A new pickle bible.

I’ve long said that if you like making pickles, then you only really need one book on pickling – Linda Zeidrich’s “The Joy of Pickling”.  In fact, I refer to it as ‘my pickle bible’.  But  I recently discovered another less known gem and I am revising that statement. If you like making pickles, “The Joy of Pickling” is essential, but if you love making pickles, then you also need “The Complete Book of Pickles & Relishes” by Leonard Louis Levinson.

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Uncle Kevin’s Art Installation.

When we walked into Aunt Jenny & Uncle Kevin’s living room Friday evening, I couldn’t help but notice what turned out to be Uncle Kevin’s latest salvage yard score and project. Not knowing it at the time, I dubbed it “The Living Room Art Installation”.  Neither Pat nor Edie batted an eyelash at the idea of a member of my family having a new art installation in the middle of their living room, because on that side of the family, there are many artists and among those who aren’t artists, they frequently feature in their homes work by the family artists.   A new art installation in the middle of the living room just seems par for the course.

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If it weren’t so blurry, wouldn’t this image look like it was taken in a museum?

In this case, the ‘art’ in question was a very old Singer sewing machine and treadle table. Continue reading

Call and Answer.

The other day as I was out running errands, I felt the call of the thrift.   If you’ve never felt that call before, it’s hard to describe.  It’s a gut feeling that if you don’t go to the thrift store right there and then, you will miss out on something that needs to come home with you.  I have a love/hate thing for the SPCA Rummage Sale Store, but I found myself pulling into the parking lot Wednesday afternoon just as a parking space magically opened up.  Clearly, the fates were aligned.

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The Calvert Party Encyclopedia

My friend Allison, who happens to be the same Allison that did an entire weekend camping trip wearing a trash bag as a poncho in 3 inches of rain because I assured her there was no rain in the forecast and therefore, it was not worth running home for – which I would also like to point out she was an absolute trooper about, but then, that’s Allison.  She’s one of those rock solid people who takes everything in stride.  She’s the kind of friend you can call on a cold, snowy Saturday in January and ask to please bring you a chocolate banana milkshake because you just had a baby and your husband has told you his days of running out to please your every whim are over, thankyouverymuch and she then walks all over downtown in the snow looking for anything that’s open that will make you a chocolate banana milkshake and while she’s at it, she brings along a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which you’ve been craving for the last 9 months just in case the six pack you had sitting in the cooler on the back porch for such an event accidentally got left on the back porch in the excitement of leaving to have a baby, because it did.

She’s that kind of friend.   Kinda the bomb.

Allison came down to visit recently and brought me a most delightful gift that as soon as I opened it, knew I had to share it here. Continue reading

Along the way.

I have lined up another canning class to teach this summer – a pickling class in August for Market Central.  In talking it over with the folks there, we thought it might be fun to do different types of pickles, maybe even some fruit pickles.  Admittedly, I have wanted to try pickling some fruit.  If you have been reading this blog for some time, you might have noticed I tend to pickle pretty much everything in sight.  I am utterly fascinated by the process of pickling and I happen to have a husband who likes pickles, so it’s kinda win-win. I thought it would be best if I actually pickled some fruit before I marched into a class and taught it, so that you know, I might appear as if I know what I’m doing. 

So I called up my friend Melissa and borrowed her copy of “The Joy of Pickling” yet again, with an invitation to come help me figure out how to pickle peaches.

Melissa came over and held my hand on the watermelon rind pickles the first time I did them – I like having her come over and help me when I’m doing something new in the canning realm.  I’m so glad I had her over for the peach pickles, she definitely helped me get myself organized, get down to business and get the job done.   She made sure we followed the recipe exactly, even measuring out the peaches to the weight called for in the recipe.  She also tried to ensure we used the proper equipment, another thing I tend to overlook.

I have learned the hard way that when pickling, you really need to use ‘nonreactive’ pots.  Which means stainless steel. I might have a few hard anodized pots that are slightly scarred from pickling & jamming adventures.  I didn’t think I had any stainless steel pots left until I remembered a huge stock pot that seems to have found it’s way into the sandbox.  It didn’t start out as a sandbox toy, I think it was a piece of camping equipment that was stored in the basement and since the gang of girls that hang out around my house think that pretty much anything in basement is up for grabs, it somehow found it’s way into the sandbox.

