Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Pickles

Every year I make these pickles for a family Christmas party.  They are a variation on a traditional bread and butter pickle.  These are not shelf stable!  I'm not canning them.  They are cooked on the stove and need to be stored in the refrigerator.  They will keep in the fridge for several weeks.

Here's what you'll need.  Recipe follows blog post.  Ingredients are: cucumbers, sweet onion, kosher salt, apple cider vinegar, sugar, ground mustard, red pepper flakes and mustard seed.  The original recipe calls for pickling cucumbers but since I make this in winter they are not available where I shop.  I've always used regular cucumbers and it comes out fine.  If you use regular cucumbers you'll need to scrub them extra good.  They are likely coated with wax and if you don't scrub most of the wax off you'll end up with a film on top of your pickles.  It won't affect the taste but it's not terribly nice to look at.

Dump all your ingredients, except for your veggies, into a large pan on the stove.  Stir it up and heat until boiling.  Stir often to help dissolve the sugar.  Most years I have extra liquid left at the end.  It depends on how many cucumbers I use and how big my jars are.  So, don't worry if you don't use it all.

Meanwhile slice up your veggies.  I do this freehand with a knife.  A mandolin would work fine if you want uniform slices.  It doesn't matter too much to me, so I just use a knife.

Ditto for the onion.

Once your liquid is boiling you're ready to go.

Dump in HALF the veggies.  Don't overcrowd your pot.  You don't have to bother bringing the mixture back to a boil.  Just stir them around so they all get submerged at some point.

You'll know when they are done because they go from bright cucumber green to dark pickle green.  You all know what color a pickle is.  This is the start.  Bright green.

Be sure to light a candle when your son comes into the kitchen and tells you that it's "too stinky in here."  This recipe will stink up your house.  So crack a window, light some candles, etc.  The smell lingers.

Keep stirring and moving things around.

This looks about right.

Remove pickles with a slotted spoon and allow to cool slightly in a separate bowl.  At this point add the rest of your raw veggies and cook them.  While they are cooking you can move the first batch to their jars.  I just use tongs and shove them in there.

Pack them in there well but not too tightly.  Once all the pickles are cooked and into jars I let the liquid cool for a bit.  Then I ladle it into the jars slowly, giving it time to settle.  Until the jars are full.  Cover them loosely and allow to cool on the counter for a while.  When they are cool enough to touch you can tighten the lids but I don't put the jars in the fridge until they are much closer to room temp.  DO NOT PUT HOT JARS IN YOUR REFRIGERATOR!!!

Mmmm....the onions are my favorite part.  Enjoy!

Shelly's Christmas Pickles
-2 cups sugar
-2 cups vinegar
-3 Tbsp kosher salt
-2 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds
-1 tsp dry yellow mustard
-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
-12 small pickling cucumbers OR 3-4 large cucumbers
-1-2 sweet onions

In large pot bring all ingredients (except cucumbers and onions) to a boil.  Stir often to help dissolve sugar.  Add about half the veggies and cook over med-high heat until cucumbers turn dark green.  Remove to separate bowl until all veggies are cooked.  Pack into jars.  Allow liquid to cool slightly before pouring over pickles.  Cover loosely until cool to the touch.  Tighten jars and allow to cool to room temperature before storing in refrigerator.  Keeps in fridge for several weeks.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Goat Cheese Stuffed Meatballs...a non-recipe

I've been cooking for a long time and as a result I'm mostly an "eyeball it" kind of cook.  I generally do not follow recipes, unless it's something I'm unsure of making or something that needs to turn out the same every time.  And of course if it's a family recipe that's been passed down to me I will follow it closely.  Why mess with perfection?

But as a result of my reckless cooking style I have a very hard time transcribing recipes.  But I did want to share this little gem that I came up with.  Meatballs stuffed with goat cheese.

These are the ingredients I started with.  One pound of ground beef, goat cheese log , parmesan cheese, oregano, garlic salt, parsley flakes, crushed breadsticks and one egg.  Variations on this are endless.  I actually prefer a "meatloaf mix" for the meat portion but didn't have that on hand.  You could also add or subtract pretty much any of the other ingredients.  Sometimes instead of garlic salt I'll use minced garlic.  Or I'll add two eggs if I have more meat.  Normally I would use bread crumbs or cracker crumbs but didn't have any so I crushed up some breadsticks I had.  You could use most any goat cheese flavor.  This one was garlic and herb.

If you're like me, you're in a rush and have to thaw some of your meat in the microwave....

Throw everything in the bowl and mush together with your hands.  Yes it's messy but it's really the best way to incorporate everything.  Use your hands for meatloaf too.  A spoon just doesn't do it.  As for measurements?  Um, this is the hard part.  I don't measure anything here.  I just shake stuff out until it looks good.  If you're an "eyeball it" kind of cook like myself you'll figure it out. If you're a novice in the kitchen my "recipes" won't help you.  Sorry!

Spray a pretty little dish with some non-stick stuff.

No picture of the process because it was a two handed job but basically I took a wad of meat and made a thick patty.  Then I put a dent in that for the cheese.  Added a little more meat on top of the cheese and formed it into a ball.  One trick I did with the goat cheese is that I cut it into cubes and then froze them on a paper plate.  That helped keep them from melting too fast and oozing out of the ball.
Preheat your oven to 350 and bake for a while.  Maybe 35 minutes?  I'm really bad at timing stuff.  I don't ever really burn anything.  It's just from practicing.  I check on things often and try to follow my nose.  For these, I covered them for the first part of cooking and then uncovered them so they would get a little bit crispier on the outside.  They turned out great!  I'll definitely be making them again.  Although the recipe will surely not be the same.  ;)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

All decked out for Christmas!

Well, now that the blog is all decked out for Christmas it's time for a new post!  I did not participate in the final week of the WLW November challenge because it called for holiday decorating and with two cats in the house my holiday decorating does not happen until much much closer to Christmas.  So, I re-decorated my hutch instead.



And a little tour of the goodies on my shelf.  

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