Friday, March 21, 2014

Homemade Pickles, Rick Moranis, and a Season Called Sprinter.

Successful Pickling Dabblage.
I was caught off-guard by the beginning of Spring this year.  I completely forgot about it, happy to live in my on-again, off-again sun-drenched-quick-melting-snow-filled-Denver-winter for a bit longer, I suppose.  Suddenly, Roman's class was taping paper flowers all over the school hallways and I was being asked questions about possibly acquiring a "blood-drinking plant that eats flies." Roman has an obsession with Venus Fly Traps ever since he caught me recounting to Matt the plot of Little Shop of Horrors a couple of weeks ago as I waxed nostalgic about my own love of Rick Moranis.  I suppose that's as cool as Spring gets for a 4 year-old boy.

Pretty dapper, I'd say.
It doesn't mean I'm not ecstatic to be out of winter, though, as I have been, admittedly, reading gardening books and websites for weeks.

Maybe it's because this is the first year ever when I have a piece of land to call my own, to mold and prune and plant and sow however I want (Matt is strangely happy to follow my lead on the garden, actually).

Maybe it's because I'd like to delay decisions on things like the color of the Wisteria I'll choose, whether or not I'll plant hydrangeas this year (our wedding flower), or what type of grapevines to purchase for our gazebo (learning toward Sauvignon Blanc and possible Merlot or Cab).

It all seems so exciting and overwhelming at the same time.  I should be glad, then, that in Denver one does not actually plant things until after Mother's Day.  Last year it snowed on Roman's birthday (May Day) and apparently that falls within the absolute norm for the high desert country we live in. 

Roman's favorite vegetable.

So maybe this half-way reluctance to usher in Spring is the reason why I've been cooking half-Spring, half-Wintery things the past few weeks. I can't quite commit to grilling yet, and still, I can't quite let go of the barely dormant excitement at fresh squash coming into the supermarkets.  I want to turn away from the winter crops, but I still find myself loading up on grapefruits and the last of the Brussels sprouts.  And maybe all of this is why I was suddenly inspired to make a batch of quick-fridge-pickles yesterday with a bag of mini cucumbers I purchased at Costco.  A warm-weather crop being preserved for winter, just before the summer.  Makes no sense and I don't care. It's not really Spring. And it's not really Winter.

It's Sprinter.

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It's Fish Friday - and I'm hoping I can make it through the whole day without eating meat
(a sad, probably heretical ongoing joke between me and Matt).  Last week I accidentally ate a chicken nugget, the week before that I inhaled a breakfast taco with sausage at McDonald's before realizing my heathen ways.  And I still haven't given anything up for Lent, except maybe thinking about Lent.  But today I'm committed!  I went and got some lovely Cod fish yesterday and my plan is to make homemade fish and chips and serve them with homemade tartar sauce and homemade dill pickles.  And since Matt lives in perpetual fear of botulism from my home-made-preserves I decided to make those pickles in the fridge rather than jarring them for the winter to come.  They don't keep as long (they have to be refrigerated) but I don't think we'll have a problem finishing off a 1-quart jar in the next couple of weeks.

Here is the recipe I found and slightly modified from a blog called "Mountain Mama Cooks." Matt thinks they are a bit too sweet (which is odd because they contain no sugar) so my next attempt will be at making SOUR dill pickles.  And here also are the pretty pictures of the pickles that resulted from my 30-minute dabblage in pickle-making.

Happy Sprinter - for those of you who, like me, still haven't fully transitioned. :)

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Quick Homemade Refrigerator Pickles 
Makes a 1 quart jar, tightly packed


1/2 head of garlic, unpeeled
5 cups water
2 1/2 cups vinegar
1/8 cup + 1 tbsp pickling salt
1 lb of mini cucumbers sliced in half lengthwise (look for the really thin-skinned ones as they absorb the pickling juice better)
1/2 serrano pepper (or to taste)
1 tbsp dried dill (or 1-2 large fresh sprigs)
1-2 tsp whole peppercorns
1-2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1-2 tsp yellow mustard seed


1. Bring water and garlic to a boil.  Allow to boil and cook for five minutes.

2. Add the vinegar and salt and stir until dissolve.  Take off the heat.

3. Sterilize your jar and fill with all the other ingredients, tightly packed and artistically if you so desire.

4. Bring the pickling juice back to a boil and pour into the jar, completely covering the veg and filling to the brim (ideally without burning your hand, as I did).

5. Seal the jar, allow to cool completely, and refrigerate.

These pickles are ready to eat as soon as you like and depending how the intensity of the picklage you crave.  I liked trying them a few hours in when they are still really crunch and taste like a cucumber salad. Today I'll enjoy the more intense pickling flavor and softness that reminds me of Saturdays at the movies in Texas. :)

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