I needed an extra large bowl, my big orange plastic one having gone missing (I seem to recall it being borrowed by a certain wee one that lives here for some sort of project.  I’ll have to check the tiki hut to see if it’s there as it’s not in the sandbox.  She’s lately started dragging things down into Brian & Betty’s yards, building forts there too.  It really could be anywhere on the block now that I think about it.  Hmm….)Thankfully, I was able to grab a punchbowl to use as a spare large bowl.  It’s good for your various collections to do double duty I think, and as they are large and glass, they are excellent for pickling.  I keep those out of reach of little hands, which is why they haven’t been moved into another location.

I also realized I have no empty half pint jelly jars on hand.  I have no idea what that’s about. I swore I had a case or two down there.  Thankfully, I did have a few empty cases of pint jars, so we used those.

This morning I felt the call of the thrifts, thinking I might find myself a new stainless steel pot.  The one I rescued from the sandbox holds about 20 gallons or so (okay, not really, but it’s the biggest pot in the house) and honestly, I have nowhere to store it upstairs, which is how it ended up in the basement and then the sandbox. So off I went.

I totally scored today.  I found a new springform pan to replace mine, which has a dent in the bottom thanks to one of the neighborhood kids and their hijinks (it sounds as if my kitchen is regularly raided as a toy box, but really, it’s not.  The springform pan has been like that for a few years now.  I’m slow to replace things, can you tell?) as well as a preforated baguette pan and a Julia Child cookbook, Julia Child & Company, which was apparently the companion book to her show in the late 70’s.   Good scores, all of them.    But those were not my best scores. 

My best scores were a pair of Land’s End pink suede boots and a pair of red cowgirl boots, with room to grow for a certain girl’s foot.  Her face when she saw them was priceless.  She has always refused to wear anything matching with me, but red cowgirl boots?  Watch out world, we’re gonna have matching boots. 
There were also punch bowls galore at every thrift I went to today.  It was hard to resist them, but I did.  I think three is enough, don’t you?  I never did find a new stainless steel pot.  The one I have works for now, it’s just, huge. 
Oh, and the peach pickles?  7 pounds of peaches yielded exactly 4 pint jars.  Not a whole lot.  I got some half pint jars today and did another batch, as there was a bunch of brine left over and I didn’t want to waste it.  They have to sit for at least 24 hours and I don’t feel like opening one of my 4 large jars tonight, so I can’t report on the taste.  Two batches of pickles didn’t make a dent in the half bushel of seconds I picked up out at Henley’s for a song yesterday, so I also canned a half dozen pint jars of plain peaches and whipped up a pie this afternoon, because yesterday’s slightly underripe peaches were today’s about to be overripe peaches when they sit in a box in your un-air conditioned kitchen and it’s 90 something degrees outside.  Also exactly why I felt I needed to can AND run the oven today because honestly, the house didn’t feel like it was 90 something out there today.   I can report my pie crust definitely acted as if it was too hot to be making a pie, but I perservered anyway and made it work.  It’s not pretty, but it’s pie.

Various things to do, read and eat.

  • In case you missed it, my favorite Riverkeeper was on the local news over the weekend talking about his organization’s new initiative. You can find out more info on being a James River Hero at their website.

  • Lesa is having an apron pattern giveaway.  One can never have enough aprons.  I’m thinking about making one to garden in.

  • Want a quick and easy dinner?  Look no further.  Peanut Sauce that is quick, easy and good with just about anything.  We like it with rice noodles and any combination of nuts, veggies, tofu, and shrimp.

  • Have you read Frecklewonder’s  guide to thrifting?  Parts 1, 2 and 3.  She knows her thrifting.  I was in her neck of the woods this weekend and when we passed the Goodwill, Edie was feeling it.  I wasn’t, but considering all the times my gal has put up with my thrifting, I thought I’d play along and we stopped in. She scored.  Two dresses, a new blouse for the upcoming chorus concert and the sweetest little denim jacket with pink trim.  Never ignore the call of the thrifts. 

  • I’m currently on a dry German Riesling kick for those you wondering what wine I’m drinking these days. I’ve yet to fall head over heels with one label, but generally, if it says it’s dry and it’s on sale for less than $10, I’ll give it a try.  I think a longer post on this might be coming if anyone is interested.

  • The cotton candy picture has absolutely nothing to do with anything. No, I did not eat both of those, I shared part of one with Edie at her school’s Spring Fair Friday night.  There really is nothing better than freshly spun cotton candy.  It’s a certain kind of happy.