July 24, 2008

Pickles, Peaches and Perfect Days

I woke up this morning to an eerie silence. As I gathered my thoughts, a chorus of birds began chirping merrily and I had the feeling I might still be dreaming. After another minute or so, I got up and walked downstairs to investigate this unnatural silence that allowed singing birds to be heard so clearly from inside the house. More silence. What could it be? A power failure? I walked into the kitchen and cast an eye toward the thermometer, as is my morning habit, and was stunned at what I saw. The temperature in the house was 69 degrees . . . but the outside temperature was 66 degrees!!!! I ran to the door and threw it open! Indeed, a chorus of birds was singing and the heat pump was silent. I did a happy dance on the deck . . . at least in my mind, there was dancing. How could this be? It is not even my birthday yet and Mother Nature has delivered this wonderful gift of a cool, dry, clear day in July. I love Mother Nature!

Perhaps this glorious day is a reward for my efforts yesterday. I made pickles! Just the refrigerator kind, but still pickles. Kenny and Phyllis brought me a bunch of cucumbers this week and they just begged to be pickled . . . so I did it! And today, if I've still got a few peaches left from a bunch that Jeff and Gail picked over the weekend, I may pickle them too. No one likes pickled peaches, or spiced as they are sometimes called, except me, but what the heck. It was kind of fun, in a pioneer woman sort of way, so I may just continue to preserve summer's bounty for that day in the dead of winter when I'll reflect on a perfect summer day in July, when the weather was cool and dry.

Speaking of summer, I've been caught up in the whole summer vacation thing and neglected my blog postings for too long. In fact, I've had a "dry" period of my own as far as writing goes, but I should be back up to speed soon. Even the muses seem to take off in the summer it seems. There are food related items to share from my recent travels to Iowa and North Carolina. And in a few days, I'll have a column to post from my regular writing gig with some good summer recipes. But as for today, it's time to stop and enjoy the cool, dry air and take a few more pictures of the happy flower faces in the garden.

REFRIGERATOR BREAD AND BUTTER PICKLES

1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 - 3 c. pickling cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 c. water
1 c. cider vinegar
1 1/2 c. sugar
Pinch kosher salt
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. celery seeds
1/2 tsp. pickling spice

Wash and dry cucumbers, but do not peel. Slice cucumber to desired thickness - about 1/8" is good. Combine onion and cucumber slices in a clean jar(s). Add the remaining ingredients together in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about minutes to blend flavors. Slowly and carefully pour the hot pickling liquid over the onion and cucumber slices, completely filling the jar. Allow the pickles to cool to room temperature before topping off with any remaining pickling liquid. Refrigerate pickles and they will taste great in a couple of days, and will last in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Makes 2 pints.

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