11

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

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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:

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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 🙂

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14

When Recipes Fail: A Commentary on Sucking in the Kitchen and Stumbling in Life

20130704-134110.jpgOver the past 24 hours, I have sucked in the kitchen! There is no fairy magic here. I have just plain sucked. It started yesterday when I botched a double batch of Trix Crispy Treats. I had to bring a dessert to my daughters’ swim team banquet for 180 people. Clearly, these would be the perfect choice, and it was all well and fine, until 5 minutes before we had to leave, I attempted to pop them out of the pan and slice them in to neat rectangles. I was eager to pile them artfully on my fancy cake plate and present the perfect fairy-style wonder.

Only, it was not very magical. The treats stuck to the pan (which I greased) and the marshmallow never solidified! Not to worry. I figured I’d just pop these suckers in to the fridge and firm them up real quick!

UUUHHH…NO!

They remained gooey, but we had to leave, so I hacked off the presentable parts, wrapped the hopelessly gooey ones up and off we went. Well, the car was very warm; it was EXTREMELY HOT & HUMID outside, so by the time they were placed on the table, even the good ones had morphed into a rainbow glob resembling a pile of unicorn poop!

Excuses were plentiful. This had to be the result of the weather, or the cheap generic brand marshmallows that my husband got “a great deal on”. Or maybe it was the lack of sleep over the past two nights. Night #1 was consumed by an over-excited, sleepless 8 year old who just couldn’t wait for the Taylor Swift concert, and night # 2 was consumed by the concert itself. Add on very early morning swimming championships, and no wonder these were not a huge success.

OK, move on, not a big deal. There is more to life than Trix Treats.

Yup, there’s plenty more to life, like horrible chicken.

Onto failed recipe # 2. This afternoon, I was perusing the handy dandy internet when I stumbled across a recipe for the best barbeque chicken, like…ever. (Sorry, Taylor Swift is still fresh on my mind) The only problem was that the first step involved a dry rub, but the idiot who wrote the guide, egotistically refused to give his rub recipe. No worries. I thought, let’s improvise and make our own, ya know…a little bit of this & a little dash of that… OK?

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NO! Not OK!

My rub recipe was way too strong, resulting in the most beautiful but awful tasting chicken on the planet. Really? Who screws up barbeque chicken? Certainly not the Fabulous Fairy! WRONG! I am shamefully raising my hand and owning my defeat. It was horrible and inedible. We ate green beans and roasted potatoes for dinner followed by a bowl of consolation mint chocolate chip ice cream instead. AWESOME!

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Wow! At this point I accepted defeat, blamed a searing sinus headache and retreated to bed, only to lie there awake. Thoughts just came racing into my head, seemingly out of nowhere, about one of my daughters and some upcoming meetings about her school program next year. The next thing I knew, I was wide awake and in tears. Not wanting to wake up my husband, I crept back down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and sort things out. After all, I am a teacher in real life. I have a master’s degree in education plus a gazillion credits past that, and I have taught almost every subject. She’s going into middle school. I teach middle school. It should be a no brainer! Right?

Super Awesome! In all of my mental processing, I burnt the frozen waffle that I popped in the toaster. Clearly, my cooking skills have now regressed to those of a 4 year old.

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So here I found myself holding a cup of tea and a burnt waffle, strike # 3, all while shedding tears of frustration over a meeting that is not even firmly scheduled yet. This is where my moment of clarity came.

My kitchen disasters had nothing to do with the weather, cheap marshmallows, egotistical cooks, or sinus headaches. They were a result of my lack of a recipe in life. My thoughts, fears, critical points to be made, test scores, and witty remarks were all mixed around in my mind like a bad meal. I realized that I need a real plan to move forward with my daughter’s meetings and educational needs. Here I am, The Fabulous Fairy, who can pull out a recipe for almost anything (except a barbecue rub), but trying to tip-toe through a touchy situation without a recipe for success and progress when it came to my own child. Whew!

Lesson learned, tears over.

So, here I sit, at the counter in my kitchen, my recipe central, hacking at the pathetic pile of second string unicorn poop, crafting a recipe for my daughter. I am confident that I will find a plan, and eventually some sleep, but I am going to approach my hurdles with a bit more foresight, organization, and personal forgiveness.

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I guess sometimes we have to remember that we need to nourish our hearts and minds as well as we nourish our bodies.

Good night. Here’s to hoping dinner is more successful tomorrow.

~Kelly, “The Not Always Fabulous Fairy”