Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Canning Part 3: Pickles Three Ways

Late last Saturday afternoon, Michael and I decided to head to Sauvie Island for some pickling cucumbers. This being our first time making pickles, or picking pickling cucumbers, I think I should have done a little more research. But alas, lazy as ever, we just headed out to Sauvie Island Farms for some U-Pick. Last year I stopped at Kruger's Farm Market and grabbed the already picked peaches I needed and some canning supplies. I did not pick anything myself. When they pick the fruit and veggies for you, they know what to pick. When you pick for yourself, I suggest doing some research.

It was a beautiful Saturday and we arrived about an hour before closing.

We headed to the pickling cucumber patch.

We picked nearly 20 pounds of pickling cucumbers

I had heard there were beaches on Sauvie Island, but I had never been to one. Michael and I took a drive around the island until we found a beach. See, here I am, on a beach, on Sauvie Island.

And here is where my pickling adventures began. Michael had done a much better job of picking cucumbers that would fit in the jars than I had. It became obvious that for many of the pickles (too long or too fat) I was going to need to slice them into rounds or spears in order to fit them in the jar. Also, some were too ripe with large seeds (when pickling cucumbers get beyond a certain size, they are too ripe). I decided to go ahead and not waste any of the cucumbers. I pickled them all.

I started with a recipe for Garlic Dill Pickles from the food blog Food in Jars

As you can see, there are lots of large seeds because I chose the largest cucumbers for slicing into rounds.

I then handpicked all the cucumbers that would fit into the large jars and pickled those whole using a combination of simple recipes. To each jar I added fresh dill, dill seed, mustard seeds, red chili flakes, peppercorns, cloves of garlic and a simple water, cider vinegar and pickling salt brine.

and then processed accordingly.

The jar below is very large... too large to fit in any water bath I own. So these will just go in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks. 

I then took the shortest and fattest of the cucumbers and cut them into spears.

We ended up with 21 jars of pickles. Apparently they need to sit for at least three weeks before they are ready to serve. Once we give them a try and make sure they are edible, we will probably be looking to give some way. That's a lot of pickles.

(Above photo taken by Michael)

And finally, Stinky (er, I mean Tinkerbell) the Pickle Queen gives her approval.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Canning Part 2: Sweet & Spicy Cucumber/Zucchini Relish

Making this relish recipe was a no-brainer. I had all the ingredients on hand. I actually tweaked a couple recipes to get to this. It should be interesting to see how (if) it turns out.

Sweet & Spicy Cucumber/Zucchini Relish
4 whole cucumbers, any kind (I had leftovers from canning pickles)
2 whole medium zucchini (lots of zucchini from the farm this week)
4 stalks celery
1 whole red bell pepper
1 jalapeno peppers (from farm)
6 cloves garlic (farm)
2 cups apple cider vinegar (leftover from canning pickles)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
4 T Salt
2 T Mustard Seed
1 T Celery Seed
1 T Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

In food processor, process all veggies on the chop mode, finely chop all but do not puree.
Put veggies and remaining ingredients in large stock pot. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer ten minutes. Strain to remove most of the liquid.

Put in clean hot jars to 1/2 inch from top. Put lid and screw band on tight. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Above: All ingredients are in the pot.

Below: After simmering for 10 minutes

Finished Product:

I am not sure what we will use all this relish for, but Michael promises me he will eat whatever I preserve. Wait until you see all the pickles!

Canning Part 1: Blackberry Lemon Jam

Above: Blackberries from the backyard, August 2008.

This week's treat:
U-Pick Blackberries at La Finquita del Buho. Tons of blackberries and so easy to reach. Totally accessible. I only have a few scrapes and scratches, seriously. Michael and I spent about 1/2 hour picking blackberries and we easily walked home with 3-4 lbs. of berries. Picking blackberries is one of those quintessential summertime activities. I asked Michael if he used to pick blackberries when he was a kid and through his whining and moaning about the stickers and the bees, he said no. He had never seen a blackberry bush until he moved to Oregon and had no idea how they grew. Seriously? Wow. I guess that is what happens when you come from a place that is impeccably manicured. There are no brambling bushes at the end of the street (or in the backyard, as is the case with our house).

Truth be told, I am not a big fan of eating plain old blackberries. I mean they are okay, but certainly no strawberry or raspberry in my book. What I do love, however, is blackberry jam.

