Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pickles and Toadstools

Finally we made pickles.

Canning food is very important to me; it symbolizes many intangible things made tangible in a glowing jar: providing, caretaking, making beautiful things out of fruits and veggies, being independent, honoring the Little House on the Prairie series of books I grew up on, being an organized, practical sturdy mother and weirdly, somehow, surviving even if the world goes to hell.
(I can just see me clutching a jar of homemade jam as I run to the basement and seal the family in, using duct tape and plastic as the nearby nuclear plant's informative calander tells me to do. Ugggg. More on that in another post, I guess)

I bought all the supplies and had my first go at it last year. All I did was make a batch of dilly beans (pickled green beans) although I had bought tons of jars in many sizes.

During last year's canning episode, the family was kicked out of the kitchen and I could be heard swearing from the steamy room. I had some questions, "Why do the jars tip over and fall on top of one another? Why does boiling hot water sneak down this canning-specific tool I have bought and scald me when I try to move the jars that have fallen? Why are the beans floating and making it difficult to assess my 1/4 inch headspace? Will I kill the people who eat these at Christmas time? Will it be a slow death in the ER or will they just be found sitting around my jar at their kitchen table, cold and stiff?" After I finished the process I emerged, hot and burned onto the porch. Rob asked one of those questions you sometimes ask your spouse when they are totally crazy but you can't directly mention it. He looked at me seriously and wondered "Was that fun for you?" I swore at him.

He was not looking forward to canning season this year.

Tragically, my dilly beans failed last year. Salt somehow appeared on the outside of the jars after they had cooled. My canning friend called her expert canning mother in Alaska . She gently told me the verdict; I had to refrigerate them and eat them all in the next week. I was frustrated; it took time, precision (well, a goal of precision), sweat, and lots of beans to make dilly beans and I ended up throwing most of them out.

Thankfully, yesterday I talked to Jenny, the farmer at our CSA (as I was greedily packing pickling cukes into a plastic bag to make pickles, wondering when I could steal 3 hours of kitchen swearing time during the busy coming week) She said, "Oh you don't want to do all that work and have mushy pickles. Make sun pickles. We've got the recipe on this week's website." She was right. I did not want mushy pickles. (That horror had never occurred to me.) I made sun pickles with the children. We did not burn each other. They look gorgeous on the windowsill where they are to sit for 2 days in the sun. Rob said, upon entering the kitchen after work, "Those are beautiful. Did you get a picture?" Why, thank you, yes I did.
I'll let you know how they taste!

SUN PICKLES1 gallon jar
sliced cukes to fill it
Two thirds water to one third vinegar (6 1/2 C water, 3 1/4 C vinegar)
1/2 C - 2/3 C pickling salt
garlic - one clove, or more
dill heads or fresh dill
other spices you like

Fill the jar with cukes, top with other ingredients, Then leave it in the sun for 2 days, 3 if cloudy. Refrigerate and eat for up to 2 weeks.

Feeling fresh after our quick and painless pickle experience we all headed out to do "trail maintenance" on a trail Rob had discovered. (He is training for an intense cylocross seaon come fall and he needs a place to ride in the woods and I'd like somewhere to jog off-pavement.)

We were all astonished by the mushrooms. They were amazing; all over the place. I took photos of only a tiny fraction of what we saw growing.

Lily spray painted the roots that stuck out in odd places. Rob had a hatchet and clippers to cut branches that had overgrown the trail. Georgia and I spotted and admired mushrooms.

It was lovely and quiet; I felt a tiny bit of trepidation. Although I have deep cravings to spend time in the woods, I usually don't. It is the same hushed woods where I saw the Luna Moth and the Scarlet Tanager earlier in the summer (that I wrote about in here). It has a feeling of deep thrumming energy. I kept looking up to see if there was something there, moving behind the tress, just past where we stood. Georgia was also was reticent to enter and demanded I hold her hand the entire time, but again, we don't spend much time in the woods when evening is coming....

The mushrooms were bright and welcoming and made me think of the mushroom researcher who believes all the interconnected fungi beneath the ground has its own sort of consciousness.

His name is Paul Stamets and his book is: Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World. The article I read in The Sun about him was really crazy and cool.

There was a quote from it I liked:

"Biological systems are so complex that they far exceed our cognitive abilities and our linear logic. We are essentially children when it comes to our understanding of the natural world."

Anyway, we had a good time outside and enjoyed the mushroom's company. The mosquitos finally swarmed and we all ran for the car and the creamie.

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