We have switched gears here. After endless rain in the spring and early summer, we are now anxious for some good ole rain. We had a 30% chance yesterday and got an unmeasurable sprinkle in the morning and then nothing for the rest of the day. The weather folks were predicting rain for today but we’ve had cloudy skies and some thunder – enough to make Farley anxious – and nothing but a random drop or two. I think our chances are slim for getting any precipitation after tonight and they are not predicting any additional chances for it until next weekend. Oh boy, back to watering, watering, watering!
I may start to sound like a broken record very soon, but I’m determined to keep up with the harvest that comes in the door these days. I figure if I can nibble away each day with a batch of preservation (freezing or canning for now, but I’m reading up on drying as well as vacuum packing too!) then we will appreciate the usage during the winter.
So, I had lots of cucumbers staring me in the face this morning despite the fact that I used 8 pounds in pickles just yesterday! This morning I dug out the recipe we really enjoyed from last year’s sweet pickling. This recipe called for 4 quarts of pickling cucumbers so I weighed up 5 pounds and sliced them and then measured them in a 2 quart container (X 2) in order to try to get a handle on how many pounds would equal that which was called for in the recipe. It seemed that 5 lbs was just right for a 4 quart measurement. This recipe also called for sliced onions and green peppers the last of which also came from our fields. (We have onions, but not enough volume to add to this recipe or else we wouldn’t have enough for salads, etc.)
This recipe used a cold brining process where one is instructed to add pickling salt and crushed ice to the freshly sliced fruits and let sit for 3 hours to brine, which I did. This reminds me of making ice cream, where the process of adding salt to the ice makes the outcome even colder and that was what was happening to my marinating pickles today.
While they sat for 3 hours, I did some knitting. More on that later. Here are the slices in the salt and ice. I also read up on things that can go wrong with ones pickles in a way that makes them still edible but not so pretty. It is good to know these things. Heads up for darkened pickles which means you have too much iron in your water. Also, shriveled pickles mean that you’ve plunged your cucumbers into a solution of salt, vinegar or sugar that is too strong for them to absorb in one session. This was interesting to note since I was using a two stage process of brining today…the first 3 hours in salt and ice before the sugar and vinegar part which came later. Thank goodness for the internet!
After they sat in the brine, I drained them and added them to a large pot on the stove that contained a hot mixture of the typical sweet pickle ingredients: sugar, cider vinegar, turmeric, mustard seed, and celery seed. The turmeric gives the pickles that wonderful yellow/orange color that we expect to see in a sweet pickle jar; that was one item missing in the sweet pickles I made up yesterday. I brought this mixture to a boil and filled the house with the aroma of PICKLES, which brought Dave out to the kitchen in admiration. If he didn’t love pickles on his daily sandwiches so much, I’m not sure I’d make quite so many jars!
The recipe said it would make 8 pints but I only got 7 from this one. Hmmm, not a problem, but I greedily wish I had one more jar! I popped them into the boiling water bath for 5 minutes and they came out just lovely. The sound of the popping of the lids is just music to my ears and these all popped within moments of coming out of their bath.
So, during the three hour break in the action, I worked on one of my projects from the knitting conference. I had taken a class from a great instructor and we were supposed to produce a Fair Isle, Steeked, Wristlet during our class as a learning project. I produced one during the class but was not 100% satisfied with it so since we had enough materials to make a ‘pair’, I decided to knit the other one this morning while I waited for the pickles to brine. What is a Wristlet? Well, I guess some people have cold wrists and wear them both for warmth and also for a fashion statement? He is my wristlet before adding the buttons.
I also worked on a couple of other knitted project swatches for my program requirements but did not produce satisfying results on them yet. The final year of the Master Hand Knitting program is challenging and it will be something that I’ll be focusing on during the upcoming winter months when the farm is less demanding.
I was about to publish this post when we went out to the fields to do the day’s harvesting. We found lots of goodies out there but most importantly, we decided to bring in the few peaches that we had in the orchard this year. We had been instructed to reduce the stress on the young orchard trees by eliminating much of their fruit in the first couple of years but it has been pretty tempting to allow a few, select fruit to ripen here and there. So, here was what I brought in this afternoon for the 2013 peach crop.
Of course, while out in the field, I could not help but snap another pic. This was of Dave standing next to one of our European Hornbeam trees that were planted two years ago in the allee as a signature of the property.
We think they have grown leaps and bounds since the initial planting on a very, very, cold, wet day in early March of 2011. This is what we did that day as far as clearing out the old horse paddocks and planting the new, young trees. This is what they started out looking like:
And this is what we are expecting them to look like in the future: