July 4th as a food holiday

5 Jul

Every holiday is a food holiday in my family, including the fourth of July.  I generally don’t make red white and blue food (I didn’t make that lovely platter or anything visually thematic in fact), our theme is more seasonal fare and family favorites. From the red chocolate chip cookies my Aunt makes four our family reunion every year, to the veggies I picked up at a farm stand and pickled, my weekend revolved around food, friends and family.

First: Jerky!  (And this is only related to the holiday in that I took of a little early on Friday and went to the bookstore to review this book I ordered…)

I ordered a book on Jerky. I’m not sure if its worth buying (I REALLY WANT IT) because jerky is surprisingly easy to make and hard to mess up.  But it is a pretty awesome book. The author seems to have surveyed the known universe for jerky information including recipes from survivalists that tell you how to make jerky after the power grid fails and you are without the niceties of civilization.  Recipes for exotic meats include large flightless birds (ostrich and emus) and big cats (lions, lynx, bobcat, etc).  And then there is this:

Yep, that there is a recipe for Varmint Jerky. Like I said, I WANT THIS BOOK.

In the category of amazing things I made and didn’t take pictures of this weekend* you can include Vermontucky Lemonade, which is essentially lemon juice, maple syrup, water and bourbon.  Vermontucky.  This is another recipe from Smitten Kitchen (told you it would show up often!).  It is dangerous. The lemon and maple sugar are strong enough flavors to temper the edge of the bourbon to make this a highly drinkable drink.  Yummmmmm.

Also, and I believe I’ve mentioned this one before, Watermelon Jalapeno Popsicles. So easy, so good! And if you don’t have pectin lying around, I’d say go ahead and try them without.  While you are at it, may I suggest tossing some watermelon in the blender to make watermelon juice? It is so good and a great summer mixer. Unlike other fruits, you don’t need a juicer or even a strainer to get something drinkable.  When my bumper crop of watermelons takes over the neighborhood, I’m thinking about canning/freezing some of this juice to have around through the winter.

Annnd canning. You didn’t think I went all weekend without canning did you??

I’m pretty sure this is what dinosaurs ate.

We got this dill from Schramm’s in Jeanette, along with cherries, pickling cukes (as my gramma called them), green beans and kholerabi.  Have you ever seen dill that big??? I haven’t.

That’s my dad holding it. He came out for our Tomer Family Reunion (my mom’s family). If you are from the area, you might know of Tomer’s Greenhouse in Murrysville or Daugherty’s Farm Stand across the street. That’s my family. My mom was a Tomer, my dad a cousin of the Daugherty’s.

It’s all beginning to make sense now isn’t it? The canning, the pickling…it’s a return to my roots.

So of course after a long day at the family reunion I had to whip up some pickles when we got home at 9pm.  (Even the dogs were looking at me like I had lost my marbles)

I had some sugar snap peas I got at the farmers market that HAD to be used though and I was excited to make dilly beans so I threw a pot of water on the stove upon walking through the door and got to work.

Not only have I never made pickled green beans, I’ve never HAD pickled green beans, so I was flying blind on the recipe.  I have sort of developed a set of criteria though for looking for recipes. Among other things, I’m looking for recipes which don’t have to be kept in cold storage because you know we wont have electricity after the revolution right?? I kid, I kid. Actually something tumbles out of my overfull refrigerator as it is, I just don’t want to add MORE. Especially unwelcome is anything intended to be stored for a while before consumption.

So I found this recipe for crisp pickled green beans which also had the advantage of not requiring the beans to be steamed in advance. One less step at 10pm on a Saturday night seemed like a win.

I got my pickling liquid going and realized quickly I had issues. The beans were curved and on a good day I can’t get my produce to sit neatly in the jar. Solution:

I used the dill to tie together the beans. It *kind of* worked. One bundle got away from me and went in all akimbo. And the curvature of the beans meant it was hard to get a big enough bunch to really fill the jar snugly. I seem to always end up with a lot of extra room in my jars as the veg shrink. But the dill heads look really nice in the jar so the result wasn’t a total slop fest.

Not bad for a late night session

Dill Beans Pretty and Strait

I am sure they will still taste good...

Pickled Snap Peas with Dill

  The great thing about pickling, like jerky, is that as long as you have the basics covered, you can riff on the theme for infinite variations.  Which I imagine is how you learn.  My sugar snap peas were at their end and a number of pods were just not nice enough to pickle. As a whim, after I ate a few peas, I decided to throw them in the pickle and see how they work out.  I’ll let you know! But that is part of the fun for sure.

Monday I was cooking for our picnic, Watermelon Jalepeno Popsicles, Vermontucky Lemonade, and Baked Beans which I ruined (notice didn’t blog about that!). But I still had cukes sitting around and I’ve been dying to make Bread and Butter pickles so amid the prep work I threw together a batch of these. Again, there are 1000 recipes out there, so I compared until I found one I liked because it had a lot of seasoning. Of course I immediately diverted from it because I didn’t have celery seeds.

Also, I had no idea how much my cucumbers weighed, so I guessed one recipe would be enough.  Nope.  Had to toss in extra portion of everything after I added the veggies which means it actually was on the stove a lot longer than called for. I sampled a slice and it tasted great so I don’t think it hurt them, though I expect these will not be crisp at all.

Bread and Butter Pickles

I can’t wait to try these! So it was a good weekend for food and fun all around. I cannot wait until my pickle book comes in. I think we can officially dub this the Summer of Canapalooza.

*I am a terrible blogger, as you know. I generally am more interested in eating my food than taking pictures of it and periodically forget to take pictures of what I am cooking.  This weekend was full of epic blogger fail.  All sorts of goodies eaten and made and I photographed almost none of it.

**In my searching for the recipes I used I came across this blog: Food in Jars. SQUEEEEE!  So excited to peruse this later tonight!


2 Responses to “July 4th as a food holiday”

  1. Emily Brungo July 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    You make me tired. How do you have time for your job, woman?!?!

    • Jennifer England July 6, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

      Ha, I tired myself out last night. I was pouring brine over snap peas at 11 wondering what the hell I was thinking when I started the project. They came out pretty though!

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