mason jars.

Here are the dried slices. It takes about 5 hours for thin slices, more for thick ones. You want them dry but not hard and brittle. Once they are dried put them in Tupperware or mason jars.

 

 

 

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!

Yum 

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.

Enjoy!

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.

Enjoy!

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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

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.

Sunflowers

Hollyhocks en pagaille

Hollyhocks en pagaille

Blooms

Blooms

Roses

Roses

 

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.

Directions:

  • 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