Preserving the Harvest: Garlic Dill Pickles

I love pickled anything! Often I am throwing together a quick pickle to add to a poke bowl or salad. And when it comes to pickles, you can’t beat the classic Dill Pickle.

When my cucumber plants start booming, despite my love for the green fruit, I can’t keep up. Cue the canning equipment, vinegar, and salt. Pickles are an easy way to get introduced to canning, as they are done with a simple boiling water method, require few special tools, and are high acid; botulism doesn’t stand a chance!


One of my favorite resources for canning recipes, besides the thoroughly National Center of Food Preservation recipes, is the Food In Jars book and blog. I’ve posted in the past about making refrigerator pickles, using Marisa from Food In Jars as a resource, she really is an expert.

See her original recipe and post here. This post is made for the beginner, so it goes into detail with each step, unlike linked post which assumes basic canning knowledge.

This recipe can be modified to any harvest size. Because of that, I won’t specify how many cukes you need, but will give per jar instructions. Also, any extra brine can be used to make refrigerator pickles of any veggies in your fridge.

If you are unsure about any of the materials/ingredients, clicking on the links will bring you to an amazon product as an example. Also, if you choose to purchase, my site may receive a portion of the sale. More info at advertising disclosure.

Garlic Dill Pickles

Materials:
-Large pot (enough space to cover your jars with 1 inch of water)
Pint Canning Jars and Lids
-Pot for brine
-Small saucepan for lids
Jar lifter
-Towels
Canning rack or towel

Ingredients:
-4 cups vinegar
-4 cups water
-5 Tbs Salt (pickling, sea,… as long as there are no anti-caking agents or added iodine)
-Cucumbers (ideally pickling, but you will still get decent pickles with firm garden variety)
-1 tsp per jar Dill seed
-1/2 tsp per jar Black Pepper Corns
-1 to 2 Whole Peeled Garlic Cloves per jar

Directions:

  1. Place un-lidded jars into pot (if using rack, put in now) and fill with water just covering the lips. Bring to a boil while you prep to sterilize jars. (Because the processing time is 10 minutes, they don’t need to be fully sterile, it is just a good habit to get into).
  2. Take a medium pot and add vinegar, water, and salt. Bring to a boil then simmer while you finish prep.
  3. Place sealing lids into small sauce pan and cover with water, bring to a simmer.
  4. Wash your cukes and place on a clean cutting board. Slice 1/2 inch off of the blossom end and save for your salads (including blossom ends creates mushy pickles, yuck!)
  5. Cut into desired shape. I like spears because they are easy to pack and coins because they go well on sandwiches. Mix it up jar to jar.
  6. Put down a towel for the jars and have your spices, brine, and prepped cukes ready.
  7. Use the jar lifter to lift and dump the hot water back in the pot (when done, there should be enough water to cover 1 or more inches above lids when you place the jars back in). Put the sterilized jars on the towel.
  8. Add spices and garlic to bottom of each jar. Then firmly pack (without damaging) the cucumbers into the jar leaving 1/2 inch head space.
  9. Pour brine into jar to cover cukes leaving 1/2 inch head space.
  10. Use lid lifter or a fork to remove softened lid and place on wiped rim, screw band to finger tight (too tight and the air can’t escape)
  11. If not using a rack, place a kitchen towel in the water bath to line the bottom of the pot. Carefully place jars on top of towel or rack. Return water to a boil and process for 10 minutes.
  12. Remove jars and place on a towel to sit undisturbed for 12 hours. Check to make sure the cooled lids are sealed (no movement of the lid “button”). Remove bands and store up to a year.*

*if jars don’t seal, you can store them in the refrigerator

Happy Pickling!

 

 

Coconut cherry granola 

Granola is fantastic, especially quality granola. Yet, for whatever reason, it is one of the most expensive things to buy and the cheapest thing to make. It probably has something to do with being the iconic foodstuff of homesteading life (have you ever been labeled “crunchy” or “granola”?). Sometimes, as frugal as we try to be, we can be suckers for a locally made label. No more!

The other day, I was thinking how I didn’t have enough snacks in the house. I knew I’d be whipping up a batch of Homemade Laura Bars in the near future (watch for that post), but that day’s project was to be some fancy granola.


And so I went to the cabinet to start my kitchen sink method that is granola making, and came up with this lovely Coconut Cherry Granola recipe, filled with 3 types of grain, seeds, and dried fruit.

If you are missing any ingredients feel free to follow my amazon affiliate links. If you choose to purchase, I get a small commission to help run my site at no cost to you.

Ingredients:

 

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F
  2. Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl
  3. Warm the coconut oil and brown rice syrup in a Pyrex measuring cup or other microwave save bowl
  4. Drizzle in warmed mixture, taking breaks to stir (be sure to mix thoroughly, or the small seeds and grains will fall to the bottom and not be incorporated)
  5. Line a baking pan with parchment paper
  6. Pour mixture into prepared pan and use another sheet of parchment paper (or oiled hands/spatula) to compact firmly
  7. Bake for 20 minutes
  8. Remove from oven and press again with a spatula before setting pan aside to cool for a 10 minutes
  9. Lift parchment paper out of pan and place on a cooling rack, cooling until room-temp
  10. Break up the granola and store in a air-tight container.

*Substitutions for brown rice syrup include local honey, maple syrup, or other liquid sweeteners. Note, the flavor will be different.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy this and any other granola, is taking sliced apples spread with peanut butter, and dipping them into the granola crumbles.

Enjoy!

At War with the Ants

Today was a garden day. When you live in an apartment complex, gardening past your porch takes some creativity. Luckily, I am a part of a local community garden that I helped build in the past, so I do get some in-ground gardening space and a compost bin.

Compost was a big part of my visit. My garden is pretty plant it and leave it, with a thick layer of mulch and a sprinkler system. I have a container I put my compost in with a carbon filter on the top to hold my scraps, and when it is full (or to be honest, moldy) I take it off to the bin.


This is my community garden. I am very fortunate to have multiple spigots, seeds, and community produce at my disposal. My plot is in the far back, conveniently close to the greenhouse.

Although growing up in Hawai’i had its advantages (like year round gardening), I do love being able to grow cool weather crops and being forced to let my soil rest once a year. But, there is one thing I do miss about Hawai’i, a lack of fire ants in my garden.

I have been having a big problem with ants in my bed. When I revitalized my plot a few months ago, I literally shoveled out a colony into the woods. Now, the problem is less severe, but I have to keep them from coming from other plots or the grass. In an organic garden far from your house, it can be especially hard to fight the ants.

Pouring boiling water is hard when you don’t have an outlet or stove near by. Pesticides won’t do either. For my solution, I turn to the laundry room. When ants get bad, I mix 1 part sugar, 1 part borax to spread around my garden.

 

Borax is a natural substance, but is toxic to ants when ingested. The sugar attracts the ants, and they come out to take the mix back to the colony. Here you can see right after sprinkling there are already some takers (not fire ants, but still ants hurting my plants).

 

 

 

 

Here is my plot with the border of the borax/sugar mix. After spreading a good perimeter of the mix (my ants are usually only an issue around the brick border of my plot, I was able to begin harvesting some garden treats.

.

We are verging on full blown cucumber season here in North Carolina. The scattered plants among the plots are pumping out cukes. Although my plant only had one to offer me, the community plots helped give me a more hefty harvest.

 

 

From one…

to four!

 

 

 

After a quick look at the community fruit, I saw the figs were finally ready! I picked all the (mostly) ripe figs I could see to let ripen on the counter. (The truly ripe ones are always eaten by the birds.)

Not a bad day in the garden, fought with ants, got a good harvest, and got out before the North Carolina sun began to beat down its July heat. If the borax doesn’t do the trick, I’ll try some Diatomaceous Earth next. What have you done to combat ants in your garden?

When Quitting Is the Answer: The Snake Terrarium

After you invest in something, it can be hard to jump ship, even if there is a far better option lying right under your nose. But even if you are out some materials and time, sometimes it is better to re-purpose those items and do yourself a favor: choose the easy road.

My apartment is a very animal friendly space. Meet the critters: Sherlock is a 1.5 year old Ball Python who be-stills my heart with his yawns and tongue flicks.


 

Hilina’i and Ginger are my playful rats who when not begging for treats or going on coffee shop outings are probably on their wheel, constantly reminding me of their presence.

I am currently out a foster cat since my last was adopted, but soon another feline will be on the prowl in my apartment as I work to get him or her into a forever home.

All of my critters are post worthy, Sherlock the snake and his living space will be the focus here. It is time for him to begin moving on up in the tank department, his old tank will not cut it when he fleshes out to his three foot glory.

I have been looking into building him a big terrarium for a while now, but massive fish tanks are just too expensive to buy new, and on a part time budget caring for myself, my car, and the critters, I can’t afford to spend a fortune on something I could make cheaply from a cabinet and some glass. So, I did my homework, picked up a $10 metal shelf unit at the thrift store (I have an irrational fear that my below tank heating pads will set wood on fire), $20 worth of glass and a glass cutter at Home Depot, and got to work. I cut the glass, taped up the sides, and tested the doors. YES! they slid.

Now I just had to find some snake safe paint. That, my friends, was a internet nightmare. Every time I went to find what would be safe, it would either a) be out of production, b) not work on metal, or c) be crazy expensive. Looking at the browsers were giving me a headache. Then I had ventilation to worry about, and how to make it accessible for the clumsiest snake on the plant. So I had the project sit on my floor for days, untouched.

Then, by chance, I was at the Scrap Exchange (only the best store in Durham), when there I saw it. The solution to all of my problems for $15. The only issue, I would have to scrap all the work I had done up to that point. There, on the warehouse floor, was a giant 4 ft by 18 in 55 gallon fish tank. Instead of construction, and fumes, and fear for my snake, I could just leave with this, buy a prefab lid online, add clips, and be done.

Any rational bystander would tell you the obvious, get the tank. But anyone who has ever built something, attempted to cook something in the kitchen, or even tried in vain to craft knows how hard is to give up if you have been putting hours into something else (no matter how failed or difficult it may be) it can feel like there isn’t even the option of quitting.

The truth, you can. I allowed myself to quit my first attempt, and Sherlock gets to live in a huge new space, instead of waiting weeks. My metal shelf is now incorporated into my reading nook, and the float glass is awaiting my kiln projects. In the homesteading/DIY world, there is one lesson that must be learned before any headway will be made, if there is truly a better option, it is okay to quit.

Now here is Sherlock in the garden:

 

And So It Begins

Here we are, my new blog.

It has been a while since I’ve ventured into the blogger-sphere. Years ago in my Hawaii hometown I kept a blog on my garden at called “My Kailua Garden” and another on recipes crafts at “Kreative in Kailua”, but college and health issues got in the way of those ventures.

That is not to say I have been sitting idle in the least, I have been arm deep in the dirt and homestead activities since, I just haven’t written it down. I’ll be combining my old content and finally getting to writing some new posts.


I missed blogging, so now, as I go to school in Durham, NC, I’m ready to help others with small spaces and busy schedules to get back to mother earth and start homesteading. Like the cucumbers above, I am excited to grow out this venture, and hope you are excited to journey with me.

For more on me, don’t forget to swing by the about me page.

Spring Cleaning

Hey all!
Last week I was finally able to go in an rejuvenate my suffering garden (and my school stressed self). You’ve gotta love SPRING BREAK 😀
After the hard rain we had been having+my slight procrastination of garden upkeep, I had a ton of greens to harvest, grass to pull, old plants to pull up (it always makes me sad to see them go, but excited to see what will go in their place), and seedlings to transplant. Phew! Still, I love it!

All the arugula (this is a full sized towel!)

 

This is after the arugula harvest.

I went out one day and just harvested arugula (from a one foot square) and was up to my ears in the green stuff (My mom is in love with it, no complaints from her side). I ended up with three Safeway bags of the stuff.
*Important tip: when harvesting, use the towel to also COVER or SHADE your greens. I went inside and a bunch of my harvest was wilting at the bottom. I had to race to get it in bags with a damp paper towel and into the fridge.
Cut leaves + sun = :/

All of this from one cutting!!! I was stunned.

Then I went in to tackle some of the neighboring square. It was (and still is) full to bursting with Burpee’s Chop Suey Mix (look behind the harvested arugula to see it before any harvest). I just think of them as the purpose salad/stir-fry square. I only had one Kale plant in the square foot, but the leaves I harvested were enough to make a full gallon freezer bag of spicy Mexican kale chips 🙂

On another venture to the garden I continued to harvest from my stir-fry square. Wheedling through to cut out my tender bok-choy and Chinese cabbage. I can’t wait to have it stir fried with plum sauce. (I think that will be on the menu as tonight’s vegetable. hmmm…..)

