Friday, July 30, 2010

How to Make Pickles

Since I have had a couple of requests for a pickles tutorial - here it is! Hope you find it useful, and please feel free to ask questions about anything that isn't clear. :^)

Before you begin: Wash thouroughly as many glass jars as you think you will need. They can be quart or pint size. Wide mouth jars work the best for pickles. Make sure you have enough lids and rings to match.

Tools that make things alot easier: Magnetic lid lifter, jar funnel, jar lifter

Now, wash your cucumbers. If they are small enough, you can leave them whole, or you may want to chop them into slices or spears.

 In earch quart size jar place:
-1 tablespoon of dill seed
 -About 2 tablespoons of fresh dill weed (if available)
-1 tablespoon salt 
-1 tablespoon chopped garlic (optional)
-1 or 2 washed grape vine leaves (optional - helps keep pickles crisp)

Pack the cucumbers tightly into the jars. Don't be afraid to really squeeze them down and fit as many in as possible. Just make sure you don't have any sticking slightly up over the top. :^)

Spread out a dry towel on a clean work surface and place all of the jars spaced a little apart from each other on the towel.

Now - count up how many jars of cucumbers you have. You will need half as much liquid as you have jars. So - if you have 16 quart jars, you need to make 8 quarts of brine.

The brine needs to be 2/3 vinegar and 1/3 water.
So, for 8 quarts of brine that would be 5 1/3 quarts vinegar and 2 2/3 quarts water

For homeschool moms who wish for the exact formula :

Vinegar: 2/3 x 8 quarts/1 = 16/3 (divide bottom into top and you get 5 1/3 quarts of vinegar)
Water: 1/3 x 8 quarts/1 = 8/3 which equals 2 2/3 quarts water 

Mix the brine in a pan on the stovetop and bring to a rolling boil.

Also place your clean lids and rings into a saucepan of water and bring to a boil.

When the brine is has been boiling for at least a minute, take it off the heat and place it near your jars. Take the sauce pan with the lids off the heat as well. You have to work rather fast here because you don't want everything to cool off. (but be extremely careful! you can get burned) Dip a glass measuring cup into the brine and begin filling the jars within about 1/4" of the top edge of the jar. Place the funnel over the jar you a filling. Fill all the jars, and then wipe the round glass top edge of the jar with a clean, damp cloth. (you don't want any water droplets or bits of dill to get in the way of the seal)

You can use a dry towel to grasp the hot jars as you place a lid and ring on each and screw down tightly. (use the magnetic lid lifter to get the lids out of the boiling water) Turn each jar upside down on the towel and let cool about 30 minutes. Then turn right-side up. To test if your jars have sealed press on the middle of  the lid. If it pops up and down, it is not sealed. If it is curved downward slightly towards the middle and does not pop when pressed, it is sealed.

You can either store unsealed jars in the fridge, or you can waterbath them to seal. To water bath, place the unsealed jars in a canner or large pot and fill with water to just over the jars. Boil for about ten minutes. Use the jar lifter to remove from the boiling water and let cool.

Remove rings from sealed jars and admire your lovely pickles! Store in the pantry for about two weeks before eating. Yum!

The Princess and the Frog

Once upon a time...

There was a mini impromptu photo shoot with my sister and her toad named 'Little Lucy'.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Fabric! ...and dress idea

This week a dear friend came by for a catch-up visit. It was just lovely, and we had a nice luncheon of chicken (okay, turkey) salad and spinach and strawberry salad with lime dressing! Good thing the boys were gone to work. They despise those types of 'girly' meals.

Anyway - our friend brought me a bundle of fabric from her stash that she wasn't using. 14 yards of scrumptious cotton in a blue/brown print. I know it's not reproduction, but I'm thinking it's close enough to pass for 1860s. What do you think?

Blue and brown/neutral are my favorite color combinations for fabric!

My hand, for scale

What if....I trimmed the skirt with bands of solid blue? And perhaps the bodice as well? Just to brighten things up a bit? A blue grosgrain belt would look lovely too.....

A sketch of my basic thought for the dress. Since Mom has apparently taken over wearing rights of my red striped dress, I need a new everday dress that can variate between washing dishes and strolling in town. I'm thinking non-hoop length skirt with slim coat sleeves and a conservative tucked front bodice with a fitted back bodice. You like?

I'm so excited! I haven't done any 1860s sewing all summer - and I miss it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer at the Ranch

What have we been up to here at the ranch?
Our garden has been rather slow this year - but we are harvesting a nice bunch of cucumbers. And kind friends have shared so much wonderful produce in the past few weeks - we've been hopping trying to get it all stored away, preserved, pickled, dryed, sliced or whatnot. :^)

Chopping up cucumber spears and garlic

Packing the jars with cucumbers, dill seed (saved from last year) and salt

All ready for the brine!

In the draw behind our house is a rather large thicket of wild plum bushes! With all the rain we have had this year, it's been an amazing crop. We've already been to pick four times, and plan to go again tomorrow!

