Sunday, May 18, 2014

Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles

I have a genetic affinity for pickles.  Seriously, it’s in our DNA.  My grandmother (whose house was the primary congregation point on weekends) would buy dill pickles by the case because my cousins & I went through them so fast.  Granted…there were a lot of us.  My mom is the middle of 15 (yes, FIFTEEN) kids, a good ol’ Midwestern farm family, and there’s currently (roughly) about 100 of us cousins (when you include cousins’ kids, since we’re getting…*ahem* mature…now).  On any weekend, there were at least ten kids running through the house, eating everything in sight.  But MAINLY pickles.  We even made games out of daring one another to drink the pickle juice…which is a pretty lame dare given that we were all more than game to do it.

Family reunion, circa 1986. I’m in the middle-ish, with the barely-there set of bunny ears. As opposed to Primo, who has two sets of bunny ears.
Since I’ve been old enough to have my own paycheck and own refrigerator to raid, there are typically no fewer than 3 jars of pickles or picked items in the door.  At the moment, I have 2 jars of olives, 1 jar of pickled okra, dill spears, dill ovals, sweet midgets…and these.
This was my first attempt at making pickles, so I didn’t want to go too crazy, lest they all turn out awful.  So I paired down the recipe to make two pint jars.  I also decided to make refrigerator pickles, rather than shelf-stable pickles, because a) I was planning to reuse some store-bought pickle jars, rather than buying mason jars, and b) I didn’t want to deal with the extra hassle of proper canning. 
I reviewed recipes, comparing differences & trying to figure out what would suit our tastes.  And I have to say, I was really pleased with the result!  Very crisp, tart, and just a hint of heat…and plenty garlicky.
I’ve portioned out this recipe so you can make as many jars as you like.
INGREDIENTS: (per pint jar)
Approx. 2 pickling cucumbers (will vary based on size), sliced into fat coins*
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tsp pickling spice
2 tsp pickling salt
2 cloves garlic (I used minced, but you could use whole cloves with slits cut in to help release the garlicky goodness)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp dried dill (or one dill head)
1/2 tsp peppercorns  (can omit if your pickling spice already has peppercorns in it)
1/4 tsp citric acid (this will help with the crispness)

*When you slice the cucumbers, be sure to dispose of the “blossom end” of the cucumber, as there’s an enzyme present that will cause the pickles to end up soft.
First off, sterilize your jars.  We use Easy Clean since we have it on-hand for The Hubs’ home brewing.  But you can also boil the jars, or use an oven at 275F for a minimum of 20 minutes.  If you boil or use the oven method, make sure the jars cool before filling them.
In a sauce pan, combine the water, vinegar, pickling spice and salt.  Bring to a simmer.
Place the garlic, red pepper, dill, peppercorns, and citric acid into the jars, and then add the cucumber coins.IMG_4597
Pour the brine over the top, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace in the jar.
Add the lids, and if you’re making refrigerator pickles, you can stop now!  Label the jars, let cool to room temp, and place in the fridge somewhere that you can not be tempted by them for a while.  They’ll take about 3-4 weeks to make a proper pickle, so be sure to include the date. About once a week, shake the jars to mix up the spices, lest your bottom pickles hog all the garlic.
If you’re planning on storing these in your pantry, check this “how-to”.  They can be stored for up to a year (either in fridge or pantry).
Enjoy on their own, on a sandwich, or as part of a relish tray!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Homemade Strawberry Pie

I love the springtime/early summer.  Flowers are blooming, weather is warming up, the sun is shining…ice cream is selling like crazy…

…and of course, the pollen is everywhere, and the grass (and weeds) are growing so fast that we can’t keep up with the mowing…

But on the up side, strawberries are on sale!!!  Ninety-nine cents a pound! 


So I stocked up.  There’s a nice big bag in the freezer for smoothies, and then…well…


Yup.  Fresh strawberry pie.  It’s one of my faves, right up there with cherry pie…apparently I have a thing for red fruit pies.  Though, for this particular pie, I used 2/5 cranberries because I had some to use up.


Moar red fruitz.


1 pie crust (homemade or store-bought), baked according to the package

egg wash

5 cups strawberries (or 4c strawberries & 1c cranberries), washed & sliced

1/4 cup corn starch

2/3 to 3/4 cups sugar, based on how sweet your strawberries are

1/8 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

1 tbsp lemon juice (I also added the juice of half an orange, because cranberry & orange go well together)

whipped cream



Pre-bake the pie crust (be sure to poke plenty of holes in the crust with a fork to keep it from puffing up).  During the last 5-7 minutes of the baking, lightly coat the pie shell with the egg wash to get a golden crust.  Let crust cool completely.

While that’s cooking, in a large pot combine 2 cups of the strawberries (NOTE: if you try the strawberry/cranberry combo, give the berries a quick chop in a food processor or blender), cornstarch, sugar, salt, extracts, and lemon juice over medium heat.  Stir until sugar is dissolved & the glaze has thickened (3-5 minutes; you may have to go a bit longer with cranberries to make sure they’re softened).  Let glaze cool completely.


Once the glaze is cool, fold in the rest of the strawberries and mix gently until the berries are well coated with the glaze; then pour into the pie shell & spread evenly.


Top with the whipped cream and decorate the top with a few extra strawberries.  Let chill for 2 hours to give the filling time to fully set.  Then….DEVOUR!!!!



Makes 8 delectable servings!


Calories 242.6

  Total Fat 7.4 g

  Saturated Fat 3.5 g

  Polyunsaturated Fat 1.2 g

  Monounsaturated Fat 2.6 g

  Cholesterol 0.0 mg

  Sodium 121.3 mg

  Potassium 162.5 mg

  Total Carbohydrate 43.2 g

  Dietary Fiber 2.2 g

  Sugars 24.6 g

  Protein 1.6 g