Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘canning’

HOMEGROWN Life: For Perfect Pickles, Keep It Simple

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012






I am a fantastic canning assistant.  Just ask my mom.  She and my aunts and grandmother always pickled and canned excess food so that and we had dills to snack on, peaches in the winter, and sauerkraut galore.  The preservation process is far from foreign to me.  That being said, I’ve never really tried it without the trained hand of a prize-winning pickler guiding me.  But, how hard could it be? The Internet lives in our pockets now!

A few friends and I made good use of a recent Saturday, and a wave of DIY inspiration, and set out to make pickles.  Some of them first-timers, and all of us ever eager, we planned to christen my (unused) canner and make enough pickles to last us well-past the coming end of the Mayan calendar.  Common sense (and a phone call to my parents) got the better of us, though, and for fear of botulism and first-timer errors, we decided on refrigerator dills. Easy!

Although its not cucumber season (guilty), we found organic cukes on sale.  We consulted Google for a recipe and got 1,600,000 results. WHAT?! After combing through a few of them who recommended ingredients ranging from fresh dill to cinnamon bark, I called my Dad for a recipe.  Always the minimalist, he suggested white vinegar, a little dill, salt and pepper.  “Stay simple for the best results” he warned.

Well, sorry, Pops, that recipe’s not adventurous enough for us! We wanted gourmet pickles, not some boring dills. Instead of heeding his warning, we took the mustard seed, peppercorns, and dill from one recipe, the allspice, cloves, and sugar from another, and, why not, we added some cinnamon bark in a few of the jars. After sterilizing the jars, prepping and brining the onions, cucumbers, garlic and hot pepper, and boiling our very-own ingredients mixture, we ladled it into each jar and placed them in the refrigerator to set.

Finally, after 24 hours of curing time, it was time for a taste-test.  The results? Edible (score!). The pickles were crisp, with a strong vinegar flavor mixed with a strange essence of cinnamon, which tasted odd with garlic.  The experiment was not a total loss, but certainly a lesson learned: we should have stayed simple: maybe the best recipe is vinegar, dill, salt and pepper.

Oh well, we enjoyed the fruits (er, pickles) of our labor. Isn’t getting there half the fun? We’re planning on canning in the near future. I think we’ll stick to a simple old standby recipe next time!


I am the Flock-Tender here on I am keeping a chronicle of my experiences learning, living, and growing a homegrown lifestyle just out of college.

HOMEGROWN Life: Making Apple Jelly From Apple “Waste”

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011






I spent all day today processing apples from our trees. After I finished peeling and coring them I ended up with a pretty substantial pile of apple bits. It would be a shame to just throw them out so I decided to use them for all they were worth. I was originally thinking of making them into apple cider vinegar but I didn’t really have a container I could use for that. Instead I decided that I’d make jelly out of them. Since you generally just throw out the fruit when you make jelly it kind of seemed appropriate to use the unusable parts of the fruit to start with.

What you will need:

Apple peels and cores



1 Tbs lemon juice for every 2 cups of liquid

  1. Put the peels and cores in a large pot. Add water until you can see it just under the top layer of fruit. Bring to a boil.
  2. Boil fruit, uncovered, until it is soft. Strain liquid into a new pot.
  3. For each cup of liquid add 3/4 cup of sugar. Add lemon juice and bring to a boil. Watch it carefully so that it doesn’t boil over.
  4. To check consistency: put some ice in a bowl. Scoop up a small amount of liquid with a spoon and place the spoon on the ice to get it to cool quickly. Turn spoon sideways. If the liquid has jelled onto the spoon and doesn’t appear syrupy then it is done and ready to can. If you have a candy thermometer, you want the temperature to be 220 deg F.
  5. Ladle hot jelly into sterilized jars. Put on sterile lids and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.


My friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. My focus these days, instead of arts and crafts, has been farming as much of my urban quarter acre as humanly possible. With my husband, we run Dog Island Farm in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

Accepting Submissions for the End-of-Season HOMEGROWN Fair!

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Recently I traveled back to my roots in rural Connecticut to celebrate an annual agricultural tradition – the Durham Fair.  The Durham Fair is the largest agricultural fair in Connecticut, and growing up as a local, I’ve never missed a fair season! There’s something magical about fair season; a wonderful communal culmination of a year of agri-culture that connects us all back to our roots.

Photos courtesy of Caroline

The beauty of agricultural fairs is the celebration of a rich farming history and homegrown skills.  Family farmers who have worked the land for hundreds of years come back annually near harvest time to show their animals, crafts, art, baked goods, preserves, and plants, share traditional skills and demonstrations, and to eat amazing food and enjoy the exhibits.  Community groups and schools work behind booths to sell their products and their food – much of it local and in support of community-building initiatives.  The spirit and culture of these fairs reminds me very much of the philosophy of – a space for folks to come together and share their knowledge and skills with one another and to enjoy a lively conversation about good food and good living.

Photos courtesy of Caroline

As we approach the end of the harvest season and prepare for winter (here in the Northeast, anyway!), we can all take a little time to look back on a year of progress in living HOMEGROWN.  Share your successes, failures, thoughts and experiences with the HOMEGROWN community – fair-style. Anything new that you’ve done, built, created, explored, or learned, share with us!

  • Submit photos of your backyard livestock, chickens and pets.
  • Post recipes for your favorite dishes that use locally-grown ingredients.
  • Share planting, growing, and food preservation tips.
  • Upload instructions on creating homegrown art, crafts for the upcoming holiday season, or projects you’ve been working on all year.
  • Create a virtual skillshare of new skills learned and share with others.
  • Comment on other’s work, and foster the sense of community that we are proud to build on

While we can’t display your bountiful harvests, beautiful dishes, and crafty projects in a physical space, we want to share them with all in our community through the fall season. Upload your photos, videos, and blogs with “HOMEGROWN Fair” in the title so that they are recognizable submissions.  Of course, we will award prizes for the best of the best – a prize pack, HOMEGROWN Mix-Tape, and a few surprise goodies.  We want to showcase the work that you’ve done this year and how you’ve done it! So get those submissions ready and enjoy the first-annual, end-of-season HOMEGROWN Fair!

Photos courtesy of Caroline