A week of making : Kombucha

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I’ve been making kombucha for a couple of years now.  I guess it was my first fermented food I had on our kitchen counter.

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I’ve tried many combinations of tea, and have enjoyed some more than others.  I drink decaf tea, and so I’ve tried black decaf tea, as well as brewing herbal teas.  I like how it tastes.  But reading Sandor Ellix Katz’s book, The Art of Fermentation, I learned that “heavily flavored or scented teas, as the added essential oils, may inhibit fermentation.”

So this week I’m going less fruity.  Decaf Ceylon tea and another jar with a little lemon herbal tea, to see if does something different, now that I’m paying attention.

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I’ve had some batches where the “mushroom” or SCOBY has stayed in the bottom of the jar, the whole time I’ve left it to ferment.  Like in the picture above. Which I learned today too, means the “mushroom” is no longer able to work and ferment.

So now look at this jar here below… not good.

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I had three jars brewing on top of the fridge, and one of them had mold.  I had mold growing in a couple of batches in the winter, and threw those away.  But luckily I’ve had an extra “mother” (or a friend with an extra mushroom!) to start anew.

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So this one also, had to be thrown away.  I know…. it looks like a science experiment, doesn’t it?

Now this week, I have two batches fermenting.  Back to two jars, but I’m sure it will be enough to share with a friend of ours, who doesn’t like to make it or see it, just drink it when it’s strained and already brewed.  And I love sharing it.  It works out for everyone!

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This SCOBY is now in a jar with its sugared tea, ready for its magic.  Let’s see what happens.

After making the sauerkraut from Alex Lewin’s book, Real Food Fermentation, I was reading about kombucha there too.  The pictures in his book are great again.  And I’m thinking I’ll do a couple other fermentations… hard apple cider, ginger ale, mead, buttermilk, maybe?  Oh… so many foods and recipes to try, so little time.

 

 

A week of making : Fruit leather

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I found a recipe for blackberry and apple fruit leather, a couple of yeas ago.  It’s from a book called The River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin.  I really like it.  It has a variation for different fruits for this leather.

The kids and Mark picked a big basket of plums last week and we’ve been eating them non-stop.  But we still have more, so I decided to try the Plum Fruit Leather recipe this time.

Again, not a hard recipe.  You just need a lot of time.

After you cook the fruit you put it through a sieve, and mix it with honey.

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That’s it. It is very simple.  Spread it thin in a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

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Set it in the lowest setting in the oven for many hours.  We’ve had cooler days lately, so it’s been OK to have the oven on.

After cooking it, for I’m not sure how long it was (15 hours maybe?) I took them out and let them cool.

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I lift it off the parchment paper.  It came off pretty easy!

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Then with kitchen scissors I cut thin strips and put it on top of new parchment paper, and folded it.

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It should last few weeks it says, in a closed container.

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The kids have liked it so far, so I think it will be a great snack.  Fruit juice from hand picked fruits, and honey.  Not bad, I think.

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A week of making : Fermented sauerkraut + coleslaw

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I liked the sauerkraut I made last year.  We don’t eat a lot of it, but enough to make it fun to make our own.  And maybe we don’t eat it enough because we used to buy it from the store.  Which came first, not sure.

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If I’m going to talk about easy recipes this week, this is the queen of easyness.  Really! It’s more work to go to the store or to the farmer’s market and buy the cabbage than make the sauerkraut.

Last year and this year, I used Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin (Quarry Books, 2012) and it turned out so good.  My mom used to make sauerkraut growing up, but I didn’t eat it then.  Not sure why.

Here’s what I did.

DSC_0053-smallYou slice the cabbage really thin (we don’t have a food processor so I just sliced it as thin as I could with a sharp knife.) Then I added salt to it, “massage” it until some of the liquid comes out of the cabbage and put it in a jar to ferment.  You need to pack it hard.  OK, so maybe this is the hardest part.

DSC_0052-smallThen you let it sit and ferment for few days. Once you like the sourness then put it in the fridge.  That’s it!

And because it is so easy, I also made sauerkraut with the green cabbage.  Though I like the color of the purple one, don’t you?

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Few pages later in the book there is Fermented Carolina-Style Slaw.  I don’t know if I’ve ever had it, but it looks so pretty in the book and I had some cabbage left.  We had carrots on hand and green bell peppers from the garden.

So I went ahead and made a little jar of this beautiful slaw too.  This recipe needs another step adding some spices, but it’s also pretty easy.  Ours is not done yet, because I just made it a couple of days ago, but will let you know how these recipes end up tasting.

