Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dill pickles, potato salad and rest for the soul

I'm tired of being busy and having plans all the time. Summer is supposed to be slower and more relaxing - but between work and camps for the kids and vacations and the 4th of July - today was a glorious plan-free day. Well, I had plans that went like this -
1. Long run with Molly
2. Shower and nap
3. Figure out what to do with abundance of cucumbers and tomatoes and red white & blue baby potatoes in my kitchen
4. Drink beer & watch soccer
5. Grill burgers for dinner

I am happy to report these were the best plans and they worked out fabulously.

Molly and I ran 8 miles:

2. I showered and laid down (but my neck hurts so I didn't really nap.

3. Carson and I looked up tomato sauce recipes because I had 6 pounds of tomatoes that were super ripe. We found this recipe:

And this happened:
And then this made my house smell like heaven:
And the final product (which apparently "freezes beautifully" and as Annelle said in Steel Magnolias: "this is in the 'Freezes Beautifully' section of my cookbook. And I wanted to take something that freezes beautifully!":

So I also have about 6 pounds of adorable little potatoes that happen to be red white & blue. If you have not heard of Rise 'n' Shine organic farms and their CSA offerings, go check it out. I can't believe this is the first year we have taken part. 

We get some recipes each week with our share and suggestions about what to do. With the potatoes, we got this recipe:

And it turned out amazing - I would give it rave reviews. It was so tasty and satisfyingly delicious! Plus it's pretty:

Finally, we made pickles. I have had cucumbers in our CSA box for the last 2 weeks that we haven't eaten. I have gotten a lot of questions about how to make pickles. They were the first thing I canned when I got my canning supplies. Super, super easy. But I use a mash-up of the Ball dill pickle recipe in my Ball canning book and 3-4 different recipes on my Pinterest "Food in Jars" board. Basically, dill pickles are so simple my recipe looks like this:

And here is how I really do it:
Get some cucumbers, fresh dill (NOT dill weed, just dill) and some garlic (we have garlic from rise n shine, too - delicious!). 
Group cukes together by size roughly. If you like whole pickles, or pickle halves - by all means cut them like that. We prefer quarter spears and round slices for our burgers and sandwiches. 

Sanitize your jars - I run mine through the dishwasher because I'm lazy. Then peel all that garlic (I use 1-2 cloves per jar but I like my pickles really garlicky.)

put a clove of garlic and some dill (2-3 little sprigs) at the bottom of each jar:

Pack the jars with the cucumbers. Pack them really tight. Fill them up! This part is kind of like a little puzzle. 
Top with another clove of garlic (or not) and another sprig of dill and line up your jars:

At this point you want to put your lids in a little saucepan to simmer. It sanitizes them and prepared the sealing part for sealing. (You can only use canning lids once - after they are sealed to the jar and reopened, they won't reSeal.) 

Get the canning pot (or super large stock pots with a rack to lift the jars from the direct heat on the bottom also work fine for this!) going - fill it half to 2/3 full with really hot tap water and put it on the burner on high heat. 

For the brine: combine:
8.5 cups water
2.25 cups white distilled vinegar (5% acidity - this is standard cheap regular old white vinegar...)
1/2 cup of pickling salt (sometimes called canning salt)
***canning salt makes the water stay clear. Regular salt works fine. It will taste fine. But the water will be kind of foggy and cloudy. So the pickling salt stays clear. 

Put these three things in a non-reactive (not aluminum) pot and bring to a boil. Remove it from the heat. Now - you will ladle the brine into the jars using a funnel and leaving 1/4" headspace. A note about tools:
This 4 piece set comes together as a beginning canning set and I got it as a birthday present from my grandmother a while ago. The funnel is self explanatory, the tong thingies are used to put jars in and take them out of the hot water. The little stick thingie is a magnetic lid lifter (for getting the kids out of that simmering water...) and the last thing is a headspace tool to measure 1/4" or 1/2" headspace to leave when you fill your jars. 

I also have this funnel - which is awesome because it sits securely on any size jar and it has the headspace measurement right on it. After you fill the jars, wipe the rims to dry with a paper towel and put the lids on. 

Put the rings on and tighten (but not super tight) - by now your canning water should be close to boiling. Using tongs, gently place the jars into the canning pot. 

The water should be up to the neck of the jar or covering the jar. Process (let it sit and cuddle in the pot) for 15 minutes. Then use the tongs and set them on a dish towel to seal and cool. 

You will maybe hear some "pings" - that's the pressure pulling the seal down. Check for a good seal and then label your pickles!  I think you need to wait about 3-4 weeks before they are "pickles" but my people usually can't wait more than 2 weeks. 

Yay pickles! This was a terribly long post, and very picture heavy, and all about food. But it's been a great day and now I am drinking beer and watching soccer while Willie is grilling burgers. Success. :)

 Can I quote Marianne Williamson here? I think I will. “…As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” 

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