Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Junque Food: MATERS!

We are heavily in the midst of canning season here at the micro-mini ranch.

So many things to can, so little time!

If you have the canning bug, than this scenario is very familiar to you:

I had between 7-10 gallon sized freezer bags of tomatoes in the freezer. Since tomatoes don't ripen all at the same time, it's necessary for me to freeze them for awhile until I have enough to do a canning session.  The hubster and I had planned on doing up the tomatoes this past Sunday.

And then I went to the Saturday morning Farmer's Market.

And bought another bushel of tomatoes.


I couldn't help it!! They were extremely affordable, and we were gonna be canning anyway!!!

BTW, if anyone wants to know how much a bushel of tomatoes is, it's about the equivalent of a paper grocery bag filled to the top.

With a zillion tomatoes.

And it's heavy.

When it was all said an done, By the end of Sunday night, we had canned 17 quarts of tomatoes That's QUARTS. not pints. it's a lot. See here:

I googled this image, and it came off kitchn.com's website, but the URL is from apartmenttherapy.com. I hope I've given all credit where it's due here.
In addition, I also processed and canned 4 quarts of pickled banana peppers.

I was pretty chuffed by the end of Sunday.

And sore.

And tired

More pics later.  LOL

Friday, September 14, 2012

Junque Yard: Wanna see my Pumpkins?

Last year's pumpkins were a smaller variety, and I had great success with growing them and making pumpkin puree for pies. They also produced the best seeds for roasting and eating.

My only complaint about them was that the rind was sooooo tough, I needed a chain saw to cut through them.

Ok, that might have been a slight exageration.  However, I did have to call upon DaHubster to use his massive bulging biceps to help out his wife....

....ok, I'm back. Sorry, got lost in a fantasy for a minute there.  Heh.

This year I tried a different variety of pumpkin.  It was a variety I got from my "Seeds of the Month" club from Mike the Gardner Enterprises.

Don't judge me.

Anywhoo, I didn't realize that this variety of pumpkin grows to HUMONGOUS sizes.  I have a pumpkin that's too large for me to lift. It has to weigh over 40lbs.

Where's DaHubster? (drool)

This shot doesn't really show how massive it really is.  Those leaves could be worn as hats!
This dude is about 10lbs, and was hiding in a bunch of weeds.

this little dude is about 5 lbs.

this one is the smallest of the bunch, but it's a really pretty shape.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Junque Food: Lacto-Fermented Pickles

Hey Folks!

I've been on a quest to make REALLY GOOD dill pickles.

I've done the canning thing, and I don't care what recipe you bring me, any pickle that is water-bath canned (meaning heated up to process) SUCKS.

Don't give me that "alum" and "grape leaves" bull-crappy...if they get heated, they get soggy.

I hate soggy pickles.

Do you remember those old fashioned deli style pickles?  The ones that were in a crock on the top of a deli counter? I do.  Big, fat pickles that crunched, and were sour and garlicky, and your mouth would water just by looking at them?

Dang, I need a napkin.

Well, folks, the secret is out. Those really good, and CRUNCHY deli-style sour pickles were "lacto-fermented."  This means they are made the same way sauerkraut is made - but putting them into a brine of salt water and spices, covered and left to ferment for about a week.

I've made one successful batch, and before that a not so successful batch.This was partly because the recipe I used had the salt to water ratio too high, so I adjusted it the second time to much better results.

The other reason is because I, um, sort of forgot about them, and they sat in the brine for 3 weeks before I tasted them. So they were infinitely salty, and basically inedible.

Live and learn!

I printed out the recipe I used, but I didn't save the URL, so I can't give the author credit. I'm sorry.  If you happen on this recipe, and it's yours, please tell me and I will give you all the credit you deserve.

Sour Pickles

These are a favorite of many and a lot of people miss them when going on a Paleo diet, but the naturally lacto-fermented kind is perfectly healthy, curncy and sour. This version is flavoried with garlic and dill. Your garlic will too lacto-ferment and can be enjoyed afterwards as it will be packed with flavor.