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So, I made three recipes in less than an hour.  That’s not bad.  Especially when later we can enjoy great flavors in our dishes, with just few minutes of work and few days of wait.  Mmm… can’t wait.

And yes Oh My!  I’m lucky because thanks to Quarry Books, I am able to share the recipe from this book, here with you.  How cool is that! You should try these recipes too.

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Basic Sauerkraut Recipe – Excerpt from Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin.

In its basic form, sauerkraut contains only two ingredients: cabbage and salt. The recipe can be varied by adding other vegetables or seasonings. By eating it young or letting it ferment for a longer time, you can choose between crunchy, slightly sour cabbage; epic, Wagnerian SAUERKRAUT; or anything in between.

INGREDIENTS
2 pounds (900 g) cabbage (green and red cabbage work best for this simple sauerkraut recipe)
4 teaspoons (20 g) sea salt

EQUIPMENT
Large cutting board (wood is ideal)
Large knife (a chef’s knife is ideal)
Large mixing bowl
1-quart (950-ml) mason jar, or similar glass jar with a tight-fitting lid

Yield: 1 quart (950 ml)

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 4 days–4 weeks

WEIGHING
If your cabbage is not exactly 2 pounds (900 g), use approximately 2 teaspoons (10 g) of sea salt per pound (450 g) of cabbage. Alternatively, you can use 2 percent salt by weight.

For best results, weigh your cabbage after you have removed its outer leaves and core.

JARS
For each pound (450 g) of cabbage you use, you will need 16 ounces (475 ml) of jar capacity, or a bit more. Depending on the size of your jars, you can use a small jar to help pack the sauerkraut into the bigger jars (in step 10).

PREPARATION
1. Peel off the outer leaves of the cabbage and discard them (Note: This is particularly important if your cabbage is not organically grown.)

2. If you are working with a whole cabbage, cut it in half, from the south pole to the north pole.

3. Cut each half once more, along the north-south axis, so that the whole cabbage is now in four pieces.

4. Optional: Remove some of the core of the cabbage by cutting diagonally into each quarter.

5. With its south pole facing you, lay a quarter of the cabbage on your cutting board, and slice it as finely or as coarsely as you like. More finely cut cabbage will ferment more quickly and will become a softer kraut. Coarser cut cabbage will lead to a crunchier product. Be careful of your fingers!

6. When it becomes awkward to slice, turn or flip the cabbage quarter in whatever way is convenient to make it more stable on the cutting board and easier to cut.

7. If you prefer, use a food processor with a “slice” wheel to shred your cabbage. You could also use a deli-style meat slicer, a box grater, or a purpose-built Krauthobel.

8. Slice the rest of the cabbage in this manner. When you are done, put it all in the mixing bowl and add the salt.

9. With clean hands, firmly massage the mixture of cabbage and salt until you are able to squeeze liquid out of the cabbage. Depending on how fresh the cabbage is, how much cabbage you have, and how hard you are squeezing, this may take anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes. You will develop a feel for it after you have done it a few times.

10. Pack the mixture into a jar or jars . Using an appropriately sized implement, such as a small jar or potato masher, push down as hard as you can to get rid of as many air bubbles as possible, so that the liquid rises above the top of the cabbage. Ensure that there is at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of space between the top of the cabbage and the mouth of the jar, because the cabbage will expand as it ferments.

11. Close the lid of the jar and place it in a cool, dark place, if possible (between 50°F and 75°F [10°C and 25°C]).

FERMENTATION PROCESS
Check on your sauerkraut every day or two. Open the jar, smell it, taste it with a clean fork, and pack the sauerkraut back down until the liquid rises above it. After a few days, it should get bubbly. After a few more days, it should start to smell and taste sour.

You can eat it any time you want, or you can put it the refrigerator to arrest its progress. Young sauerkraut is crunchier; older sauerkraut has a stronger flavor. For maximum digestive and nutritive benefits, eat your sauerkraut raw (i.e., do not heat it beyond about 115°F [46°C]). However, if digestive and nutritive benefits are not your main goals, there’s no shame in cooking your sauerkraut. In fact, old sauerkraut that has become soggy and very sour may taste best cooked.

If you’d like to see this recipe with step by step photos, you should go check the publisher’s blog, Quarry Spoon.  It’s great!

So, now I’m still waiting for the magic of fermentation to happen.  Then, some good food to our plates.  Will share what we think later.  Let us know if you make it too.

