Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Old Books and Hats

Fall is upon us and of course that makes it an iffy thing to plan outdoor work around here.

Like this week when we were planning to rent a tractor and get some serious diggin' done, then witnessed a two day long deluge of rain. Happy news for the firefighters around the state, but sad news for our plans. In the meanwhile I am going around winterizing and repairing what I can.
This brings me to my subject at hand. Lost knowledge and old books.
I have a few old books that I have picked up at estate sales and thrift stores that I enjoy for the sheer wonderfulness of their contents of lost knowledge and also, as an artist, for the endearing illustrations.
It's always nice when you can have the Alien next door model for your drawing.
 Getting the books out today got started by the fact that I am trying to glaze some ancient and neglected french windows. I have never actually glazed a window, nor has Buck and my father has never done it either.

Where does one turn in these moments of despair? No, Not to Google, come on, there are other ways of finding these things out!

It is the ancient art, nearly lost in time, of looking it up in a book. Silly.
In my books of lost knowledge I can learn what all those odd things in a moldy tool box are.

Or how to build a Fire Proof Floor.
I could even make it fancy with just a miter box and hand saw at my disposal.
Or how to set fire to my table.
I have been desperately trying to strip an old door which has one coat of paint after another, in colors that seem to commemorate every Volkswagen Bug ever produced. This technique is something I am definitely going to try when it is not so dry out. Those poor firefighters have enough to do than to put out a door that I will only be slightly sad to see turn to embers.

One thing my sharp eye has noticed is the prevalence of the Fedora on these handy guys. I got Buck one right away.
According these books I deduce that if I dress Buck in a fancy Fedora he will look great doing all the things that need to be done.
 But I am beginning to think he pictures his fedora wearing resulting more in this outcome.
I am of course looking better than I ever have in my perky hairdo and my Betty Crocker apron.
But I, unlike Buck, am getting things done. For instance I am a whiz on my calculator that is the size of a Studebaker. And I look quite good using it to calculate how to feed all those Fedora wearing men my husband keeps bringing home, while I cleverly avoid glazing french windows by reading old books. There are, after all, only just so many hours in a day.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pickling Everything

Left to right: Half Sour pickle, Kosher Pickle, Sauerkraut and Kimchi.
I am currently in the process of learning how to pickle things. I took a class on fermented foods this weekend in which I learned how to make small batch pickled foods like Kosher Dills, Sauerkraut and Kimchi, which sit on your counter for one to six weeks like little pets. Besides being really informative and fun, the class gave me the confidence that I needed to continue on my own.
With the fermentation method your pickles need to breath so you cover the jar with a cloth or napkin to keep out dust (or dog hair). It's a little like making beer.
I have canned several fruits and jams but I have never pickled anything. I know pickling seems pretty basic, but since both my Mother and my Grandmother really hated cooking anything that wasn't absolutely necessary, they never got into any long process cooking activities. Such are the pitfalls of growing up in the Betty Crocker era.

Then as I had a family and set up my own pantry, I looked and asked around for information on pickling and there was very little. Sure there were a few old books, but really what I needed was some hands on instruction to build my confidence.

These cucumbers are wedged into the shoulders of the jars so they won't float up out of the brine and spoil. You want at least an inch of brine above the vegetables for the fermentation process.  

With small chopped things like this Kraut and Kimchi you will need to have something that holds down the vegetables. Here our class was taught to use a ziplock baggy full of the brine to hold down the chopped cabbage. You fill the bag with brine instead of water so that if it leaks into the jar it does not dilute the fermenting pickles and cause spoilage.

Our County Extension office, which was severely underfunded for the last decade, has started teaching again. That is because of our states resurgent interest in food growing and preservation. Now they are adequately funded to give food preservation classes. Hooray! It pays to vote.
These are some Pickled Spicy Beets that our Extension Agent and students canned at another class.

Tomatillos,carrots and beets slated for pickling.
I am in the process of planning to pickle everything I can think of. I feel completely capable now, and they gave me a "hot line" phone number to call if I feel my confidence wavering, or if my pickles get slimy
This picture makes me feel sick.
I really love pickles but have not been able to eat them for a long time because EVERYONE puts onions and garlic in their pickles and I am allergic to the Allium family, i.e. onions and garlic. It's made me very sad (and sick) until now. Now I can make pickled foods without the offending ingredients and eat them to my hearts content.

The class instructors were very vehement about following only research based recipes, since the acidity of ingredients can vary drastically, which can in turn allow dangerous bacteria to grow in your pickles. Research based recipes are the ones that you will get from Universities and Extension offices. Ball Blue Book of Home Canning is another reliable source and was recommended.

Our OSU Extension Office has an excellent PDF on "Pickling Vegetables"
Another good recipe book is from the Clemson Cooperative Extension "Pickling Foods"
There is also a PDF from Iowa State about pickling and the National Center for Home Food Preservation site which is recommended by our extension office.