  • 1 gallon (16 cups) picking cucumbers, unwaxed ( I didn't have a gallon of pickles, I just used what I had, which was probably 5-6 cups)
  • 2 bunches of fresh dill (I didn't have any fresh, so I used dried, and way more, about 5-6 heads)
  • 16 cloves garlic (I used about 8)
  • 3T pickling spices (peppercorns, mustard seeds, bay leaves, cloves) (I used all but the cloves)
  • 5 or 6 T of sea salt (I used 5)
  •  12 cups of water (distilled if possible, but it's not necessary. I have city water, and they came out just fine)


  1. Soak the cucumbers in cold water for a few hours, then scrub them thoroughly to prevent any mold from forming during the fermentation process. (I also cut the tips off the cukes so that they wouldn't be bitter)
  2. Place the cucumbers,  dill, garlic and spices in your fermentation jar and sprinkle a bit of sea salt as you go a long (I did not add any extra salt, only what was in the brine).
  3. Prepare the brine of 5T of sea salt to 8 cups (I raised that to 12) of water, making sure to stir well to dissolve the salt and fill the fermentation jar with the brine so it covers the cucumbers.
  4. cover the jar and place it in a warm spot in your kitchen and allow the cukes to ferment for 5 to 10 days.
  5. A good way to know when it's ready is to taste it during the fermentation process. It's ready when you are satisfied with the taste.

Ok, so let's talk about a few things:
  1. it's best to use a glass container or an old fashioned crock. Metal will interfere with the fermentation process. I did see (and will reference below) a YouTube video where the author used plastic containers, and he said his results were just fine. I'm not gonna get all up in your business about it. The important thing about the container you use is that you have to have a lid that covers well and makes the pickles stay under the water. In the olden days, hypothetical Grandma would put her pickles in a crock and cover it with a plate held down with a stone. I put mine in an old crock-pot crock and inverted the dome lid it came with to hold everything under the water. Worked like a charm.
  2. Once the pickles taste the way you want them to taste ( and mine did after 3 days, so please test early and often), you can move them from your fermenting container to a smaller one with just enough brine to cover, and then refrigerate them.  This will slow the fermenting process, and keep your pickles from getting moooooooshy.
  3. You cannot can these pickles. Well, I mean, you can, but that means heating them up, and they will get moooooooshy.  Just eat them.  And then make more.  Seriously. They are easy, healthy, and best of all TASTY! I took some into work with me last week, and got some pretty darn good reviews.
  4. In my picture above, I also added some banana peppers to see if they tasted good lacto-fermented. they got bitter, so I'm not recommending them
 Here are a couple of YouTube Vids that I watched when I was coming to grips with purposefully fermenting food items that I was going to eat:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Musings from the Junque Pile: Where the heck have you been?

It sure has been awhile, huh?  What the heck have I been doing with myself?

Well, I had a bad bout of bronchitis. Those of you who read my face book status, I didn't really have the bubonic plague, or SARS. Swine flu was iffy, and the doctors really did think I might have had whooping cough, but thankfully no.  Just bronchitis. But, finally I feel human again.

If I had a dime for every time I heard, "Hey. I thought with this new diet you're on, you are supposed to be healthier," I would be so rich right now.

So I got that going for me!


Anywhoo, I've also been enjoying the last of the summer weather. We've finally cooled down a little bit, and this last week has seen our area *FINALLY* get some decent rain.

I've been picking green beans like a mad fiend. We've been blanching them, then vacuum-sealing them for the freezer. It's nice, because I put a little pat of butter and my usual spices in there, and ZIP! off to the freezer they go! Ready to be boiled or steamed and ready for the dinner table.

I like that.

This week, I'll be posting pics of the garden, and a couple of recipes and things I've been working on the kitchen.

I'm ready for fall, and to getting back into writing again.

Go me!