Pickling Spices

This likely isn’t a surprise, but sometimes I like to do things in the most complicated way possible.  Okay, maybe not the most complicated way.  Let’s think about it in terms of learning more about the process before I skip to the shortcut.  Sometimes the shortcuts are perfectly valid and truly time-saving.  Sometimes they aren’t all that cost effective and there is something to be said for the process.

When I wrote my admissions essay for going back to school to earn my doctorate, my essay was about learning about how process-oriented I can be.  Specifically, it was about quilting.  How I appreciate the time-intensity, the focus, the steps that need to be taken.  I think that’s also why I like cooking and cooking new recipes.  I like to learn the steps necessary.  I joke that I don’t always care about the finished product.  That’s not really true, but it can sometimes seem like it.

So, when I decided to do some canning in August, I decided I should also make my own pickling spices, rather than buy the blend at the grocery store.  This was definitely not a cost-effective strategy (although if I used the entirety of the ingredients, it might become cost-effective), but I appreciated throwing this simple mixture together and knowing what was included in my pickling spices.  I found this recipe in Food in Jars.

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Peach BBQ Sauce

Wilson’s Apple Orchard let us know that they had peaches from Michigan in August and it was the weekend I was planning to do a bunch of canning, so I took advantage of the opportunity to purchase some peaches and try this recipe I had flagged in Preserving by the Pint, one of the books I have about canning.  What I love about the cookbook is that it makes small-batch cans, which works well for someone like me who has a small garden that I supplement on occasion with purchases from the farmer’s market or local farmers.  This made three half-pint jars of bbq sauce and I can’t wait to make some pork on the grill  to finish with this sauce!

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Whole Jalapenos with Honey and Allspice

One Thursday afternoon I found myself walking through the Mount Vernon Farmer’s Market after having looked through Canning for a New Generation and I remembered the recipe for Whole Jalapenos with Honey and Allspice and I knew I needed to try making these delights.  So, I contacted one of the farmers at the market and they were amazing and put together a little box of jalapenos for me.  Because I am essentially the luckiest person in the world some days.  That weekend, among the 25 jars of various canned items, I found these pickled whole jalapenos.

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Peach Melba Muffins

I was looking through some recipes and started coming across some muffin recipes that looked absolutely delicious.  Combine that with Wilson’s Orchard sending out an email saying that peaches were in season and at the orchard and I knew that I needed to make this recipe I found in the Catholic Daughters Cookbook.  

We also had a big project going on at work the week I made these and I wanted to make sure some folks felt appreciated for the extra work they were putting in to make it go as smoothly as possible.  I was glad to be able to bring these into the office and share them with these folks putting in extra hours.

Peach Melba Muffins

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Grilled Honey Lime Chicken Sandwiches

In the ongoing invitation for dinner, I had our director of residence life and his family join me at my house.  Like some of the others I’ve had join me, he has young kids, so I wanted to make sure I made kid-friendly foods, especially knowing that they had a particularly careful palate.  So, I thought these honey lime chicken sandwiches, which I had made before, but not photographed, would be a good choice, alongside some burgers for the kids.  I first enjoyed this chicken during my Rachael Ray phase of cooking and my love of all things cilantro and cumin.  I still love all those

I first enjoyed this chicken during my Rachael Ray phase of cooking and my love of all things cilantro and cumin.  I still love all those things, but I have moved beyond 20-minute meals.  On second thought, my first run of this recipe may have been when I was in grad school when I invited a couple people over every week for dinner and to watch the West Wing.  I don’t think life is any more delightful than when I’m cooking for folks whose company I enjoy and reveling in a shared experience.

Grilled Honey Lime Chicken Sandwiches

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Never Fail Cookies

Every once in awhile, I find a cookbook that makes me believe that I will find a gazillion recipes within it.  The Bachman Employee Club Cookbook, entitled “A Family A-Fare” was easily one of these.  How could you not love this cookbook:

Bachman Cookbook

The pages are color-coded orange, yellow, and tan, and put together very simply.  And yet, each of these recipes look like something that should be brought to a potluck or made when company comes over.

For today’s recipe, I knew I had to make a recipe that was called Never Fail Cookies.  I was intrigued by the name, intrigued by the ingredients, and decided it was time to make them to help us start the academic year.  I don’t think I’ve made a recipe that used butter and shortening ever.  What impressed me about these is how well they held their shape.  I ended up baking a batch of them and then freezing the rest so that when guests come over or someone wants a cookie, I can quickly bake a couple of them at a time.

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Grandma’s Open Jar Pickles

A few weeks ago I was going through some recipes I’ve had stored in a file folder for over 10 years (ahh!!!) and I came across this recipe from a former student of mine.  She recently had a baby and so has been on my mind for a lot of reasons.  Both she and her twin sister worked in our office when I worked at a different institution and they brought so much fun to the office.  Meggan would regularly join us for lunch in our office and we would sit around the break table, discussing a number of different topics, ranging from farming to student government to personality styles, aging, and one of the most memorable discussions: the great labor day massacre involving a colleague’s hunting dog and chickens.

One day, Meggan brought in some pickles that she had made with her family.  We all loved how they tasted and asked her for the recipe.  I had never made them, and with this year’s bumper crop of cucumbers, there was no better time to throw these together.  It reminded me so much of friends in whom I delight, colleagues who are amazing, and students who bring me back to the work each day.

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Grandma’s Open Jar Pickles

13 c water
3/4 c salt
1 1/2 c vinegar
4 cloves
sliced onions (bottom and top)
dill (bottom and top)
little alum (1/4 tsp)

Layer in a jar and pack with whole cucumbers and layer along the way.  Set on the counter for 4 days.  When cloudy, they are ready to refrigerate.

*To make them a little more spicy, add red pepper flakes (1 tsp top, 1 tsp middle, 1 tsp bottom)