Sunday, July 26, 2009

It is hard to believe school will be starting again soon! Can you imagine these two characters hitting the books? That is my grandson, Bing, on the left and Tom's and Vicki's grandson, Alton, on the right. They had so much fun at Smith Mountain Lake in June. They were most pleased to learn how to bait a hook with a fresh wiggly worm! One morning I was greeted by a pair of big blue eyes, begging me to go buy more worms, or the day would be a "no Fishin'" day.

Soon we will be saying goodbye to summer, but we have a few weeks of left, we still have fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, golden peaches, big red plums, crisp corn on the cob and fresh greens and herbs by the bushel. We need to make the most of it now, before it is too late.
My daughter asked if we could make some pickles with the cucumbers that have done so well down at the vineyard. I had to admit to her that it has been years since I had any part in making pickles, but I am game! She has decided to make the refrigerator type.
I have always checked Julia and Martha when I have doubts on a recipe or procedure, so I naturally turned to them again. I found an interesting recipe for a Sweet and Spicy Bread-and-Butter Pickle on Martha’s webpage as well as this one for Dill Pickle Chips. Thank God for Martha!

Dill Pickle Chips
Makes 2 quarts
2 pounds Kirby cucumbers
3 tablespoons coarse salt
3 cups water
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon dill seed
4 cloves garlic
2 bunches fresh dill, coarsely chopped
1. Cut the cucumbers into 1/2-inch-thick rounds, and transfer to a colander set in a bowl. Toss well with salt. Refrigerate cucumber rounds 1 hour.
2. Rinse cucumber rounds well; drain. Pat dry between paper towels. Transfer cucumber slices to a large bowl.
3. Bring 3 cups water, vinegar, dill seed, and garlic to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring. Reduce heat; simmer 4 minutes. Let mixture cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
4. Add chopped dill to cucumber slices, and toss to combine. Pour in the brine. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Transfer mixture to airtight containers, and refrigerate at least 1 week (pickles will keep 3 weeks more).

Now, for the bread and butter pickles, my favorite. I remember my Mom and Dad making them when I was in the 1st grade. This recipe is more work, but I think well worth it!

Sweet and Spicy Bread and Butter Pickles
Makes about 6 cups
2 pounds Kirby cucumbers or summer squashes, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds (about 6 1/2 cups)
1 medium white onion (about 8 ounces), halved and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 heaping tablespoons coarse salt
2 cups ice cubes
3 cups cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes or 3 dried hot chiles
1. To draw out excess liquid and increase crunch, toss cucumbers and onion with salt in a large colander. Add ice, and toss again. Place over a bowl, and refrigerate, tossing occasionally, for 3 hours. Drain. Rinse well, and drain again.
2. Bring vinegar, sugar, mustard and celery seeds, peppercorns, turmeric, and red-pepper flakes to a boil in a saucepan. Add cucumbers and onion. Return to a boil (if using squashes, add them, then remove from heat; do not return to a boil).
3. Ladle into 3 hot sterilized pint jars, leaving about 1/2 inch below each jar's neck. Wipe rims of jars with a clean, damp cloth; cover tightly with sterilized lids and screw tops. Using tongs or a jar clamp, transfer jars to a rack in a large canning pot or a large, deep pot filled with hot water, being sure to keep jars upright at all times. (Jars should be spaced 1 inch apart, and should not touch sides of pot.) Cover with water by 1 inch. Cover pot, and bring to a boil. Process jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Let cool. Press down on each lid. If lid pops back, it's not sealed; refrigerate unsealed jars immediately, and use within 1 month. Sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Now, just because I am sure those two little guys would not enjoy making pickles, here is a recipe just for the young ones.

Mimi’s Brownie Cookies
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
and of course, you can add chopped pecans, but the little guy's vote "no" on that one

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted, then let cool.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until lightened in color. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until combined. With mixer on low, alternately beat in chocolate and flour mixture; mix just until combined (do not overmix).

3. Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, about 2 inches apart, onto two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cookie comes out clean, 14 to 16 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Mimi’s Fudge Icing

1 stick butter
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons half and half
Powdered sugar

1. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter, stir in the cocoa powder and cream. Cook over low heat while stirring, until well blended.
2. Add powdered sugar, amount depends on how thick you want your icing. You can thin with more half and half if you get it too thick. You want it either pourable as a glaze, or thick enough to spread on top of cookies.

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