A week of making : Rhubarb ginger jelly

The past week was busy, busy for us, making and preserving what we bring in from the garden.

With some rhubarb from the garden and a new preserving book from the library, I found a new recipe to try this year.  Rhubarb and Ginger Jelly.

The book is called Home Canning and Preserving by Jane Cooper, and has lots of good foods.  But this one seemed easy enough with what we had already.

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I always keep fresh ginger on hand, I love it it’s so good for lots of things.  Ours started to grow a green shoot… I wonder if we can plant it.  I might try it to see what happens.

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It’s not a hard recipe, AND I got to use my new jelly strainers again.  Two good things I’d say.

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I guess I don’t find any of the preserving too hard.  Maybe I don’t make the hard recipes.  But I find it easy to follow a recipe, and make it step by step. It is mostly the time it takes to make things from scratch the hard part.  I understand.

And I guess, a willing spirit to try something new once in a while! Thank you my dear little family.  You are a trooper! When I hear “what’s this Mamá?” I like sharing what’s cooking (or fermenting or canning or brewing).  And it is especially fun when it comes together with “mmm… that’s good!”  A lot better than the “no, I don’t want to try it, thanks…” with a questioning voice.

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So, with this new recipe in few jelly jars, we’ll see what we all think.  We haven’t tried it yet.  Will report later when we do.

Last week…

Last week was filled again of summer-ness.  Last week…

… I was in pain for few days with a sunburn from all the playing at the lake.

… I painted Lucas’s room.  From a darker multicolored room, to white with red trim.  We think it looks so pretty!  And Lucas does too.  I am so glad we could do that for him.

… I almost started to paint Siena’s room.  But I think we’ll leave it for later.  There’s more to it, since it has two doors, and is more space, I don’t think we have enough time for a redo.  We’ll keep thinking about it.

… we worked hard in filling up these shelves and freezer.

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… we had a sleep over.

… gathered with friends and watched Epic in the backyard.  I love it! Have I said that before? So much fun.

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… I made zucchini bread and that delicious zucchini chocolate cake again.  Amanda was right!  You end up making it more than once.  Who needs another reason than share it with friends, for no other reason than to have cake!

… I made a new jelly.  Rhubarb-Ginger Jelly (more on that later this week.)

… I got the highest Tetris score I’ve ever had in my life.  (I wonder if I could add this to my resume.)  It is a ‘big accomplishment’ here at our household, but I think we should have celebrated it more. (Never mind that Mark got over 300 the other day.)

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But this is especially important since my top score was 193, just 3 weeks ago.  I think this is result of me having learned, grown and mature this summer.  I’ve improved my Tetris skills, immensely.  This is exciting to finish with such a big score for my last week of Tetris Camp” this year.  Good bye Tetris.  Our homeschool year is about to begin.  Now we’ve got serious computer work to do.  Thank you for letting me spend non-sense hours together this summer.  ‘Til next time.

… Mark canned few jars of peaches.

… Siena and Mark made so much apple sauce one day, they were exhausted and their hands tired.  Thank you, I know we’ll love them come winter.

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… we picked lots more apples from the tree and the ground.  This year is a low year (thank goodness!) but still I’d like to try making something new.  Need to search some apple recipes. Urgent!

… we went to the pool to swim almost every day.  I wish they would keep the pool open for few more weeks.  If we could bring all the homeschoolers during the day, they would have enough people even after the kids go back to school!  And it is usually still hot.

… we saw how much Siena grew since the last week in May.  These are her pants she wore for Trackers, and they fit her just fine in May.  Now, three months later… capri style.  That’s about 3-4 inches from last spring.

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… we picked vegetables from the garden:

  • 4 1/4 lbs of rhubarb
  • 6 lbs tomatoes
  • 2 zucchinis
  • 5 lbs green beans
  • 6 cucumbers
  • 5 cups basil
  • 5 bell peppers
  • 1/2 lb raspberries
  • 4 yellow squash
  • 1 carnival squash

… we canned:

  • 20 quarts of apple sauce
  • 7 quarts of peaches
  • 9 1/2 pints of rhubarb-ginger jelly
  • 11 pints of pickled beans

… we fermented:

  • 2 lbs of Carolina style slaw
  • 2 lbs of sauerkraut (green cabbage)
  • 2 lbs of red sauerkraut (red cabbage)

More on these later this week.

… we decided what we wanted to start our ‘homeschool year’ with.  And all the classes we’d like to take and started to figure out what our new rhythm will look like.  We are excited!

