Monday, August 22, 2011

Aunt Ella's Cucumber Chip Pickles

I'm pleased to say that I have been able to squeeze out a few jars of pickles from my hoop house cucumbers. Having never successfully grown cukes in San Francisco, I am beside myself with glee that I have put up a whole four jars of pickles. There should be plenty more to come if the powdery mildew stays at bay.

Every year, my great aunt Ella would make thickly sliced sweet pickles for her husband Walter, brother to my grandfather and fellow dairy farming Swiss immigrant. Apparently, uncle Walter couldn't live without them. My mother would occasionally spend a week with Ella and Walter during the summer. On one of her visits, she learned to make these relish tray delights.

Aunt Ella's Cucumber Chip Pickles

Put 12-15 large, whole cucumbers in a crock. Pour boiling water over them every day for three days. Drain each day before adding new batch of boiling water.

On the fourth day, slice cucumbers into 1/2" thick slices and pour over them a boiling syrup made of
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 4 cups cider vinegar
  • 5 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. pickling spices

Let stand two days. Drain syrup and bring to a boil. Pack jars with cucumber slices and pour boiling syrup over cukes. Process in water bath for 15 minutes.

I know the five day thing sounds like a chore, but these pickles are really very simple to make.  Don't let the lengthy soaking time dissuade you from trying to whip up a batch. What I love most about these pickles is that they remain crunchy due to the thick slices. They are super tasty too, but then I've always been a sucker for a sweet pickle.

A few years back, my mother made a book for me and my siblings with all of my grandmother's favorite recipes. The cucumber chip pickle was among them. Not only does the recipe book catalog the things my grammy liked to cook, it also contains little remembrances and thoughts that my mother included. I especially like what my mother had to say after Aunt Ella's pickle recipe.
There is really nothing that compares to a homemade pickle. I think it is a lost art. Most of us are too busy to garden, much less can or preserve the produce. I stopped in 1978 or 1979 - just got too busy with the activities of kids. I have started to make the lime sweets again - out of desperation to make good potato salad, egg salad, etc.

I love you mom. Thank you for all that you've passed on to me, particularly the ability to make a decent pickle.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Shaping Up the Ship: Household Chores

Sorry about the absence of postings. I was on vacation exploring my great state and when I returned I needed to re-domestify myself and get my daughter ready for school. So I guess what I'm saying is that I wanted to write, but have been busy.

Since my return, I've been trying to find ways to get the house and farm in order. I've heard a lot of fellow homesteaders comment recently that their homes go to pot, while their gardens look gorgeous and well maintained. My husband was raised in a military family so there is no way for me to run too sloppy of a ship. Not that I don't at times. Those who know me know that I am a clutter bug of the highest order - not quite on par with Hoarders, but definitely attached to my many possessions that often find themselves scattered and piled in every free corner. Let's just say that when things get that out of hand, marital relations become strained.

In order to keep my marriage harmonious, I am focusing on getting the things that need the most maintenance and organization on track: the house, the farm, and the finances. My first project is developing a system of chores for the living areas of the home. When the house is tidy, folks around here seem to be in calmer moods. I like that.

Unfortunately, I'm not the type of gal that looks around and says "Wow, that's messy/dirty. I better clean it up." No, I'm more like a 10 year old who needs the chores listed on a giant wall chart big enough to smack you in the face when you walk by. I also work well with pretty things. We all have our shortcomings in this world. I suppose I'm lucky enough to know what mine are.

So that's what I did. I made an enormous, colorful, felt wall hanging for the kitchen door. There's no way I can NOT see this thing.

I started by listing all of the tasks that need to get done around the house and dividing them into two lists, things that need to get done everyday and things that need to get done once a week. I then assigned chores to specific days based on what my weekly schedule is like. All of the tasks were written out in various decorative fonts, printed on colored paper - each day having a different color, and then laminated. I cut the tasks out, attached velcro to the backs of the laminated cut outs, and the other half of the velcro to the felt wall hanging. I made a "done" pocket that is safety pinned to the bottom of the chart so that when a chore is completed for the day or week, you can put it in the pocket. I figured this would be something that maybe my daughter might even like doing. There's nothing more satisfying than physically removing something from your to do list and making it disappear. Even if it is only temporary.

I kind of feel like Martha Stewart on speed with this project. It's a bit over the top. But in case any of you are interested in making your own chore chart like this and joining me in being a cracked out housewife, I'll share my task list and a few tips that I've learned through the process.

  1. Don't try to do too many things in one day. You'll never do it and feel like a failure when you see half your tasks still hanging on the wall.
  2. Be flexible. If your chart isn't working out with your schedule, rearrange the tasks so that you can fit them into your day.
  3. Perfectionism is for the birds. Sometimes you won't get stuff done. Do it tomorrow or next week. No one will know anyway, as your house is probably pretty tidy now that you're cleaning on a regular basis.
  4. Spend only 5-10 minutes on a task. Taking 30 minutes to mop your floor will only mean that you won't do it again for a very, very long time.
  5. When gluing velcro to felt, don't use a glue gun. I know it sounds like a good idea, but that stuff peels off both the velcro and the lamination. I found this out the hard way. Then I switched to GemTac, a flexible glue with a strong bond. So far it is working. You could also sew the velcro on, which would probably be the most sturdy.
My Master Chore List

  • 1 load of laundry 
  • make beds
  • wipe toilet and bathroom sink 
  • wash dishes and kitchen sink
  • wipe stove and dining table
  • sweep floors
  • pick up before bed
  • change sheets
  • clean bedside tables
  • clean tops of dressers
  • mop bedroom floor
  • bills
  • grocery shop
  • put videos away
  • dust living room
  • mop living room and hall
  • clean car
  • sweep front steps
  • scrub toilet
  • clean mirrors in bathroom
  • clean bathroom sink and tub
  • scrub bathroom floor
  • post office
  • clean and sort desk area
  • clean dining chairs
  • declutter and clean dining table
  • clean purse
  • pick up meat and vegetable CSA
  • clean stove
  • wipe down all kitchen counters
  • mop kitchen and dining floor
  • library
  • A chore-free day!!!!
  • take out trash/compost/recycling
  • clean out refrigerator
  • empty bathroom trash
  • clean cat box area
  • toss old fruit and veggies in bowls on buffet and wipe down
So far, this program is keeping our living spaces fairly neat and tidy. I'm far from being a freak about it. And of course, I don't do all of the chores everyday. Whatever. No one's perfect, right? Sometimes other members of the family pitch in. Sometimes things just don't get done. I'm hoping the chart will inspire more participation from everyone if they see tasks need doing. Any of you out there have tips for staying on top of the household duties? Stay tuned for parts two and three where I will discuss organizing farm duties and finances.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone