September 17, 2008
Yes, I’m enjoying the summer harvest of fruits and veggies. I truck down to my favorite produce store… Farmer Grant’s Vineyard Garden… and load up on veggies a couple of times a week. Tomatoes and cucumbers are my favorites. They’re like Mexican Food…. I could eat it every day.
Today, on my way down to Grants… I was tuned in to Dr. Laura… who sometimes gives me the “willies” because she can be so harsh with folks. But, today… she was quite mild as she discussed the subject of gratitude with a gal who never seemed to be satisfied with anything.
I’ve heard this message many times before… but for some reason it struck me with a little more force than usual. As unsettled as my life is right now… I have a lot to be grateful for. I so often don’t acknowledge the little things in my life. Like… the goodness of a simple meal of tomatoes and cucumbers.
I took my granddaughter, Claire, to the park the other day while her mom, Katie, was on a photo shoot. We stopped and got Chinese food on our way… then sat on the park bench and had a feast. The sun was warm, and the September sky was blue. What more could I have ever wanted… the whole experience made my heart happy.
During this time of turmoil in our Country… I have to step back often, look around, and be thankful for
where I am and what I have right now…. the goodness of my family, friends and yes…tomatoes and cucumbers.
P.S. I hope where ever you are… you too can find goodness in your summer harvest… whether it be food, family or friends.
September 13, 2008
Canning Dill pickles, using my Grandma Ella’s recipe, was just one of the many items I canned during the summer months, many years ago. I don’t do much canning anymore… due to time and expense.
However, it’s September, the canning feeling is in the air and I was at Farmer Grant’s produce stand day- before-yesterday… and a peck of cucumbers spoke to me.
In fact, before I knew it… the peck of cucumbers and two bags of fresh dill were in my car before I even had time to think about it. “What the…. I don’t have time for this and there is not one earthly nutritional benefit for having dill pickles in my food storage,” I said to myself.
Then I said, “I want to do this… just for me… for fun.” I never thought I would ever say that canning would be fun after “putting up” hundreds of bushels of produce in the past. But, at this moment in time… it’s fun.
So here we go. I want to share with you, my Grandma Ella’s Homemade Dill Pickle recipe. Mmmmm… they’re so good!
Here’s what you need:
A. 1 peck of cucumbers. Now I never buy the ones the farmer says are “Dills.” I go the next size smaller. They fit better in the bottle and are “cruncher.”
B. 1 gal. of white vinegar.
C. Fresh dill. You need a dill head for each bottle which should include stems and pieces. (this recipe will do between 12 and 14 quarts.)
D. Alum (that’s for the pucker.)
E. Salt ( don’t use iodized salt, it will cause the solution to become cloudy.)
F. 1 garlic bud or clove for each bottle.
G. One grape leaf for each bottle. (They say it keeps the pickles crisp. I don’t know if that’s true but Grandma Ella did it… so who am I to argue with success.) I raid my neighbors grape leaves, since I don’t grow grapes.
H. You will need clean wide mouth jars, rims and lids. (12 -14)
Make your vinegar solution: 1 Qt. Vinegar. 3 Qt’s water. 1 C Salt. (This recipe is solution for 6 or 7 quarts.
In each jar, place a grape leave in the bottom. Add one peeled garlic clove, 1 pinch of alum (that’s what grandma said.) but it equates to about 1/8 tes. of alum. At least one dill flower head and a bunch of stems and pieces. It looks like weeds in there but it’s okay. (This is a lousy photo… but you get the drift.)
Now, put the cucumbers in the jar. With these smaller cukes…I can get about 5 or 6 in a jar… just force them in there tight.
I place my bottles on top of my canner bottom and let the steam rise up around them. Or, you can just place the jars in a large frying pan with boiling water and let the steam come up around them. My lids and rims are in a little pan of water… boiling away… and my solution is boiling too. Everything needs to be hot!
Fill one hot jar with the solution.
Take from the boiling water, one lid and rim.
Place it on the filled jar. Tighten the hot jar rim and set your bottle aside.
Repeat the process until you have all the jars filled.
It’s important for you keep everything hot… cause we’re not going to process these bottles. Nope.. No way.. makes the cucumbers soft… and Grandma Ella didn’t do it… and it works… and we’re not dead from any little micro bug. Besides… with all that vinegar and salt… anything bacteria that would have been alive is now… long gone.
There you have it….Homemade Dill Pickles. It’s not hard and they’re so good… BUT…HERE’S THE DEAL… you can’t open a jar until THANKSGIVING. Nope… keep your mitts off until Thanksgiving day. I know it’s tempting. Another reason to celebrate Turkey Day!
It takes that long for the pickles to cure in the brine… but it’s well worth the wait.
P.S. I wonder what else is going to end up in my car… so I can do a bit of canning… just for fun.
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July 30, 2008
Cooking with herbs adds a wonderful subtle flavor to foods. This dill dip uses the airy fern like leaves of the dill weed plant and is absolutely delicious. This dill dip recipe also requires fresh parsley leaves which give it added flavor. The herbs are coming on strong right now and it’s time to begin to enjoy the veggie harvest.
What makes this dip unique is the use of the fresh herbs along with a seasoning salt called Bon Appetit (a mild blend of celery and onion salt.) It is quiet salty… so don’t over do.
Prepare your parsley bunch by washing it and placing into a small container. I just use a small plastic disposable cup which is a bit narrow at the bottom. I use my scissors rather than kitchen sheers because the tips fit nicely in the bottom of the plastic cup. And yes… I do wash my scissors before I begin my cutting. Then… I cut, cut, cut, clip, clip, clip, until the parsley is cut to my liking…small and fine. You’ll need about 1 TB.
Cutting the fern like leaves of the dill weed plant is next. I rinse off the leaves, lay them on a cutting board, hold on to the ends, and using my trusty scissors, I cut, cut, cut the leaves very fine. You’ll need 1 TB of cut dill.
Place 1 cup of sour cream in a bowl along with 1 cup of mayo. Add 1 scant TB of Bon Appetit Seasoning Salt, 2 TB of dried onion flakes, 1 TB of your fresh dill, and 1 TB of fresh parsley. Mix well and let the flavors blend for couple of hours.
Serve this scrumptious dip with fresh veggies. I love fresh cucumbers. Great on tomatoes… corn on the cob… new carrots from the garden… on and on.
P.S. To learn more about dill, take a look at my post on growing and cooking with dill.
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