The plum thicket is quite prickly and crowded - so it's often quite an ordeal to pick plums. Especially when one must constantly be on the look-out for wasps, rattlesnakes, and wild hogs. Eek!

The plums are about the size of a large walnut. Quite tart usually but with a delicuous sweetness of flavor. Guiltily I shall admit that I probably eat as many as I pick!

My 5-gallon bucket about 3/4 full of lovely plums.
We always make plum jelly which turns a beautiful bright red color - quite delicous on homemade bisquits! We also use much less sugar than the recipe calls for - we like to keep a bit of the tartness. :^)

This week we've been doing peaches too. More peaches than I have ever seen! My right hand was so cramped from peeling and slicing that I was afraid it was going to stiffen up. *whew* thankfully we have all of them put away in the freezer  now, awating their fate as pies and cobblers. :^) We made jelly from the peach peels. Yum!

Yesterday was corn-day. Now it's all sliced off and in bags in the freezer.

Today it's apples. 3 big boxes of apples. I think we are going to dehydrate most of them. Should prove interesting.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Historical Costume Inspiration Festival Update

A polyvore banner to celebrate the upcoming Historical Costume Inspiration Festival! I am quite new to polyvore, and have been having tons of fun with this! What do you think? Feel free to share it on your blog to let others know about the festival! If you haven't yet heard of this event, go here to read more! I had a few people comment with questions, so I thought I would address them, and add some of my own:

- You don't have to do a thread-by-thread reproduction to enter. As long as your costume item is inspired by something (it can be specific inspiration(s), or a vague theme - up to you!) it will work!

-Individual items such as a bonnet, a corset, or a shawl can be entered too, not just complete dresses/ensembles.

- Mens/boys clothing can also be entered. I've made some fun costumes for my brothers over the years, and I'm thinking about sharing some of them with you all during the festival!

- If you plan on entering, or if you just want to help spread the word, please grab one of the buttons to be found here and place it on your blog sidebar (with a link to the original post).

If you have any further comments, questions, or concerns, please feel free to let me know and I will be glad to address them!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Review: Adam Bede by George Elliot

I was surprised by how much I liked this book. It is a profoundly thought-provoking, yet simple story, set at the turn of the century in Regency England. The characters are all very real - not at all 'smoothed out' or glorified at all. The plot moves slowly, but it matches the slow-moving working life of the setting. Sleepy farms and villiages populated with common people - who prove not-so-common on closer inspection. The story is quite gripping, though. As I neared the climax, I just couldn't put it down. One of the things I came to think about most was how one tiny action by one character can have a life changing effect on the life on another, and how we must be so careful to make sure we are on the right path before we run forward.
Anyhow - I highly reccommend this to fans of historical novels and period dramas.

Main Characters:

Adam Bede - a talented and intelligent young carpenter who is well respected for his honesty and strength of character and opinions. Can often be a bit too stubborn and harsh. In love with Hetty.

Hetty Sorrel - a farm girl of uncommon beauty whose vanity and thoughtlessness causes more greif than she ever could have imagined.
Arthur Donnithorne - grandson of the local Squire and captain in the milita. A gentleman of 20 who is well liked and admired by all the tentants for his cheerful character and genuine concern for their welfare. His worst faults are self-indulgence and a wavering conscience.
Seth Bede - Adam's younger brother. Strong and gentle. In love with Dinah.

Dinah Morris - a deeply religious and selfless young woman who is a comfortor to all she meets. Determined not to marry so she can devote her life to the Lord's work.

I read Elliot's 'Silas Marner' several years ago, and found it quite good too. Has anyone every seen the BBC versions of either Adam Bede or Silas Marner? I am quite curious to see them now. :^)

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Perfect Regency Photoshoot

This week my dear friend Rebecca has been visting! We had planned on being very productive and getting ever so many sewing projects done - but alas. It was not to be. Instead we decided to do a Regency photoshoot. And for that, of course, one must have curls.

So - here we are late at night rolling each curl up in a rag. (old pieces of hose)

ta-da! In the morning curls appear! I went for a slightly Marie-Antoinette-ish look, and with Rebecca a sweet simple twist with curls cascading down each side.

We were blessed to have the perfect photographic light outside. Bright white cloudy light with just a touch of a breeze. It was excellent weather for photos!

This one reminded me of  Elinor and Marianne

Oh dear! Marianne has sprained her ankle!

In the garden...

Pondering wildflowers...

A rather ghostly Wuthering-Heights-ish photo.

...the improvement of her mind by extensive reading. (P&P chapter 8)

Rebecca is wearing the pink linen dress I mentioned before. Doesn't she look lovely?

I wore the white sheer dress with a black ribbon and locket, accessorized with a hot-pink ribbon sash and a hairflower.

Rebecca has also posted pictures at her blog!

Quite a perfectly perfect Regency day, wouldn't you say?


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