… we celebrated our summer together and were thankful of the chance to have Mark at home for 9 weeks.  That is one beautiful perk of being a teacher.  We love it and we feel so very lucky.  Mark, is an amazing dad and husband and we are going to miss him now that he won’t be around all day with us.  Awesomeness in person.

… we also saw how much Lucas grew since last May, the last time he wore this coat… comfortably I must add.  Another 4 inches for this kid’s arms, I think!

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… we spent time at home, cleaning up, clearing up, re-organizing, readying our spaces for the fall.  I love this feeling of renewal.  It makes us feel ready for something new.

… we saw lots birds eating the seeds of the Evening Primroses we have in the front yard.  The bushtits came in groups and sat in the tall stems eating all the seeds.  I wonder if we can do something with these plants.

… I enjoyed the evenings getting cooler.  I feel the season turning.

… Lucas made a fire in the fire pit in the backyard.  Nice.

… Mark made pesto and we enjoyed it throughout the week in different meals.  More pesto to come!  Not quite like this menu for the week, but almost!

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… I looked for new recipes to try to preserve the summer’s produce.

… we realized we want to plant dill in the garden next year.  We use lots of it.  I’m writing it down in our garden journal.

… Lucas and Mark picked and froze the last of the elderberries we need.  We should have enough to last us ’til next summer, I think.

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Room remodel

To continue my streak of yearly summer painting projects, I offered Lucas to paint his room.  He was content with it as it was, but at times he wanted to change his bed.

He had a bunk bed, from when he shared his room with Siena.  He got to sleep up above for few months, but I think he liked the idea of getting a “jumpier” mattress (thicker than what he had in the bunk bed) and a “normal” bed.

And of course, for me, a change of bed meant an opportunity for painting. Though I did some writing on the wall in the kitchen this summer, that didn’t count.

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Last summer, I painted the kitchen and our bedroom, back to white.  The year before, summer 2011, I painted the art studio, to match our shed that I had painted the year before (2010). I know, I am crazy, because I did this while we were getting ready to leave to India for 5 months.  I’m not sure why I thought it was important to do it that summer, together with 100 other trip-related things.  But I’m glad I did it, now.

So, four years in a row, my summer painting bug, has been calmed by doing some of it.  In my painting list, has been to get the house done (to match the art studio and shed) but I think that will have to be someone else’s job.  It seems too big of a job for me… but it’s also expensive to have it done, right?  Well? Still in the wait list, I guess.

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I wonder if I painted their bedroom the year before I painted the shed… that would have been 2009.  Maybe I did.  I don’t remember.  And I loved the colors when we picked them then.  It was cute and cheerful (because the room was white before that.) It worked and everyone liked it.

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But with the changing of his bed, it felt only perfect to give it a completely new look.  And Lucas, after saying he was happy with how it was, he got excited at the idea, and picked his color (after showing him some photos on Pinterest I had pinned for him to look at.)

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White.  Yup! Back to white in this room too.  Just like the kitchen, we are back to white upstairs again. It makes me laugh to think of the color changes we’ve done.  It’s been white (from when we bought the house 19 years ago) to some bright color that I’ve painted throughout the years.  Either in the kitchen, or Siena and Lucas’s bedroom, or our room downstairs… always changing.  But I like it like that.  I like changes.

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But oh, this room now.  It is so bright and beautiful. I kept the red trim, because I didn’t want to repaint it, and wanted to keep some color for him too.  But of course, after painting the walls white, and everything looking so smooth and bright, and clean, I re-painted the trim and built in shelf anyways.  It looks so pretty though!  We think anyways.  And that’s all it matters.

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All of his toys got new places, rearranging and relocating them.

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Some thinning of toys (and clothes and everything really!) happened too, giving more space to this not-to-big of a room.

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With a new bed (and yes, with a “jumpy” mattress), a new rug and lamp.

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This bedroom has a completely new look.  Incredible what a fresh coat of paint does to a space.  It seems bigger.  Probably from the white paint, but also a smaller bed, and less furniture and less clutter.

I love how it turned out.  I like the feeling I get when I finish a painting job, how it looks, you can see right in front of you, all the hard work usually pays off.  It is always so much prettier, and I love that about painting.

So for this summer, my plan of painting the bathroom has been left behind.  It probably needs it more than Lucas’s room did.  But by painting the room, I made Siena and Lucas so happy, that makes me happy too. I’m sure I’ve seen more smiles and thank yous, than if I would have painted the bathroom, anyways.

