In a Pickle

August 17, 2014

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I made one rule regarding pickles this year: only make as many pints and quarts of pickles as I have jars. In past years, I've gone to the store and bought cases and cases of new jars, but after 5 years of summer pickle sessions, I think there's enough in rotation (jars of pickles going out as gifts and empties being returned) that I shouldn't have to buy more. Especially during the pickling season when they're the most expensive. It's more fun that way. And cheaper!

I've also made another rule regarding my dill cucumbers: They must be whole! It seems like every time I make a jar of dill pickles where the cucumbers are cut in spears, the pickles get soggy and mushy. The flavor is good, but the texture leaves much to be desired. If I leave the cucumbers whole, however, with just the ends removed, they seem to retain a better, more crunchy texture.

Along with my vinegar brine'd dills, dilly beans and bread and butters, I'm experimenting with lacto-fermented dill pickles again. Last year's attempt at fermented dills went horribly awry, but I think that's because it was too hot, and because I was gone for most of the week they were sitting out on the counter. I've decided to give it another shot this year, though. The kitchen seems generally cooler, so it seems like they'll ferment at a steadier pace, and I'll be here to watch them in case something seems off.

Any pickling rules of thumb you'd like to share?

Forest Adventures

August 2, 2014

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Suddenly it's August! I haven't abandoned this little internet space of mine, I promise. It's just that summer has been so full, and although I've been writing and reading like crazy, most of my writing has been accomplished in a casual spiral notebook that I keep in my backpack and take with me wherever I go. And really, most of my efforts have gone into simply recalling events from the day rather than anything profound or thoughtful. I'm giving myself a break from thinking too hard.

But if you want to know what I've been up to, I've been spending a lot of time playing outside. Mostly in the forest. Last weekend, Matt and I drove out to his parent's house, and trekked a mile or so down through the forest to the creek where we set up camp. We got there early on Friday (though not early enough), and left late Saturday evening so Matt could get back in time to turn in an assignment for class.

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The camp we chose had been used before by Matt's family, but it must've been years since they were there last because everything was overgrown. We had to start from scratch, digging out a new fire pit, collecting firewood (note to self: take a hand saw next time rather than a hatchet), and generally getting things ready so we wouldn't have to scramble in the dark. When we were done, we went out to the creek and swam around for a few hours, trying to ignore the crawdads and the nibbly bottom-feeder fish that were just a little too curious about our feet and legs.

By five o'clock, we were exhausted and ready for dinner, so we got a fire going and made some grub. I've never done the camp cooking thing before, but it was fun, and the hot food was delicious. I made hot cocoa, but I was especially fond of hot tea, and would've drank gobs of it had it not been for the fact that we FORGOT TOILET PAPER.

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We slept roughly in a two-person tent. Actually, I was almost sure I wouldn't fall asleep at all, but the next thing I knew it was light outside the birds were chirping. After breakfast, Matt and I dug out my Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast book and trudged around the forest identifying (and eating) berries. Don't worry, we only ate the ones we knew were safe: the red huckleberries, thimbleberries and salal berries. Everything else I just took pictures of so I could try to identify later. Speaking of which, any idea about these orange-red berries with the lily-like leaves, these white berries or these Oregon-grape-like berries?

Needless to say, we'll be going back out there again and often. As often as possible, really, nd maybe next time we'll bring a fishing pole.