I did it! I officially finished my first year of grad school. Monday, my first day off, was full-on relaxation day: had lunch at the food carts downtown, sat in the sun reading a trashy magazine for an hour, saw a movie, went to happy hour. Tuesday, I ran approximately twelve thousand errands, did as much laundry as I possibly could, and that was basically it. So by today, Wednesday, I was already beginning to feel this sensation of panic – “It’s been two days and I haven’t done anything in the yard or kitchen OH MY GOD SUMMER IS ALMOST OVER AND I AM WASTING IT”. So, as is totally typical of me, I decided to do a week’s worth of projects in one day. Project goals for the seven hours between dropping family off and picking them up:
- Pickled asparagus
- strawberry freezer jam
- first attempt at homemade yogurt
- first attempt at homemade white wine vinegar
- first attempt at rhubarb drinking vinegar
Amazingly, I actually accomplished almost all this, plus I did some unexpected things, and nothing was an abysmal failure! Although I would not be me if I had done everything according to plan…
I started with the asparagus pickling. Part of the reason nothing every really works quite right for me is that I never do the same thing twice. I really liked the pickled asparagus I made last summer, even though the recipe kind of bewildered me, so I decided I’d try it again and try not to screw it up this time.
One of the reasons I don’t can or pickle as much as I’d like is that my canner is HUGE and just waiting for the water to boil takes more time than I usually want to devote. I’m hoping to experiment this summer with some different equipment. I saw this post about small batch canning the other day, and now I really want an asparagus pot, but for today I just ended up using a stockpot, which is really only slightly smaller than my canner. I definitely think it cut down on the timesuck though.
Of course, my canning rack didn’t fit in there, so I stole this awesome idea from Northwest Edible Life, and because my stockpot was pretty skinny I only needed to use a couple of random rings I had laying around. Ingenuity!
So, of course, as the jars were sterilizing I started to put together the pickling liquid, and had nothing I was supposed to have, apart from the vinegar and sugar. I used the same black mustard seed as last year instead of regular mustard seed, because it turned out fine. Frustratingly, I could never find dill seed to use last year, found the unopened jar a week later, and then couldn’t find it again this year. And totally forgot to buy an onion for it. So…I ended up using the black mustard seed and then randomly throwing in some white peppercorns and juniper berries? Because…they were the size and shape of what I wanted? That truly was the extent of my reasoning.
I had counted out thirty asparagus and chopped them so they’d fit into the jar, and that was what I salted. I packed them all in to the jar, poured the pickling liquid in, and was feeling all pleased…until I remembered that I had a whole other jar that was supposed to be full of asparagus. So, in true half-assed fashion, I just snapped off the very ends of the chopped parts and dumped them into the jar, which actually filled it up. So maybe…I just don’t know. Is it supposed to be each asparagus cut in half or something? I still find it bewildering. And, I poured in the liquid and it came up only half way. Again. Just like last year. So, I processed it, and now I have one beautiful asparagus pickle jar, and one half full of weird choppy bits jar. I will use them in salads I think.
I’ll leave my other adventures for tomorrow, but I have to say that I feel really happy and proud to be failing in my kitchen again. My goal for the summer is to work on being more realistic about what I can do during the schoolyear, and to practice skills. I want to get more into small-batch processing, and I’m working a lot from this book Make the Butter, Buy the Bread which I wish I’d written, about what is easy and worth it to make at home and what you should just admit is easier to pick up at the New Seasons. I may have made several discoveries about that today…which I will share with you soon!