Canning Pickles and Other Green Things

Last week I scrounged up all the cucumbers I could find in my fridge and garden. The thing about having only one cucumber plant is that they don’t mature at the same time. So, I cheated in a big way, and where it says in the canning book to use only the freshest, firmest produce, well, I might have fudged that a little bit. I only had enough to put back four quarts of pickles. Let me tell you, some of these cucumbers are big mothers. So I sliced them up and used a lovely little bag of Mrs. Dill’s pickling mix or something like that. I found it in the canning aisle at Martin’s grocery store. This is the first time I’ve done pickles. In my checkered past I have canned tomatoes, peaches, blueberry pie filling, applesauce, apples and green beans. I do wish I had thought a little bit more ahead, because I had a monster zucchini in the fridge I could have pickled with the remaining pickling juice. Next time.

It only took me about an hour to do four quarts, and that satisfying ‘pop!’ was so wonderful to hear, especially since I had forgotten to stick my spatula in the jars and get the air bubbles out. The kids were funny when they came home from school. They wanted pickles right now! But I told them we had to wait at least 24 hours. I’ve also read that the longer pickles sit, the better they’ll taste. So those shiny jars of pickle green are staring at me from the deepest part of my cereal cupboard. Will I open them today? No. I’m made of sterner stuff than that. When I do open them, I hope they taste as good as they smelled when I was processing them. I will report on the pickles’ success as soon as I cave in to the pressure.

Canning produce straight from my garden is a very awesome experience. I planted the young cuke with my bare hands. It produced! And now I have homemade pickles in the pantry. I literally get giddy when I think about it. My tomatoes are also not ripening together, so not sure how I’ll handle the tomato production. I have some great recipes for spaghetti sauce/pizza sauce/salsa, so maybe I won’t need the plants to mature all at once in order to do a little more canning.

I also planted some second generation bean seeds. As in, I let the beans dry on the stalk, and when I went to clean up the garden this spring, I found them and planted them come bean-plantin’ time. How amazing that little feat was. It may not be a big deal to anyone else, but to think that the DNA in that hard little brown bean knew just what to do, and I had four of the eight beans come up and produce. Again, not enough plants are producing and ripening at the same time for a genuine green bean harvest, but still, gratifying nonetheless. I’m already thinking about what I’ll do different with next year’s garden.

I can’t help but think about the counsel we’ve received from prophets to grow our own gardens, and what a blessing it has been to our family in many ways. I have received a great sense of peace as I’ve heard news of trucker’s strikes, rising costs of tomatoes, or any other economic news that could be devastating to the unprepared. Not that we are totally prepared, but we’re learning, and we have peace because we know how to do it. Go Green!

Sunday Night Scones

One of the things I love about being married is the meshing of two separate lives, pasts, memories and of course, dinner repertoires. Some foods I don’t recall ever eating in my youth that DH introduced me to: Fondue, avocado, butternut squash, poached eggs in milk with toast, corn chip taco salad, asparagus, eggplant, and our family favorite, Scones. Some of these things I just tried because I’m the mom, and I can do that now. I didn’t want to give the wrong impression…DH would never voluntarily try new vegetables just because. Anyway, back to scones. Every Sunday night I make a batch of  roll dough. (Recipe to follow). Fire up the deep fryer, and when DH comes home from counting the tithing money at church, he rolls out the dough and fries scones for us. Our daughter who has Autism, I’ll call her Tori, LOVES scones on Sunday. And really, all of us look forward to the meal. It’s casual, and we can put whatever we want in them. The dough puffs up and there is a lovely hollow spot inside that is just right for Redi-Whip, blueberry pie filling, butter, syrup, powdered sugar, yogurt, jelly and so on. Cream cheese is also good. I’m more of a savory meal person, so deep-fried rolls and butter are my favorite. I will occasionally have a token sweet scone just to fit in. The fillings don’t matter; it’s the sense of tradition and family togetherness that is most important. Here is the roll dough recipe I use; feel free to start your own traditional Sunday meal!

  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons yeast

I put all the ingredients in my bread machine and push the dough cycle button. An hour and a half later, the dough is ready to roll. DH rolls it out flat and uses the pizza cutter to make two-inch square pieces. He puts the pieces in the fryer basket and lowers them into the oil that has heated up to the  ‘doughnut’ setting on the fryer. I know; it’s too easy.

I Don’t Want to Try Some

This happened a few months ago. Our youngest, I’ll call him Farley, was trying new foods. He was an old hand at rice cereal and oatmeal. Loved them, actually. All of us were at dinner, enjoying this incredibly good caramel sauce that DH made. Farley banged on the high chair as if to say, “Give me some!” Somewhat health conscious mom that I am, (right…caramel sauce at dinner?) I decided to introduce him to the world of green veggies. I busted out the pureed green beans and started feeding it to him. He made a scrunched up face, but continued to open his mouth. My oldest daughter, E, said, “Does he like it?” Honest to gosh, at exactly that moment he projectile vomited every drop of green bean puree. I said, “I guess not.” Nonplussed, my youngest daughter said in her stilted voice, “Can I try some?” We all laughed. Silly girl. So she tasted it, and politely pushed the cup of beans away from her and said, “I don’t want to try some.” Pass the caramel sauce.

Cheese Fondue and Eating Ants

When I was in my teens, I heard an inspiring talk about family togetherness and family traditions. The esteemed woman mentioned that every Sunday night was Fondue night at their house. I filed that tasty little tidbit away for future ruminations, and now that I cook regularly for my family of seven, we have our own Sunday night tradition. We deep fry scones. But I’ll save that for another post. We love Cheese Fondue. I could go on and on about Fondue. DH and I went to a local Fondue restaurant called Melting Pot (maybe you have one in your area). First course, a light cheese fondue with crisp fresh vegetables and bread for dipping. Second course, gently boiling peanut oil and fresh meat, chicken, beef, seafood, cooked to your exact specifications with your own deadly skewer. Third course, Chocolate fondue served with pastries and fresh fruit. Aaah bliss. Alas, we only have one fondue pot, and we are prodigiously fond of cheese, so our little fondue meals are one course only. I, ahem, make very good French and Italian bread, so that is our dipper of choice, but because I am a good mom and just a little health conscious, I offer fresh vegetables or pretzels and crackers to dip as well. My recipe for cheese fondue consists of your basic roue (one or two tablespoons butter, one or two tablespoons flour) whisked to a bubbling thickness to which I add either warm milk or broth or both, one cup’s worth appx. Then I melt the cheese into it. Cream cheese, neufchatel cheese (guilt-free cream cheese) and any other cheese I choose…shredded Monterey Jack, for example. I season with a little salt, a little pepper (a la Alfredo) and simmer. Divine.

While stuffing my face silly, I bragged to DH how basically anything dipped in the fondue would taste good. I waved a homegrown steamed green bean under his nose. He only glanced at it, but said to anyone in general: “Get me an ant, and I’ll dip it in the fondue and eat it.” That’s my husband, would rather eat creepy crawlies than vegetables. Our son, I’ll call him Dale, wasted no time. I shouted after him, “Get one for me too.” He returned with two disoriented ants. I dipped my finger in the cheese, then got the ant and ate it. Other than a spicy little tang, I couldn’t really taste it. DH says, “I crunched it between my front teeth so I could taste it.” The verdict: Pretty much anything tastes good in this cheese sauce. He really should have just tried the bean.