Dilly Goodness

My grandmother on my father’s side had six kids.  They was never much money, so they ate what they grew, raised, or picked.  In order to keep them in good food all winter long, my Grandma Betty canned like a fiend.  One of her greatest satisfactions was a pantry with shelves that were groaning from the weight of all of the quart jars of canned beans, pickles, beets, all sorts of fruit and sauerkraut.  I have early memories of standing in the pantry downstairs, or “fruit room” as we called it, and looking up at the beautifully colored jars and feeling happy that all of that food was there just waiting for us.  Grandma wasn’t one to outwardly show her affection, but canning was one of the ways she took good care of us.

Grandma also had her own style of canning, and I was twenty years old before I found out that it was not all that safe just to fill your pickle jars with super hot brine, put a lid on, give them a stern look and let them seal.  No boiling water bath, no pressure cooker.   The canning ladies from the county extension office would faint dead away.

I don’t can exactly like my grandmother.  I abide by the rules of the USDA, for the most part.  My canning sessions don’t have to be a hundred jars or more to make it worthwhile.  But I do take the same satisfaction that she did in a group of sealed jars lined up on the counter like soldiers filled with the bounty of the harvest.

This pickle recipe is a combination of my grandma’s recipe and the quick dill pickle recipe from the USDA canning guide.  We like dill, so I use both the dill weed and dill heads in each jar.

Dill Pickles

8 lbs of 3-to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
1/2 cup canning or pickling salt
1-1/2 quarts vinegar (5% acidity)
2 quarts water
Whole mustard seed (1/2 tsp per pint jar, 1 tsp per quart jar)
Heads of fresh dill (1 head  per pint jar or 2 heads per quart)
Dill weed (1/2 tsp per pint jar, 1 tsp per quart jar)
Garlic cloves (1 per pint jar, 2 per quart)

Wash cucumbers. Cut 1/16-inch slice off blossom end and discard, but leave 1/4 inch of stem attached.   Combine vinegar, 1/2 cup salt, sugar, and 2 quarts water.  Heat to boiling. Fill hot jars with cucumbers. Add spices to each jar.   Cover with boiling pickling solution, leaving
rims1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe of jars with a dampened clean paper towel. Adjust lids and process pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes.

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Earlier in the summer we took a day and went to help with cleanup at the Alexander family homestead up on Cedar Ridge Road outside of Kendrick, Idaho.  No one lives up there anymore, but it serves as a location for family events and a hundred years of memories.

The house sits up on top of the ridge overlooking the canyon and stands tall against the continuous wind that makes the uncut grass surrounding it move like water.  The care and love that the homestead once received regularly is still reflected in the daylilies and peonies that still frame the house each spring and summer.  The house has seen better days, but the porch is still a good place to sit and look out over the farm.  In your mind’s eye it is easy to see the crops of years gone by that were a part of the life created by this family, and feel the connection to the land.

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Waiting for Spring

We are still waiting for spring here on the Palouse.  By my count we have had two full days of real sun so far this year.  My vegetable starts are outgrowing their temporary home, and I am getting itchy to get outside.  I have a sneaking suspicion that we are not going to see spring here this year.  I think once the weather turns we are going straight to summer.  I find this to be  real bummer since spring is truly one of my favorite times a year.  Luckily, my tulips have decided that they will bloom anyway, and are putting on quite a show in my front yard.  My peonies are still just red shoots and the lilacs are tentatively considering making a move to leaf out… there will be no extravagant displays of overblown peonies and white lilacs in time for Memorial Day this year.  I’m hoping that the weather turns soon.  I have had great response for the Backroads Farm subscription service this season, and have thirty families counting on me to start delivering them veggies in July.  Cross your fingers that we will be able to get some seed in the ground the end of May.

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Beet Salad and Seed Starting!

It is still snowing here off and on, but indoors it is time to start seeds!  This year I bought grow lights to shore up the process a bit, and hopefully my plants will be a little more robust and less leggy.  I set up my shelving and light system in our office, and I think it is going to work out beautifully.  The grow lights are red and blue, and SUPER bright.  Dave says it is a bit like Vegas in there.  Ha!  I have to remember to shut the blinds when it gets dark, because you can see the glow clear down our street.  Makes it look like we may be growing a whole different kind of cash crop in there…..Never fear, though, as the seeds are actually zucchini, butternut, delicata, peppers, and spaghetti squash.  Tomorrow I will start the cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbages. 

I am missing fresh vegetables fresh from the garden.  I froze a lot of vegetables last year to ensure that we had plenty to eat through the winter, saving me from the cost of organic produce at the grocery store.  I pulled out the last two bags of roasted beets from last fall to make this salad, and calculated that it will be 3-4 months before any are ready from the garden.  Sad.  This salad, however, is quite delightful, and is a recipe that I adapted from one I received at the Moscow Food Co-op.  The original called for beet greens, I used kale instead. 

You’ll notice the beets are kind of an orange-y color.  This is due to the fact that I used a combination of golden and dark red beets.

Beet Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Recipe adapted from the Moscow Food Co-op

1 bunch beets (about 4-5 large)
1 small bunch kale or beet greens, washed well and chopped into bite size pieces
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Heat oven to 350 degrees, place washed and trimmed beets in an oven proof dish.  Add 1/4 inch water to the dish, and cover with foil or a lid.  Roast until slightly soft, 30-40 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Slip skins off of beets by hand, and then cut into bite sized chunks.  Add beets to chopped up greens.


3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 clove diced garlic
Salt to taste

Mix all dressing ingredients together and pour over beets and greens.  Toss and then sprinkle in the seeds.  Enjoy!

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Spring-Ish St. Patrick’s Day

We saw a hint of nice weather this morning… for about two hours which was just long enough for me to get out and get a few pictures.  Shortly after I went back inside an interesting snow/hail mix started to fall.  Delightful. 

The crocus are the first to believe in spring.  When I see them open up, my heart starts to open up as well to the idea that there will soon be warmth and sunshine and green.

Crocus, the eternal optimists.

Did I mention that it snowed today?  I thought I did.  Anyway, I decided that lunch today called for something hot, and I’d been craving Jen’s recipe for Chana Masala over at Bakin’ and Eggs.  It was perfect today with a big dollop of plain yogurt to cool it down a bit.  Word to the wise if you are feeding kids or don’t like too much spice, go easy on the cayenne.

In other exciting news, the UPS man was kind enough today to bring me my Cowpots, which means that I can work on getting my seeds started!

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New Monday

Friday was the last day at my corporate job.  The first Monday where I am not putting on a suit and going to the office.  So far, so good, although I have to admit I had my standard Monday morning wake up panic about what was in store for the day… before I remembered that the job up on the hill wasn’t mine to worry about any more.

I’m really looking forward to taking a step back seeing what comes to me, and am going to try hard to reset my path over the next few weeks.  There are a few things that I need to accomplish, but the list is light.

I ordered most of the rest of my garden seeds this weekend from the fine folks at Irish Eyes Garden Seeds.  If you aren’t familiar, check them out.  They have a lovely selection of all kinds of veggies with lots of organic seed options.  Garden catalogs make me giddy, I can’t help it.  So many seeds to try, so little time!!!  Next week I will be starting seeds indoors using the new grow light system that I purchased this year.  I am excited about the difference it should make in the strength and health of my indoor starts.  More to come on seed starting another day.

Looking forward to seeing what the future holds.

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