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butter me pickles

By on Jul 11, 2015 in experimenting, love, preserving, process, snacks, vegetarian | 0 comments

To say I love pickles is something of an understatement. I was that weird kid who, after I cleaned out the house pickle supply, insisted Mom keep the jar of dill pickles so I could drink the “juice.” At every family gathering, being good Midwesterners, there was a platter of veggie and pickles place out before the big meal. And of course we had the dill pickles from the store, but we also had some of what are known as “Grandma Pickles”, which were my Grandma’s sweet chunk pickles with a surprising tartness that smacks you in just the right way. We would fight over them. Now, ten years after her passing, three of the grandkids, myself included, have taken up the Grandma Pickle mantle, which involves weeks of brining in big ol’ crocks. This is not about Grandma pickles. Last week I laid eyes on the first pickling cucumbers of the season. No, these are not just baby cucumbers....

preserved sunshine

By on Feb 8, 2014 in love, preserving, process | 0 comments

(This was originally written (and promptly not posted) before I went off on a film shoot for several weeks that involved many a night shooting overnight, outdoors, in the coldest winter in 30 years, where I redefined how cold I thought I could be. So it seems doubly true, especially as I watch yet another volley of snow fall from the grey sky.)   There is a wonderful episode of Doctor Who where they reference the solstice in December, saying it is celebrated because it is “halfway past the dark.”  This is a lovely sentiment, but as a Midwesterner, let’s be honest. It doesn’t feel that way.  Yes, after December 21st, the days technically do start to get longer. But that just gives you more daylight time to watch the flat grey expanse of winter that is January and February. Maybe this is why so many New Year’s resolutions are broken. You start out with this ideal of the fresh start...

dill sunshine

By on Apr 11, 2013 in love, preserving, vegetarian | 2 comments

I am sitting staring out the window. Night has fallen, but the dull orange glow of the sky is a reminder that clouds weigh heavily over the whole city. April can stop hosting this shifted wintry cold that refuses to leave. Today the weather was damp and cold, the wind winnowing in through the seams of clothing, wrapping icy fingers around the bones once thought to be hiding under warm flesh. My knuckles are staring at me, red and chapped, from where they sat earlier, exposed to the world as they clung viciously to an umbrella that proved ultimately useless. Even in the dark, you can feel the grey. And all I can think is… damn I want a pickle.   Yes. A pickle. A dill pickle. Why? Do you see it? There? That light as it soaks so luxuriously through tiny cucumbers bathed in hot brine? That bright, bright light that could only be borne of a hot July afternoon? Those luminous...

a jam of the evening

By on Jul 9, 2012 in fruit, love, preserving | 2 comments

9 o’clock in the evening is a perfectly reasonable time to make jam. A reward, say, for having spent 2 1/2 hours in meditation over a never-ending line of fresh strawberries nestled in quart boxes, their uniquely sweet and floral scent gently floating up, reminding you yet again that your Strawberry Shortcake doll from the 80s never smelled anything like this. 2 1/2 hours standing quietly over a sink, one hand deftly wielding a small knife, the other guiding the unsuspecting strawberries to the sharp point that would soon relieve them of their stems. One by one, quart by quart, the pile of hulled strawberries mounts in the sink. Who was I to resist their lure? Surely I did not really need to make all 8 quarts into jam. A few berries here and there, just for quality purposes, were tested. On the day of meditation I made five jars of jam. And then looked at the other giant pile of...

ruby hued pickled joy

By on Jan 29, 2012 in experimenting, love, preserving | 0 comments

Crunchy leafy greens get piled on a plate, a quick dressing of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and olive oil is whisked together and drizzled on, a bit of a remarkably smokey blue cheese is crumbled about, and gently, ever so gently, a few generous slices of pickled beet are perched overall. A few grinds of pepper and some delightfully crunchy large grained salt is deployed, and the winter blahs are banished in a riotous blend of creamy and crunchy and salty and sweet and smokey and earthy and GREEN. And yes, you heard me. Pickled. Beets. And they are wondrous. Let’s be honest. It’s Chicago and it is January. What vegetables I can find in the market tend to be cowering, slightly shriveled shadows of what can be found in summer. Greens seem to be the only thing that hasn’t fallen into utter despair. February will only get worse, and all I will want to do is bury myself...

spiced apple chutney

By on Oct 19, 2010 in preserving | 0 comments

Crisp white apples, bright white onions, fiery red Thai chiles, misguidingly muted beige ginger, deep amber turbinado sugar, darkly pungent apple cider vinegar, dusky allspice and clove, boiled together, filling the small apartment with the sharp bright scent of the vinegar, currents of sweet apple and sugar eddying around underneath. In less than an hour, the chutney cooks down to a murky brown mass, flecked with bright red specks of pepper and dark studs of clove.  It is swiftly scooped into hot jars, boiled and sealed. It sits on a rack cooling, looking like a rough gemstone… somewhere in those muddy depths is a beautiful flavor waiting to come out, but for now it will remain encased in its glass, slowly...