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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pickle-Packing Mama

What with planting a cucumber called Marketmore, not thinning them out (I've had trouble with cucurbits this summer and didn't dare), and the generosity of (someone else's!) bees, we are up to our eyebrows in cucumbers this summer.  I still have a large colander full of cukes in various stages of growth on the table and have been making salads with the better ones and chopping the not so great ones into hunks for the girls, who think they've died and gone to heaven when I toss them into Hensdeep for them.

But since picking that veritable shit load, I've gotten wise to cucumbers: pick them when they are still tiny and make cornichons from them.  Sometimes, I'm not so on top of things in the cucumber department (I'm also picking and processing green beans and zucchini as well) and run across pickle-sized cucumbers, which get picked and turned into regular pickles.

All my recipes are coming from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich, a terrific book I've mentioned here and here.

Clockwise from the top left are: Lower East Side Full Sour Dills, Cornichons A Cru, and Hungarian Summer Pickles, By The Quart.

The green beans I'm processing are the lovely French filet beans that I love so much.  This year, I grew 'Denver' again, and trialed 'Vanguard' from Franchi seeds by way of Seeds From Italy, and I have to say that the Vanguard seem to be a much better bean.  I had better germination from them and the plants are more robust and prolific, as well as started producing sooner.  Vanguard is a very good name for them and I'll be sowing this bean again.  To process, I'm blanching them for only a minute and then shocking them in ice water** before stuffing them into labeled freezer bags. Then I stuff the freezer bags into a shoe box I keep in the freezer which kind of forces then into a shape that's easier to stack.  I'm excited about my green beans this year- they are going to be lovely to eat this winter.

The zucchini is another story: I love zucchini bread and have a great recipe to share with you, but I'm not baking any this summer.  That's because I don't bake in the summer.  In fact, I don't cook in the house at all in the summer, unless we're having a freak rain storm and the predicted high is in the seventies (like today)(we had enchiladas for dinner tonight- I'm not missing that opportunity). I read in my trusty MEN* that you can shred them (the zucchini, not the enchiladas) for zucchini bread and then freeze them, and then thaw them out later at bread baking time, so I've been shredding and freezing them three and a half cups at a time, which will make three loaves of zucchini bread.  So far I've frozen enough for thirty loaves, which at three and a half cups each is a lot easier to store than baked bread. I also like to substitute some of my potato with shredded zucchini when making latkes- the secret to that is to take a handful of shredded zucchini and s-q-u-e-e-z-e the living daylights out of it (pretend it's your ex-husband or bat-shit crazy ex-girlfriend- that kind of squeezing) before mixing it with the potato, et al.  After freezing, it might be too mushy for latkes- I'll have to report back on that for you. But three and a half cups fills a quart-sized freezer bag which I then flatten out on a cookie sheet to freeze, and those get stacked in the veggie bin once they're hard.

I'll report more of what's coming out of the garden this summer- the alliums will take a whole post by themselves.

*Mother Earth News
**I've found that a very good solution to not wanting to buy ice or waste tray ice is to float a couple of large blue-ice packs in the shock water- they don't melt as fast as regular ice and I can reuse them.
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