Quick Pickled Strawberries with Black Pepper and Tarragon

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to host a backyard wedding. You know, a quaint, yet beautiful gathering, where children run barefoot on the grass, and friends and family mingle over generous slices of homemade layer cake.

A reception at home sets the scene for a simplified wedding, where a couple can do away with much of the frills that can (and often do) overtake a event of this nature. Instead it calls for buckets of wildflowers, blush pink raspberry-rhubarb punch, twinkling string lights for when the sun goes down and heaps and heaps of love.

This summer our homestead with be the setting for the wedding reception of a couple most nearest and dearest to us. (Psst, we threw them an engagement party last year.) Danny and I, along with the bride and groom, are thrilled to host this incredibly special event – in our backyard!

So, the big day is coming up in early August and preparations are well under way. Well, pickle-making, at least.

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A trio of spring pickles: ramps, rhubarb and fiddleheads

My spontaneous pickling session last week began with a spotless kitchen. Few things are as inspiring as the blank canvas of pristine counters, an empty dishwasher, and every tool at your disposal.

I had just boiled the kettle and made a pot of tea. The afternoon stretched out open ahead of me, a rare block of time when I didn’t have something pressing to attend to.  My mind wandered to the ramps on the forest floor that were rapidly being taken over by dense foliage. Their season had nearly passed and I had only foraged for one handful. If I wanted pickles, today would have to be the day.

Come to think of it, my rhubarb was filling in nicely; I had also wanted to put up a few jars of pickled stalks. I may as well combine the projects. And if I was really going to do this, why leave out the fiddleheads in the refrigerator? Pickled fiddleheads are a must for future salads and cocktail garnishes.

Before I had time to question my ambitions, I filled my canning pot half full of water, lowered 6 jars onto the rack and set it on my gas range. I grabbed a notepad and jotted down a flavor profile for each batch. [Read more…]

Lacto-Fermented Pickles Header

Make Old-Fashioned Brine Fermented Pickles Like Your Great Grandmother

I’m standing at the kitchen counter of the cabin my husband built for us when we moved off-grid. It’s over 90 degrees, it’s approaching the lunch hour, and my three children, aged 1 – 6, are getting hungry.

A set of red headed pigtails is at my side while I chop the mid-summer vegetables that need preserving – summer squash, cucumber, and a few green tomatoes that came off the vines too early. They’re all going into a gallon jar of pickles that will contain no vinegar, will never be heated or boiled, and will not see a lick of refrigeration.

These are old-fashioned brined lacto-fermented pickles. It’s a mouthful, in more ways than one, but these are the pickles our great grandmothers made. They keep for months, if prepared properly, I really appreciate the health benefits we enjoy from them, and though I’ve made them for years, I appreciate them even more now that we’re taking a crack at this sustainable off-grid homesteading life.

Oh and they are dead easy to make. [Read more…]