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But most importantly, we have this little guy of ours, so excited to have this new space for him.  All fixed up, looking good and new.  He is so happy with it, and that we’ve all helped him get it set up and organized.  It makes my heart happy too that we can do this.

Birthday at the lake

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Another weekend of celebrations with friends at this beautiful lake.  For few years now, we’ve gone to celebrate one of Siena’s preschool friends.  It is always so much fun.  Look at some of the delicious food we had.

DSC_0079-small DSC_0074-smallI think this might have been Siena’s favorite activity.  Lemonade making.

DSC_0080-small DSC_0083-smallHandmade blackberry pies for everyone.  Let me just say this was ONE of the delicious desserts and pies we had over the weekend. Oh my…

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DSC_0126-smallOur good friend, and mom of the birthday boy (and director of the weekend camp/ birthday party) made t-shirts for everyone.  She’s been making them and gifting them to all of us coming to this camping birthday weekend, throughout the year.

DSC_0139-smallCamp Run-A-Muk t-shirts for everyone.  So cool!

DSC_0132-smallAnd she gave us jobs to everyone.  From campers (Siena and Lucas) to camp counselors, to lifeguards (Mark), activities coordinator, puzzle maker, assistant (her husband), swim coach (me), to name a few.   She is so funny and so creative!

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Here’s two cuties of the weekend.

DSC_0105-smallAnd some water playing.

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DSC_0144-smallAnd outside the water some more fun too.  Lucas was so lucky to have two baseball coaches all to his own.

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Can it get any better than this?  For some of us, that could have been more than enough.

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Well? But we still had some more swimming, paddling, inner tubing, kayaking, laughing, finding tracks, and some more swimming to do before the weekend was over.

DSC_0142-smallAnd it was a very fun-filled weekend.  Thank you Tammy (and family!) for everything.  We had so much fun we are still tired!

 

 

 

 

Fermenting vs canning

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Last year I tried fermenting for the first time.  Mark gave me two crocks of different sizes, and I used some big jars, and fermented few vegetables.

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Cabbage, green beans and cucumbers.  I tried recipes from two books. Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin and Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.

And I also used cabbage.  I made sauerkraut from this older book by Kalus Kaufmann, Making Sauerkraut and Pickled Vegetables at Home, that I found in our library.  And another recipe from Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin.

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So this year I’m trying it again.  This time I’m hoping I’ll pay more attention to the crocks, by having them on the kitchen counter. The kids smell the fermenting starting to happen already. We’ve tried a cucumber starting to taste dilly.  And the beans, starting to taste better too.

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We’ll see how long they’ll take to be ready.  I’m excited again.  Mark gave me this new book for my birthday last fall, and I’m reading it now, a little at a time. The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.  I like it, it has lots and lots of information.

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This year, as many other summers, we pickled cucumbers.  We love eating them and sharing them with friends, come the months when cucumbers are not growing in the garden.

DSC_0002-smallWe made a new recipe, from a new book.  We usually use the Ball Blue Book of Canning.  We bought it new when we decided to learn new recipes, back in 1999. I remember when we bought the book, out on Sauvie Island, at the Pumpkin Patch.  Funny.

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This year, we used a recipe from this book I found last summer. Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine.

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Now, with all of these jars full, we’ll just have to wait.  Give it time to pass to do their magic.  In a couple of months, we’ll try these canned pickles and see if the recipe is good, and if it’s better than the older one.  And if we prefer, or who prefers canned pickles, or fermented pickles.  That will be fun to see.

Do you have a favorite pickle recipe?

Fun at the lake + special times

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Last week we went to play at our friends’ grandma’s lake.  We’ve gone there before, and every time is so much fun.  Fun to get in the water and play, and play all day. From swimming, to paddling, to searching for newts and frogs, to holding a dragonfly, to swimming and diving.

We also saw an osprey catch two fish.  How intense it was sitting on top of a tree, watching, waiting, waiting for the right moment to do its move.  Nature.

No matter what, I find that the water is a fun place to be.

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And this lake is especially fun, because we get to see their grandma (and great-grandma!) A sweet sweet lady, who cares deeply for her family (her kids and grandkids and great-grandkids) and has time to share with us when we get to come to her place.  I love listening to her stories, and her days.  She’s always smiling.  She irradiates love.  She’s a beautiful lady I feel lucky to see her every time I do.

I wish I had my grandma here with us to share our lives and her days.  Even 27 years and more without them, I still miss them.  My bad memory and me being too young it’s hard to remember many details.  But we have some photos and some stories that I treasure tremendously.

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Fun and special times for sure.