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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3

My Heirloom Garden

Normally when you hear of heirloom gardening, it is in reference to heirloom tomatoes or heirloom seeds, but never an actual heirloom garden. Well, this weekend, as a family, we created our very own heirloom garden.

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Recently, while trolling through Pinterest, I came across this great pin about creating a garden from an old dresser. When I suggested the idea to my husband, he thought I was nuts and equated me to my very eccentric neighbor who plants plastic flowers.

Well, I had to expand my current garden, especially after the drastic guerrilla gardening measures I took last season! I had a strong need to expand, a creative vision, and an old, slightly warped dresser that belonged to my grandmother long ago. So, yesterday morning, while I sipped my coffee on the patio and gazed at my unplanted garden, I decided that I would turn my grandmother’s ugly dresser into an adorable garden, regardless of what my husband thought.

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First, I enlisted the help of my girls. After my husband grudgingly carried the beast upstairs, we went to work wiping it free of dust and grime.

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Next, we removed all of the drawers and flipped it on its back. I left the drawer dividers intact so they could serve as a planting guide. The girls were ecstatic that I let them paint it for me. It just needed to be covered, so it was a perfect painting task for kids. It did not need to be a fancy paint job since we hid this surface in the next step.

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Once dry, we covered the exterior with 24 in. woven picket fencing to give the garden a polished professional look. (I really don’t want to be that crazy neighbor who plants old furniture in her backyard!) Here is where my husband gets the credit…I will admit that he suggested the picket fence idea. Ok. So we nailed each picket to the dresser, covering all four sides. We used two nails, one towards the top and one towards the bottom. Finally, we used wire cutters to remove any excess fencing and bent the ends of the wires to avoid the sharp edges being exposed.

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At the end, we decided to drill some holes. We drilled a few in the bottom and along the sides, between some of the pickets, close to the ground to allow any excess water to drain. Finally, we moved it to a nice, level, sunny spot in the yard, and filled the bottom with gravel & stone to encourage good drainage, and then filled the rest with soil and compost.

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I have started seeds indoors for a few veggies, and when the weather warms up, I will fill the garden with zucchini, tomatoes, squash, and peppers. Happily, I was able to take an old heirloom that had lost its luster and re-purpose it into an afternoon of family time, fun memories, and a hands on lesson in nutrition, which are all heirlooms in their own right.

Be sure to stop back and check the progress of my garden.