7

My Crazy is Showing, but I’ll Tuck it in Later

1-IMG_3919

My husband says that I have a tomato problem.

  I don’t.

He uses words like “addiction”, “compulsion”, “obsession”.

I respond with words like “whatever”, “nu-uh”, “ugh” (yes, they are words in my vocabulary)

My kids say things like “Stop saucing, Mommy!” “Can’t we just go to the pool, like other kids?” “Why are you making mooorrrreee???”

My responses… “I just have a few more to do.” “You love Mommy’s sauce.” “Can I just have one hobby?”

Why can’t my loved ones embrace my annual hobby of stalking my favorite secret farm stand until the Romas are ready, then packing my car full of red, juicy little friends, and crafting some of the finest homemade sauce (or “gravy” as my Italian friend, Lisa, corrects)? No one else we know has a basement stockpile of tomatoey awesomeness!! My family is lucky, damn it!

I’m a pretty simple girl. I do not like shopping. The mall is not my happy place, and the outlets, which are right down the road from my farm stand oasis, make my heart palpitate with anxiety! I prefer to cook, and grow, and relax. In an ideal world, I’d live on a small farm, next to the beach, and I’d have enough money to stay home with my kids and cook fabulous meals. It’s not a lot to ask.

01-IMG_3914

But now, the season of saucing is upon us. The Romas are ready; this is shopping that brings me joy! I woke up this morning, recruited my sister, Rori, who is crazy enough to join my adventures, and off we went. The sun was out, the breeze was warm, the top was down, and the doors were off. It was heavenly.

1-IMG_3917

Our morning was awesome. Kid & husband free, we popped into several farm stands snatching up peppers, pickling cucumbers, cheese, blackberries, and the coveted Roma tomatoes. I have a super secret special spot that grows them to perfection. Here we bought SIX BUSHELS. As I transferred them from the baskets to cardboard boxes, a calm washed over me. This is my happy place, this is my happy place, THIS IS MY HAPPY PLACE!!   After we loaded them into the car, I stood to ponder our stash. No buyer’s remorse. I had buyer’s delight!

1-IMG_3920

After a happy drive home, I pulled into the driveway and fought the urge to yell, in the spirit of Maurice Sendak, “LET THE WILD RUMPUS BEGIN!”

It is time to sauce.

So, as I pull the first tomatoes from the box, and my family watches and waits for my crazy to show, I do consider the stages of addiction…

  • Admitting that one cannot control one’s addiction or compulsion:
    • I totally admit that I cannot control my compulsion to make & can homemade pasta sauce
  • Recognizing a higher power that can give strength;
    • I totally thank God often that I live in such a beautiful place on Earth, with fertile soil, and Amish neighbors who grow the BEST ROMA TOMATOES EVER!!!!
  • Examining past errors with the help of a sponsor;
    • I will totally own my errors. Two years ago I didn’t make enough and we ran out in January. Last year, I made a little too much, and I still have 8 jars left.
  • Making amends for these errors;
    • I bought less this year.
  • Learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
    • I will live with less canned sauce, and embrace my passion for making sun pickles too 🙂
  • Helping others who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions;
    • I assisted my sister in securing a few cases for herself, and I am willing to help you all as well.

There you have it. I may be a little obsessed, addicted, or compulsive, but Hell, it’s a lot of fun, and so, so good!

If you need to know how I make my sauce/gravy, check out my Positively Perfect Pasta Sauce!

Advertisements
11

Super Savory Sun Pickles & The Time I Accidentally Almost Killed My Husband

2-IMG_3023

I love pickles! I admit that I could eat a whole jar, by myself. And while I have no complaint about the store bought variety, I was intrigued with the proposition that I could make my very own, after all, I am the Fabulous Food Fairy!

Well, unfortunately, this first attempt at making pickles has now become my most infamous kitchen DISASTER!

It all started two summers ago, when I decided that I would make my very own pickles. I was inspired by my neighbor, Brenda, who was making her own. How hard could this be, right? WRONG! My first mistake was not following the golden rule of canning–use a tried and true recipe from a reliable source. As a cook, I am not terribly precise. I use a little of this, and a little of that, and many recipes don’t ever taste the same way twice. Well, tragically I attempted to apply this same logic to pickles.

I bought a powdered mix, but that looked sooo BORING…I wanted flavor, so I also bought a jar of pickling spices to add some real color and flavor. When it came time to actually make the pickles, I added a little of this, a little of that, tweaked the amount of one ingredient, and improvised with another. The brine smelled strong, but many pickle juices do. I thought nothing of it. I then processed my jars, and packed them away neatly. I have to say, they looked beautiful! The pickles were bright green, and the spices looked so pretty dancing around in the jars. I was impressed with my first foray into pickle making.

Then it all came crashing down. The pickles were ready for tasting. My husband went first. He opened the jar, and pulled one slice out.  He hesitated and smelled it. Backing away, he started to balk because of the strong smell. I called him a wuss and urged him to try it. The horror was apparent on his face instantly. He gagged, lurched to spit it in the sink, and then proceeded to try to wash his tongue. WHAT A DRAMA LLAMA, I thought. He has a flair for exaggeration, so I figured the only way to truly assess the finished product was to try it myself.

I hesitated and smelled it. I too started to balk because of the strong smell. He called me a wuss and waited eagerly for me to experience the “flavor”. OH! It was beyond horrible! I gagged, lurched to spit it in the sink, and then tried to wash my tongue. The flavor conjured up bad memories of wisdom teeth, dry sockets, and clove packing, mixed with vinegar, and overly strong garlic, with a mystery sweetness, and dill that made you shiver. It was the most horrifically offensive taste that I am sure has left scarring on my taste buds.

Sadly, we dumped every pretty jar of terrible pickles, and my pickle making days ended in a burning defeat, and a whole lot of teasing from my family 😦

So, you can imagine Brandon’s enthusiasm last summer, when I announced that I was getting back on the horse, so to speak, and making pickles, again. I got a look… and a declaration that he would not try them. Whatever.

This time I was armed with a successful recipe from my friend, Brenda, and it only had 6 ingredients. I promised to follow the rules, color in the lines, and not improvise.

What resulted was AWESOME! It was so awesome that I had to share it, to spare you all the same traumatizing defeat that I incurred at the hands of my own creative pickling ideas.

Try it, involve the kids, but don’t get creative with this one. Please follow the rules 🙂

Ingredients:

1-IMG_2989

6 1/2 cups water
3 1/4 cups white vinegar
2/3 (or less) cups of pickling salt — yes it matters, it has to be canning or pickling salt!
1 sprig of dill per jar
1 clove garlic per jar
12-15 Kirby pickles
5-6 quart jars sanitized with new lids

Preparation:

1. Place 1 clove of garlic and 1 sprig of dill in the bottom of the clean jars.

01-IMG_3009

2. Slice pickles and place in jars, or pack them whole.

04-IMG_3012

05-IMG_3013

06-IMG_3014

02-IMG_3010

3. Boil water, vinegar, and salt until the salt is dissolved.

2-IMG_29974. Pour the hot liquid into the jars, leaving about 1/2-1/4 inch head space.

07-IMG_3015

5. Wipe off the rim of the jars, and put lid and band on tight.

09-IMG_3017

10-IMG_3018

6. Set jars in the sun, undisturbed, for 48 hours. At this point, they should be sealed. The pop-top on the lids should be sucked down, indicating a strong seal.

1-IMG_3461

7. Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

This is a really fun activity to do with the kids, in fact, it has become a summer tradition with my kids as well as my nieces and nephews 🙂

2-IMG_3460

1-IMG_3459