Amazing Produce

When we lived in Montana we were living what is a high cold desert. We lived at 5,600 feet above sea level, we had less than 10 inches of moisture a year and sitting out in the open the wind was merciless in all seasons. Frost was possible anytime, and you were never surprised to wake up to snow. For a girl coming from the Midwest the inability to grow a garden that did not get frosted off at least twice year was a hard thing to swallow. Suddenly here in North Carolina I find myself surrounded by amazing produce.

We arrived in the last week of strawberry season. RangerSir and I found ourselves talking about how the local strawberries tasted like the ones we remember in our grandparent’s gardens. The had that mythical flavor that grocery store stable strawberries can never capture.

Since that time we have had so many other amazing fresh farm grown items. We had a cantalope one week that was unlike anything in memory in flavor and sweetness. This week we got an old-fashioned watermelon imperfect shape with seeds and all. It had a flavor that almost seemed impossible. On the other hand it had so many seeds that the only option was to let them be and spit them out as we ate the melon. The rind of this melon with the little bit of green, a nice layer of white and some red called for me to make some watermelon pickles.

I can’t remember the last time I saw seeds in a watermelon.

I did not make watermelon pickles. My mom’s recipe calls for a couple of weeks of time in brine in a crock and lots of daily chores of skimming and reheating that I could not imagine doing in the apartment. I did make an assortment of refrigerator pickles instead. I got nice fresh little pickle-style cucumbers at my favorite farmstand and I picked up fresh beets at the local farmer’s market. I called my mother and got the recipe for pickle sauce of Great Grandma’s beet pickled beets. My mother told me about making a refrigerator version of bread and butter pickles she had made. I used Google to find a bread and butter pickle recipe that was small batch and went directly to the refrigerator. Lastly I remember our favorite deli we ate in so often when we last lived in the city. They always had a crock of fresh dill pickles on the table. A friend had given me a book “1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die.” It had a kosher dill pickle recipe that the story alongside the recipe could have been describing the deli of my memory.

I had given away all my canning jars when we packed for moving. I debated if I should buy new and start my collection of canning jars again. I felt that these pickles were one offs and I was unsure I would be canning again. I decided I wanted something pretty or at least decorative for this first batch of pickles in NC. I sought out French heat resistant canning jars with red rubber ring seals and a clamp. I spent an afternoon making the various sauces/brines for my pickles, cutting veggies and arranging my jars. My choice of jars gave my “canned goods” a rustic farm feel and made them show off pretty.

Small batches of pickles

My pickles turned out awesome and brought back so many wonderful memories. It was a great sense of accomplishment and went a long ways toward of making this new place feel like home. I encourage you if you like pickles to consider making a fresh refrigerator batch of pickles. The supplies are readily available, minimal and not expensive. We are now in peach and tomato season. I feel a peach pie and gazpacho calling me next. Keep tuned.

Procarstination Caught Up with Me

We have been working on redoing our kitchen now for a couple of years.   We have been doing the pay as you go plan and are nearly done.   I have a few things yet to do, but the one I knew was coming but had been dragging my heels on was the refrigerator.    It had been freezing certain areas of the refrig  causing me to loose tons of fresh produce.   Yet it was always  frosting up areas of the freezer as though the door was left open.   Our trusty appliance repair man had looked at it and told us it was time to move on.      The refrigerator was old enough  that from an energy standpoint it needed to go; technology and energy efficiency had moved on.   It was so small that it really wasn’t large enough for us since we don’t shop groceries very often.   Suddenly this week the freezer portion of it went nuts and the time to replace it was NOW.

All my months of browsing the  appliance department every time I was near a large box store or the local appliance store had come to a halt.   Time for research and looking had come to an immediate end.    My quirky demands for some things that could only be found on the highest end refrigerator  and the desire for other things that could only be found on the lowest end models no longer mattered.    I could  no longer refused certain things and demanded other things.  Compromise and prioritize were my first and second names.   I also was a realist that I wasn’t going to find any refrigerator that I wanted for the price point I was seeking.   Nothing in my research had even come close to what I wanted to spend.    I checked online and the big box stores would take 10-14 days to deliver to my local.   So  I took some time off of work Thursday and went to the local appliance shop and found my new refrigerator.

It reminded me again of the joys of shopping locally.   The local store doesn’t keep much  stock on hand, but then what store does now days.   They did have white refrigerator, that they were willing to deliver out to my place the next day even if Friday was rural north and I was rural South.   It was just too small and I was giving up everything I really wanted, so I passed.   My salesman had already talked to the owner and they both knew I was in a bind but wasn’t going to just settle.  So we looked at things I liked and looked at when the next shipments were coming from the various makers.  Calls were made to see if they could x or y and how soon.   We got lucky in that a shipment was coming from one manufacture and they were able to add an add-on item and it will be in store on Tuesday.  It will be at my house on Wednesday (still not a rural south delivery day).   These folks understood my dilemma.   They wanted my business because each of them knew it made a difference.  Most of all they had no corporate policy that could not be changed or bent, they right then and there could make a decision that was out of their normal practice to make my life a little easier.

It wasn’t easy to get here, but now that the purchase is done I am ready for it to arrive and be one step closer to done.   In the meantime all the stuff that used to be in my upstairs refrigerator is now in the deep freeze in the basement and the meter wheel on my electricity is whirling like crazy.