Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sweet Pickles

It's time for another garden update!

Ever since we got back from vacation, I've been anticipating the first red tomato. I paid our neighborhood paperboy to water my flowers and the garden, and it was so nice to come home to a healthy, thriving little patch of yumminess. There were a couple of tomatoes that were on the verge of ripeness. I kept resisting the urge to pick them, hoping for a 'fresh out the patch' experience like the one Heather reported last week.

I'm not even that big of a tomato fan. I love them IN things, or when a really good one is the star of a dish, such as a nice Caprese salad, but not so much on their own. There's nothing worse than a bad tomato. I hate it when I forget to ask for no tomato on a burger or a sandwich and get some sickly pink thing juicing up my bun. But the idea of enjoying a warm-from-the-sun orb that you grew your very own self is SO appealing. Reminds me of my grandfather every time.
On Saturday, the first one was finally ready to be picked. And what a beauty it was.

Except that this is what it looked like on the other side:

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Apparently some creature was also lying in wait for the perfect moment of ripeness. Deer? Mole? Squirrel? Mouse? Not sure, but there were little fang marks. Bummer.

Also ripening up are the cucumbers. Here's the harvest as of Saturday, after using up a few others for cucumber and red onion salad:
I decided to try my hand at actual canning, since there are too many to be used up before the refrigerator type would go bad.

My mom and my aunt used to can tons of things when I was growing up: peaches, tomatoes, and bread and butter pickles. We used to have enough tomatoes to keep us in spaghetti sauce through the winter, and my brother always mourned the last jar of peaches -- he loved them with lunch. I was never a big fan of the peaches. I've only JUST begun to enjoy any form of cooked fruit, and the peaches always just had the wrong texture to actually taste like a peach to me.

Canning always seemed like a huge hassle to me. I remember lots of steam, lots of stink, and my mom and aunt chasing us out of the kitchen the whole day the ordeal was going on. But I've read a lot of articles about it lately, and pickles didn't seem like too much of a project, since the cucumbers don't actually need to be cooked before the jar processing.

It involved a lot of waiting around for large quantities of liquid to come to a boil, but otherwise making pickles was a pretty easy project. I was able to make these six jars on Saturday afternoon while N. was napping. I went with a straight dill recipe, though I added some garlic. I also stuck a couple of banana peppers that also came from the garden in two of the jars, hoping they'll add a little bit of heat to those jars for J.

O. really liked the fresh dill that came from my parents' neighbors. (My pot that I was trying to grow my own this year got knocked over early on and I never got it replanted.) He decided to make a little arrangement out of the stems I harvested seeds from "so that everyone can smell how good it smells."

We are looking forward to trying out the pickles soon!


Heather said...

So sad about your tomato :( Try putting some of your hair from your hairbrushes around the garden; supposed to scare critters away.

Let me know about the pickles! They look delish. I'm crazy about bread and butter pickles; might even grow some cukes next year if the pickling process isn't too hard.

Gabe has a whole pot of mint that he planted; he loves to sniff it :)

mep said...

Can't wait to hear how the pickles turned out. I'm a bread and butter pickle girl myself, but I can rock a good dill pickle as well.

We made some freezer jam over the weekend. I'd love to do more canning, but I am very intimidated by the boiling, sterilizing, sealing process.

Stacia said...

Wow, I am intimidated just looking at all those cucumbers and those jars of pickles-to-be. Go, you! (And the dill-stem arrangement? Could that be any sweeter?)