September 27, 2012

A Sour Attempt At Pickling

     Puns aside though, this was a colossal disaster: please in no way follow any of my instructions to make this or your hopes for pickles will turn into salty seas of sadness.
    My brother subscribes to get a farmer's basket every other month with various vegetables (I call it Hippy Harvest); a few weeks ago we got a few pickling cucumbers from the farmer's basket. Now, I love pickles. LOVE THEM. I used to be the kid who would buy a cup of frozen pickle juice for 50 cents while at the skating rink- Or, if I was feeling incredibly wasteful with my allowance, I would get an entire giant pickle. And while I can't quite stomach that much acid at a time any more, there is nothing I like better than sneaking a little crunchy pickle snack into my day.
    So, I thought, I should make my own pickles! What a grand adventure it will be- battling all the possibly dangerous bacteria floating around in home canned pickles (well, so say the critics). And of course, should I go with the classic kosher pickle recipe, using lacto-fermentation (mostly salt) or the modern stand-by (mostly vinegar.) Since I have had so many vinegar pickles, I decided to go with salted pickles. The theory is that as the brine increases in it's fermenting, the salty cucumbers will excrete salt in the form of a sour, tanginess. Or something more scientific than that. So the longer you leave the good bacteria to do it's thing, the more sour your pickles become. And they continue to ferment until they are eaten and "go bad."
     But for some reason, I didn't actually try to follow the recipe that the video pickle-guys used. Instead, I used a recipe from a random cookbook. And while I am sure the recipe was great, I apparently can't convert a recipe for one large crock into the three jars I ended up using. Instead of splitting the mixture between the three jars adn then adding water (as the directions for the crock recipe said to), I added all the salt mixture to one jar and then made a new batch. the amount of salt I used was a bit extreme (1/3 cup for the big jar and another 1/3 cup split between the smaller jars); this is expesially ridiculous when you look at the measurements from the first video (1 tablespoon per jar.) Yikes! As soon as I tried them, I winced in salt-shock and I was still tasting salt in my mouth hours after I tested them. I should have just put the slices over my eyes and called it quits for the day.

     I found a couple of really good videos explaining the process, which I will post below:

How to Make Dill Pickles with Lacto-Fermentation 

How to Make Fermented Dill Pickles 

September 11, 2012

Plant Buckets

Finished product- I actually have 7 hanging on the balcony railing, but it was hard to get a shot wide enough to show it
     Ok, for those of you that read my blog (or know me), you know what an avid gardener I am. One of the sadder parts about leaving home was not having access to garden spaces at my parents house. And with how stuffed my car was, I couldn't even fit my miniature pepper plant or my - admittedly large- aloe plant on my trip to Houston.
     Living in a second floor apartment now, I only have access to two tiny balconies (ok, technically one since the other is my brother's.) But I can't live without plants either. So I decided to maximize space by hanging the plants instead of clustering them on the floor of the balcony. This isn't necessarily a novel concept, but I didn't want to spend a bunch of money on a fancy pantsy "do-it-yourself kit" when I know I could do it myself.
      I went to Tuesday Morning and happened to find these little buckets for $1.50 each. They are a great size to start off with for what I needed at the time, but I will probably have to expand as the plants grow. Cooking is really important to my brother and herbs are great plants to start out with as I get used to growing in this new climate (so tropical- I want a citrus tree!)