The next day I went into my stir fry square, scissors in hand, towel at the ready. I needed to harvest some of the dominant green from the square (I don’t remember what it’s called so don’t ask. If you know, please share 🙂
After a full session of harvesting, I only really shaved a bit off the top (Round 2 this weekend!) Look What I ended up with! I needed to harvest more, but couldn’t fathom that I would use it if any more than this. This pile on my counter was over half a foot high! (Still, the torn off leaves are great in salad, and with stems they shine in stir fry. Easy to eat)

After all of my greens harvesting, I decided to make salad mixes for some of my friends to get it off my hands. I went out and picked some beet and radish greens, divided my mountain of arugula, mystery green, and separated it all into 4 very full Safeway bags. Three of my neighbors found themselves with a wonderful salad base, and we got a huge bag as well. (Though with all that is still in the garden I probably could have given away all 4 and harvested another for our salad….) Ours of course had extra arugula for my mom.

Not only did I Harvest all of this wonder, my Pineapples are growing!!!!!! Look! I never knew that they make flowers on their eyes (the body spikes), so pretty!

I also pulled up my cucumbers after a successful season of pickling and salads. In my next post I’ll show you all the fun things I put in their place 😉

Thanks for reading!

My Harvest

Here was the bountiful harvest I came home to after a long three days being a PCCS at Girl Scout Camp and chasing around a hyper hoard of Brownies.
From clock-wise from top left I gathered:

Adult arugula leaves
Hericot Vert
Some Asian greens from a Burpee Chop-suey Mix
Baby arugula (my mom’s favorite)
A yellow zuchinni
4 pickling cucumbers

I am super excited to see my cucumbers growing (due to my unfortunate attempts before, they turned orange…..)
Better yet, this week’s new recipe will definitely be pickles. I will post my results on my other blog in the near future 🙂
As for the zucchini, I get to harvest some of his friends today, and I ate him for lunch cut with a portabella mushroom and some cherry tomatoes heated with some spices, a little non-stick spray, and salt on the stove-top. Mmmmmmm….


Until next time,
Keep up the gardening!

First Zucchini

Burpee Yellow Zucchini

Yay! The first of many. I cut it a little late, so it is a touch too big. Other than that its beautiful. I cut it off the plant this morning, and will slice/grate it into tonight’s salad. MMMMMM!

Soon there will be enough blossoms to harvest along with the squash! I am so excited to play around with them in the kitchen. If I do anything fun I’ll be sure to post it.

What’s Growing On?

 Recently I went to Koolau Farmers and bought some herbs as well as some mite spray.
Growing I have rosemerry, mint, and a potted lemon tree.
Also growing I have:
Cucumbers-
I am growing a pickling type and a burpless slicing type (Burpee). So far both have their attributes. The pickling is shooting off with blinding speed, but only one of the seeds I planted germinated (of 8). The slicing takes longer to sprout, but of the 8 seeds I planted, 3 plants popped up. No word on taste yet.
Arrugala-
still little sproutlings
Mixed greens-
also sproutlings
Beets-
Only 3 are groing right now as sproutlings because my cat decided to nap on top of them. (see other post on the cat)
Zuchinni Yellow (Burpee)-
taking off at breakneck speed. Already sporting beautiful blossoms (the males soon to be stuffed and baked mmmmm…)
Zuchini (Burpee)-
still growing to full size, haven’yt put out blossoms yet
Green Beans-
all still trying to reach the trellis. I hope they’ll take off soon, I guess patience is an important part of gardening
Carrots/radishes-
still sleeping in the dirt
Lima beans-
I cut the stalks off at the roots. Now I am just drying out the vine and attatched beans so I can bag it up, hit it with a tennis raquet, and collect the dried beans (I’ll be sure to post on theat event!)
My Eggplant Tree from Frankies Nursury (grafted jap. eggplant to a tree relative)-
Growing 2 eggplants right now 🙂

Kitty-Cat Troubles

My adorable cat Snowflake thinks she can help me in the garden. As wonderful as it is to find all of your beet seedlings uprooted, tilled, and refurbished as a napping spot, I decided Snowflake was not allowed in the garden. My solution (if it is really effective I will be sure to comment) is cheap and hopefully efficient. Also bamboo is a very sustainable material, and wont leach any weird chemicals into the soil. The answer: bamboo skewers. I put them up like a picket fence around my raised garden close together. My cat has been hopping up onto the edge of the garden to enter. My thought is that she wont want to jump through the barrier, and that it would be too high to be convenient for her to jump it. Instead she can sunbathe in the dirt behind the garden.

^ my “fence” and in the background, the culprit ^