Friday, July 22, 2005

pickle party

Even though the weather has been horrendously hot and humid it was time to make the pickles. Sort of like making jam...wash lots of jars and equipment, set everything up...stand back and listen to hubby complain about how I'm heating up the kitchen/house.

BUT and this is a big but....nothing tastes so good in the middle of winter as the pickles that you sweated over in the summertime. Plus I had a batch of zucchini that was only going to be good for the compost heap if I didn't either eat them or cook them. While I like eating zucchini there's no way I could eat that many of them in time. And I LIKE pickles.

This recipe is from the Ball Blue Book. Every year I say I'm going to get a new copy because mine is old, has some burned pages (from a canning/stove accident years ago but we don't talk about that), lots of stains, some pages stuck together. But it's a great book and I love it and have not as yet been able to bring myself to replace it.

Zucchini Pickles

Slice up a bunch of zucchini (I used 10 and used the mandolin to slice them)
slice up some onions (I used three)
put in a bowl, sprinkle generously with salt, cover with cold water, let sit 2 hours
In a big pot mix together:
3 cups white vinegar
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup pickling salt
2 teaspoons mustard seed
1 teaspoon celery seed (the recipe actually calls for celery salt but that's too much salt for my taste)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
bring to a boil
Drain zucchini mix and add to vinegar mix
bring back to a boil, then simmer 1 hour (recipe calls for 2 but I've never had that much patience)
bring back to a boil then ladle into jars, seal, hot water bath 5 minutes
label and put away for later 'cause it's too doggone hot to eat hot pickles
ENJOY later!!!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

domestic diva

That's what I feel like today. Mostly because I was able to devote a significant portion of my day to the domestic chores I love (this is something I haven't been able to do in a loooooong time). It started a couple of days ago when Steve (wonderful man that he is) helped me pick all the currants in the garden. There were LOTS of them. At one point he wandered over to a different portion of the jungle vegetable garden and hollered, "Hey, there's a zucchini here that's big enough to turn into a dugout canoe." Well...that's not really what he said, but he did indicate that this particular zucchini had, shall we say, gotten away from me. So we picked it.

Fast forward to today. The day I woke up and decided to make the jam (imagine an oratorical echo here). I busily got together my pots and pans and assorted little jam/jelly making doohickies like this and this and this.

I destemmed and washed all the currants. Mushed them up in the pot and began to cook. The recipe I used was from Oded Schwartz' Preserving.
For every two pints of currants add 2 1/2 cups of water.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or so until fruit is pulpy.
Strain into a jelly bag [note: I use cheese cloth lining a colander suspended over a large pot which works just fine]
It takes about 2 hours to strain completely
Measure. For every 2 cups of juice add 2 cups of sugar
Add the juice of one lemon
Heat gently until sugar is dissolved then bring to a boil.
Skim foam.
Cook 10 minutes or so until jelling point has been reached.
Ladle into jars, seal and process.


V's friend B is spending the day with us today. She had never even heard of currants. How deprived a life she must lead. She didn't even know that they were a fruit or where or how they could be grown and that you could, of all things, cook and eat them. I have her the teeny-tiniest taste of the jelly on a spoon and she loved it. Told me that it was fabulous. I gave her a spatula and the pot it was cooked in and told her to knock herself out. People I am serious when I tell you that pot looks like it was never used. Amazing.

While making jelly somehow the little fairies who occasionally share my domicile managed to wash and dry two loads of laundry, run the dishwasher twice (not sure how we wound up with so many dishes today but we did) and Steve vacuumed (thank you honey, you are the best!) This added significantly to my domestic divaness feeling as the house is clean AND I was able to do all these fun kitchen things.

As the jelly juice was straining I took that huge honkin' zucchini and made zucchini bread with it! Mmmmmmmmm. It was so delicious. The thing was so humongous I got three loaves out of it. It's been such a long time since I baked anything that one whole loaf has already disappeared. Back to B...she had never, I mean NEVER, in her whole entire life had zucchini bread before. I mean can you think of anything so sad? She's already eaten 1/2 of a loaf all by herself.

In addition to currant jelly Steve thought that perhaps I wanted to go collect the raspberries to make raspberry jam. Being the adventurous brave determined soul that I am I ventured outside to collect said berries. This in spite of the fact that it was drizzling. Those of you who know me know that I am a wuss and I hate to garden in the rain. Any rain. But as I was collecting berries and not actually planting anything or weeding I perservered. Unfortunately it began to rain harder. The silly cat had followed me and true to her garden cat personality took great delight in hiding under the bushes, batting at my feet every time I came near her. This scared the dickens out of me as I kept thinking I was about to fall into a prickly pile of raspberry canes. When I finished I found that I had not quite, ahem, nearly *cough* anywhere near enough berries to make even the most miniscule taste of raspberry jam.

Being on a baking roll [no pun intended there] I realized that I did have enough to make one quick and tasty batch of....muffins! See note about zucchini...I made 12 muffins but somehow there are only 6 left. Of course after all of that cooking and washing up I am now totally and thoroughly (as we say in our family) gepoopinde.

It was a GREAT day, I was so happy to spend the day in the kitchen like that. It made me realize how very much I miss that aspect of my life. Of course with three kids, a job, etc., it's not hard to understand why that doesn't happen very often. I think the kids and Steve really appreciated having fresh baked goodies and I appreciated the time and space to make such lovely things for them.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


Last night we had a great dinner party at my brother's. Us, them, his in-laws, and friends of his that I hadn't seen in years. Kim, as always, did a fabulous job with the meal. We had the most delicious kabobs, marinated in Mojo, very tasty.

We also had one of the most delicious salads that Kim makes, she's so good at that and has a large repertoire of amazing side dishes and salads. This one is one of my favorites; one I like so much that finally, after all of these years, I have asked her to buy me the cookbook.

It's called Company Orzo Pasta Salad.

1 16 oz orzo pasta, cooked
1 red pepper chopped
1 green pepper chopped
1 yellow pepper chopped
1 bunch scallions sliced including greens
1 cup currants
1 10 oz pkg frozen peas thawed
1/2 cup black olives chopped
1/4 cup flat parsley chopped
1/2 cup fresh dill snipped
salt and fresh pepper to taste

2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
fresh parsley minced or chives to taste
1 cup olive oil

combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk. Place cooked pasta in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Add remaining ingredients and toss thoroughly. Can be made a day in advance. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Enjoy, we did!