Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Preserving Dills

I've decided to preserve some dill pickles and to try different methods. The first is the classic method of brining them in water, vinegar, sea salt, dill and spices for four weeks. I will then can them for longer term storage. The other method is naturally fermented pickles, using no vinegar to allow lactic acid fermentation and the development of beneficial bacteria. These are not canned, which keeps the vitamins and the lactic-acid-producing bacteria in the pickles, aiding digestion. Natural fermentation sounds like the best way to go health-wise, but a lot of planning and careful work must go into it. Storage is also a difficult, with many households not having root cellars.

This is my first foray into brining and fermenting. I don't have any ceramic crocks, so I found a 2 gallon glass jug at a chain store for $10. That works. But, I still have my eye on a set up from Leman's. I'd love a 3 gallon crock, lid, wooden board for pushing the food down and that great stomper. It seems like a good thing to buy a new crock knowing that it is lead-free. Oh, but that adds up, I might have to stick with the glass jug. Anyhow, here are the two methods that I'll be trying out over the next month. Stay tuned for the results!

Classic Dill Pickles
  • Sterilize a 2 or 3 gallon jar.
  • Clean cucumbers and soak in cold water if they are not freshly picked.
  • Layer as follows: fresh dill, 1/2 inch deep cucumbers, pickling spices (I used about a gallon of pickles and 5 tablespoons spices).
  • Make a brine: 3/4 cup sea salt, 1 cup vinegar and 1 gallon filtered water. Pour over layers. 
  • Weigh down the cucumbers so that only the liquid is at the surface. A plate, jar or plastic bag with brine in it works well.
  • Cover with towel and place in the dark at 70 degrees.
  • Check in 3-4 days for scum on surface. Remove and continue to check daily for scum.
  • Ferment for 3-4 weeks.
  • Process as follows: 1) strain brine out and bring to boil 2) rinse pickles in cold water 3) pack pickles into sterilized jars 4) pour hot brine into jars 5) process 15 minutes
I found this method in Creative Pickling by Barbara Cilitti. The Herbal Pantry also has some great pickling recipes.

Fermented Dill Pickles
  • Sterilize a 2 or 3 gallon jar.
  • Clean cucumbers and soak in cold water if they are not freshly picked.
  • Layer the following: fresh dill, cucumbers (1 gallon), pickling spices (5 tablespoons) and garlic (2 bulbs)
  • Make a brine: 6 tablespoons sea salt, 2 quarts filtered water and 1/2-1 cup of whey. Stir until dissolved. Pour over layers.
  • Weigh down the cucumbers so that only the liquid is at the surface. A plate, jar or plastic bag with brine in it works well.
  • Cover with towel and place in the dark at 70 degrees.
  • Ferment from 5 to 10 days. Taste as it goes to see if they are done and then store in the refrigerator.
 Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Nourished Kitchen are two good sources for this method.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Beef and Eggplant Lasagna

This Beef and Eggplant Lasagna is really incredible. I had an eggplant, grass-fed ground beef and some milk that needed to be used. A quick search online and I found a perfect combination! The bechamel sauce is wonderful and makes a very yummy lasagna without any ricotta or mozzarella.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Easy Children's Socks

Pattern: Easy Children's Socks by Diane Soucy
Yarn: Mountain Colors Bearfoot, Brick
Needles: US 3

These socks are for P to match his Pixie Hat for this coming winter. Definitely the fastest socks I've ever knit - could be the small size! I really like Knitting Pure and Simple patterns by Soucy. She makes them very simple and easy to follow. But, since I've knit plenty of socks before, I modified the pattern quite a bit to have a nicer finish and to use fingering weight, rather than worsted weight yarn.

-Knit on circular needles
-Cast on 38 (2 extra sts for larger leg) for the medium size using German Cast On
-Changed the heel to s1, k1
-Grafted the toe with the kitchener stitch

I also made a another pair of Super Easy Toddler Mittens, this time with an I-Cord connecting the mittens - no more lost mittens!!! All of this beautiful yarn is now used up. Here is the completed Pixie Collection.

Friday, August 26, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. - AS

Thursday, August 25, 2011


El Tajín, Veracruz, Mexico


I love vanilla. Just love it. Vanilla is native to Mexico and the product made its world debut in Europe in the 1500s. It wasn't until the mid 1800s that it was cultivated elsewhere with the discovery that hand pollination of the orchid was possible. From there it ended up along the Indian Ocean in places like Madagascar, the west Indies and South and Central America. In our travels, we've seen it cultivated in India, northern Mexico, Nicaragua and Madagascar.  

Just near El Tajín, a world heritage site in Veracruz, Mexico, I was able to buy my first bundle of vanilla beans from a village girl and her grandfather. My luggage smelled lovely for the rest of our trip as we drove from Madison, Wisconsin to Mérida, Yucatán. I closely guarded those beans for several years. Then I hit the jack pot. Ben spent ten weeks in Madgascar in 2009 on two plant collecting trips and brought back more vanilla than I knew what to do with. We've given a lot away to friends and made lots of vanilla extract, allowing me to be very liberal in my use of vanilla in baking. Here is our method for making the extract.