Blackberry Lemon Jam
3-4 lbs. blackberries, rinsed & picked through (or whatever amount you have, add or reduce sugar and lemon accordingly)
3 cups sugar
zest & juice of 2 large lemons
pectin (read package for appropriate amount for quantity of fruit and then add more, my blackberry jam is always too runny. I never add enough pectin)

Put berries into a very large pot. I do not bother trying to remove seeds, I am way too lazy. Add the pectin to the berries a little at a time, stirring constantly. Heat on high, continue stirring until mixture comes to a full boil. Add sugar, continue stirring. Bring mixture to a full hard boil (will probably take about 8-10 minutes), stirring constantly. Boil for 5 minutes.

Continue canning process by putting jam into sterilized jars of your choosing. Remember to use new lids for a good seal. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath (there should be at least 1 inch boiling water above jars). This amount of fruit made 10 half pints.

I absolutely love these flat half pint Ball jars.

Time to open a jar of this jam, spread a little mascarpone cheese on a slice of whole wheat toast and slather with homemade blackberry lemon jam.

I know, I cheated. This is actually a picture from last year's blackberry jam:

One Crazy Summer, Oahu

 On the heels of spending a week at the beach with the Godsey Family, earlier this month we jumped a plane to spend a week at our timeshare at Ko Olina on Oahu in Hawaii.

I make it all sound so easy. Like we are literally just galavanting around from one beach to another when, in fact, this has been one of the strangest summers on record.

Earlier this summer, Sammy broke his nose. Well, someone else's elbow broke it, but still. Having it "broken back" into place looked pretty painful for Sammy, but all in all it was a week of wondering if Sammy was going to have a nose with "character" or not. Sammy's nose is fine. What is kind of nutty is, that very same week Joey was diagnosed with Mononucleosis. After spending the better part of his Freshman year at college sick, he was finally diagnosed with Mono in July. This created a frenzy of worry for Michael and I since he was not really well enough to jump on a plane to come home, so what do you do? Jump on a plane and go to him? And do what? Sit around in a house in rural Ohio with 5 young men and watch over your 19-year old son making sure he rests. Did I mention said house has no A/C and we are talking Ohio in the summer? And that the only "cure" for Mono is rest, fluids and food. We did not go to Ohio. We trusted that in the 19 years raising our kid, we taught him how to eat and drink. The Mono was forcing the rest part--resting is not something you can teach or force upon a kid like Joey. The remainder of July went along fairly uneventfully (at least for our family) and Joey promised us over and over that he was resting and eating and drinking.

Superstitiously speaking, don't they say things come in three's?
(1) Broken Nose
(2) Mononucleosis
(3) Broken Clavicle
(for my own sanity, I am bulking the boys together here and saying our three things are done)

With his much improved Mono, by the beginning of August, Joey was back to his Oberlin Farmer's Market job and also his Oberlin radio show. He was scheduled to fly home on August 2nd to spend a few days in Portland before accompanying us to Oahu. On his way home, on his bike, from his radio show, a car ran a red light and entered an intersection. Joey was also heading into that intersection with the complete right of way, but there was a car... straight ahead... and he could not stop fast enough. He crashed into the side of the car, flew off his bike and his backpack with all his belongings ended up scattered around the street. The driver of the car was very apologetic and even drove him back to his house. Apparently he contemplated not going to the ER so that he could make his flight. We are very glad he went to the ER.

A few X-Rays, numerous Vicodin pills and hundreds of dollars later, Joey made it home to Portland.

Our trip to Hawaii was filled with much rest, many episodes of Star Trek Voyager and Twin Peaks streamed from Netflix, lots of ice cream, beach cabanas, warm Hawaiian sand and surf, gorgeous sunsets, dinners with friends, shave ice and maybe a couple too many Malasadas.

Above: Sunset from our room.

Above: Our timeshare freezer.

Above: The view of our little beach cove from the cabana.

Above: Joey has removed his sling, but he is still pretty droopy to that left side.

Ko Olina now has a little ice cream shop. It is pretty mediocre and I cannot remember the name of it.

Below: It made Michael very sleepy.

Below: Sunset on the beach.

Below: With all the gorgeous places to take a family picture, somehow we choose one of the ugliest spots, the lobby of Roy's at Ko Olina. I am not sure what Joey is doing with that hand at Sammy's neck. I think Sammy is wondering the same thing.

Above: we were so happy to spend some time with Tracey and John Dombroski. They were great travel partners and if it wasn't for Tracey, we would not have tried Leonard Jr's Malasadas.

We enjoyed our trip, but as always, it was way too short.