I’m kind of a dill pickle snob. Well, no. I should own it. I am a dill pickle snob. Always have been – ask my mother. And those sweet pickle things people eat? Ick. So, imagine my hesitation when my outdoor cucumber plants that folks said would never grow in Alaska started to produce lots of little baby pickling cukes. What do I do with these now? Make pickles? But they will be gross? The horror!
I decided to take a stab at a simple dill pickle recipe and lo and behold – it’s awesome. We broke into the first of many jars a few weeks ago and they are super delicious. And this is coming from me. Me! The pickle snob!
- Wash and scrub the little nubs from your tiny cukes and set aside. Make sure of course to remove all blossoms from the cuke – it will cause gross stuff to happen later.
- Clean and sterilize a jar the appropriate size for your pickles (lots of little jelly jars this year as this is about the amount of what was available at once in the garden.) ** Pickling cucumbers larger than your thumb will begin to get bitter – pick when smaller.
- Husk and smash 2 cloves of garlic and add lots of dill from the garden – add dried or fresh peppers as per your preferance
- Pack all into the jar of your choice.
On the stove, bring to boil: 1 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1 1/2 TB pickling salt. Remove from heat as soon as it boils, and pour into your jar (you can of course cut the recipe in half or add other complicated math depending on how much solution you need). Immediately cap the jar and set on the counter. The top should pop within a few hours and voila! Your jar is sealed and your pickles are good for the next few months. I would advise letting them sit for 2-3 weeks before you break in, just to make sure they absorb that delicious dilly and garlicky goodness. Refrigerate after opening. Stuff face. Repeat.
It has been a fabulous season, not only our own little urban garden, but for Alaskan gardeners in general. The weather has been amazeballs, which is producing amazeball veg at great prices from the farmers market. But of course, all good things must come to an end at some point…and last night that meant I was a panicked picker using the light from my iPhone and a headlamp to pull the green tomatoes from our hanging planters and bring the large pots inside…..there was a freeze warning. I had been tempting fate the previous 3 nights as people threw around terms like “frost” and “harvest” and “do it, really, or you’ll be sorry.” But when measuring the level of heartbreak and waste my little attitude could cause me, I decided it was do or die, and raided the garden at 10pm after orchestra rehearsal (that’s what you do, right?)
These little beauties just came from the 4 hanging plants and will slowly counter ripen on their own. We will use them as they are ready. The additional free potted toms have been moved into the Living Room Tomato Spa to ripen on the vine. Many are close and have a few starting to turn – the warmer temps should help that along. And it’s funny to look at the dog through all the foliage – she looks like some sleek little carrot eating jungle cat. Or something.
But of course there is always a little dish of partially ripe orphans on the counter throughout the summer. Things get bumped, or the wind kicks up…or those stupid magpies get a little crazy…I just love the colors. Without sounding sappy and sentimental, isn’t nature pretty? And of course, delicious too.
I have a confession. I’ve never really liked ice tea. There. I said it. There’s just something about it that has put me off for most of my life. Maybe because the stuff you buy at the store is full of sugar and chemicals? Even hot tea tends to be off putting for me…probably because I willingly put sugar in that and then immediately get heartburn. (My guts are jerks and hate sugar). However, with that all said, I can get behind some peppermint tea when the burn gets good, because as we all know, mint is good for those kinds of things.
So, if I hate tea, how did I end up making suntea and loving it? I’m so glad you asked.
Last year we grew mint in the garden and it gave us a bumper crop. I dried what was left when winter was upon us and figured I would do something with it at some point. Fast forward about a year, add a cool refreshing looking photo on instagram, and a lofty plan to kick my coffee habit (yeah, we’re still working on that), and I was digging jars out of the cupboard. I tossed 3 bags of humble Costco brand green tea in the jar with a handful of dried mint leaves, and let mama nature do her thing for the day. The result? Delicious. I’m getting the caffeine my body insists it needs and the mint is refreshing and makes my guts happy. Add a lemon slice or two to your glass and now you’ve got a swanky, pinkies up kinda drink that I can get behind.
I have managed to replace my late morning/afternoon/anytime really coffee with the tea and it’s been great. Now we just need to get rid of that full pot of the brown stuff early in the morning….
Summer has officially arrived in Anchorage…and it’s making up for lost time or something because it is HOT. I know 80* to other folks doesn’t seem bad, but to us, it’s a bit like Hell and the surface of the sun all rolled into one, sad, sweaty, ball. However, while we slowly die in a pool of something gross, the plants couldn’t be happier.
The plants at the shop are loving life and throwing fruit like no other. According to the thermostat, it’s getting into the 90’s in there at night and they are thinking it’s great. This was my first year with the minibel tomatoes and I’m already quite pleased with their production. The plant will grow no bigger than a small bush and doesn’t require support. Of course we have yet to see how these taste, but so far it’s a winner.
The filius pepper was also another first for this year. Another small bush plant great for small spaces and urban gardens it will produce crazy hot peppers for over a year. When the peppers first form they are out of this world hot, but cool down when they turn from purple to red. Several of these plants are growing and all of them are loaded.
Remember Audrey the giant tomato from last year? I think the title has been taken by this cabbage. Though I have 6 growing, this is by far the largest and happiest. Can’t wait to see how big it gets!
The first french radish harvest happened in the garden just before the heat hit. I had never been a fan of radishes – admittedly I hadn’t put one in my mouth in probably 20 years – but gave these a try and they are awesome!! The husband now has to fight me for his share as I initially grew them for him… The first zucchini is finally showing itself and the cayenne peppers should be ripening to red any day now. Loving all the green!
Garden containers are expensive! And I’m not even talking about the nice Ming dynasty rip off ceramic pots. All of them! Why not scour your local thrift stores for cheap household items that not only become functional food and plant producers, but also become a stylish conversation starter?
Sure, fresh basil in your kitchen is awesome. But basil in a coffee pot is super cute as well as functional.
Many fruit producing plants can be grown in containers and most don’t need to be as big as you think. This Filius Pepper plant is going to do just fine in this blender carafe. And it cost .33c. I’m not even kidding.
Every time I go to a thrift store I see matching canisters for flour, sugar, etc and I finally grabbed a coffee canister last week. Again, .33c. And with $1 worth of seeds we will be in cilantro for months.
Save the giant cans from tomatoes (people love it when you grow tomatoes in a tomato can) and coffee. Add some pebbles for drainage and bam! You’re ready to get your garden on.
We haven’t had much of a winter up here in Alaska. In fact, we have been steadily warmer and more pleasant winters here in Anchorage than most of the country for the past 2 seasons. This leaves me in a weird mood re: this season’s garden. I know I should have had things starting weeks ago but since it never really felt like winter, it doesn’t really feel like it’s time to grow stuff. But after requesting some tough love from my Facebook friends, I finally got my ass in gear and started the tomatoes, peppers and some other goodies that require a bit more time.
The seed trays will hang out on my kitchen counter with heating pads and attention until they start to sprout, when they will be moved to my storefront windows which get a ton of light and great heat from the sun. Some of these plants will even spend the entire summer there – increasing our yield even more.
I went a little crazy ordering new things this year as our neighbors took down a crop of trees last year, vastly increasing our available light and growing space. I checked out Rare Seeds and promptly threw all of my money at them. Heirloom seeds and fabulously cool veggies to choose from. I can’t wait to see what we end up with.