Vanilla planifolia from Madagascar

Start with some vanilla beans and good vodka. We use Absolut. Take one shot worth of vodka out of the bottle and then cut the vanilla beans lengthwise, just until the end so the pods are still in one piece. Slip the beans into the vodka bottle. Cap and place in a dark cabinet for at least six months. That is it!

You might be covered in vanilla beans, but that just gives you a nice perfume for the rest of the day. Pieter even had them all over his face like glitter! Below is our vanilla - right: vanilla that was made in 2009; left: vanilla made yesterday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

American Treat

Hot summer days bring an all American treat to our house, root-beer floats! This drink is a first for Pieter and he loved it down to the last drop. 
Reading has become a big pastime and he loves to join his Papa in reading magazines. His two favorites are baby magazines and car magazines. He is loving his books and reads them all the time. I've been finding some good ones at the thrift store and library.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Christmas is coming!

Just a little surprise for you - Pieter is going to have a little sister this Christmas!

Monday, August 22, 2011


PatternCladonia by Kirsten Kapur
Yarn: Bristol Yarn Gallery Buckingham
Needles: US 8

This pattern proved to be an easy first shawl for me and I enjoyed every minute of it. It held my attention enough to finish it in two weeks, with lots of time to spare in the Summer Shawl KAL deadline. I definitely plan on making some more things by Kirsten. I can't wait til the Nefertem shawl come out this October.

A few notes on the shawl
:: Being a complete newbie to shawls, I had no idea about the garter stitch beginning to shawls. I found a good tutorial here

:: I use Judy's Magic Cast On for toe-up socks, but, was confused by the pattern directions for using it in the provisional cast on - I finally figured out that you should cast on 6 stitches, not 3, and then put the bottom needle’s three stitches onto a holder, knit the garter stitch rectangle with the top three, and then pick up the bottom three stiches as the last of the 10 sts around the gtr st rectangle.

:: I was doing m1R incorrectly and getting large holes on those increases. Fixed that problem by knitting in the front correctly.

:: I appreciated Kirsten using a chart and written directions for the lace pattern. How great are patterns that aren't mass produced!

:: Thanks to a Ravelry friend, Becky, for the 3rd skein of yarn!

Friday, August 19, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. - AS

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

One year later

How does time fly by so quickly? How do children grow up so fast? This is Pieter at 8 months, and just this week, at 20 months.

Monday, August 15, 2011

:: today ::

today, I am...

:: loving the tomatoes and squash that are coming out of the garden.

:: happy for a mornings work that includes cooling granola, simmering chicken broth, soaking black beans, and a napping child. 

:: enjoying the audiobooks I can now download from the library and wishing more titles worked on macs.

:: eating the yummiest whole grain devil's food cupcakes.

:: excited to start the lace section of my current work in progress, Cladonia

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bear Gulch

{Bunchberry, Cornus canadensis}
Yesterday we explored Bear Gulch in search of plants and had a beautiful hike. Soon after we started a thunderstorm blew threw and brought the customary hail for this area. We huddled under a tree with our hats on, but I still got a welt on my forehead from one tough piece. 
We snacked on thimbleberry along the way down the deep gulch and back up the other side. It was nice to find such a lush place in the Black Hills that normally seems so dry and dominated by Ponderosa Pine trees. Here the birch trees and herbaceous understory filled in around a spring fed creek that filled the gulch. 
{Thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorus}
{Pinedrops, Pterospora}

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Busy Days

Some days just take it out of you. P sacked out in the late afternoon, his first voluntary nap. Nothing like playing outside all day to make a little one tired.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fire and fun

Camping has proved to be lots of fun this summer. Being surrounded by the pine and spruce going up the cliffs makes for a great camp site. Big fires also make it perfect! We've been exploring the Black Hills more this summer in search of plants and have driven over so many cattle grates and seen lots of cows up in the hills for the summer. It sure is an interesting use of National Forest land.
It isn't easy finding a nice place to kayak here, but we are trying! Pieter had a great first kayak ride with us last week. No pictures from it though, as we both had our hands full.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pixie Hat

Yarn: Mountain Colors Bearfoot, Brick
Needles: US 3

This project has been lying in the knitting bag waiting for me to finally finish it (from this spring!) Starting a new project has finally given me the impetus to get it done. It will be a great hat for P this coming fall and winter. The button is from my mother's collection that she passed on to me - isn't the sheep just great? The yarn is wonderful and I have more than half a skein to make a few more things with it. Perhaps some mittens and socks to match?

Friday, August 5, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. - AS
~couldn't decide between the snuggling or the reading!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Planting collecting with Papa

We've so been enjoying the weather here - warm, dry days in the 80s and cooler nights. If we want a cooler day, all we have to do is head up into the hills, like we did a few days ago to do some plant collecting with Papa. Nothing like being a little helper with labeling plants and pouring silica crystals into all those little bags. What fun! (And what patience on the part of Papa.) But, the best was drinking from the camel back.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cinnamon rolls!

Waiting for the cinnamon rolls to come out of the oven is hard job. These have got to be the easiest and tastiest cinnamon rolls out there. We use the recipe from Cook's Illustrated The Best Light Recipe and have some delicious rolls in about 20 minutes of prep and 20 baking. Of course, they are best when dripping with cream cheese icing!
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