channel your innner grandmother: pickle something

beet2My kitchen is full of the spicy sweet scent of pickling.

I don’t know why, but I woke up and thought I might try pickling some of those glorious beets I purchased from NorthStar Orchards at East Goshen Farmers’ Market yesterday.

I already have the jars, so I went to the store and bought fresh apple cider vinegar, new pickling spice and a bag of cipollini onions.

Yes I channeled my inner Pennsylvania German heritage and I swear somewhere up there my mumma is smiling.  A pickled beet is a sweet pickle, and that makes me think of her.  My great aunts on my father’s side were Italian and they did the hot pickled peppers and when I was really little I remember them canning tomatoes and peaches.

I did not do the whole hot water canning method.  These are a small batch of simple pickled beets that will keep refrigerated about six months or so. I kick them up a notch by adding dill and hot pepper flakes and garlic. I hadn’t written this down before so I hope my proportions are right….

Here is how you do it:

6 to 8 medium to large fresh beets, scrubbed and top free*

2 cups sugar

2  cups cider vinegar

1 cup water

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons Kosher salt

2 cinnamon sticks broken up

6 cloves of garlic not peeled

1 bag of small pearl or cipollini onions not peeled

1 Tablespoon  allspice

4Tablespoons pickling spice

4 Tablespoons dill- freeze-dried or fresh chopped

1 1/2 Tablespoons hot pepper flakes

Makes 3 jars – these jars in my photo are the Weck 744 Tulip and they hold about 2 cups of whatever in them. I think in European measuring they are 1/2 liter. I love these Weck jars. They have wide mouths and can even go in the freezer.

*Option I should mention:
Roast beets in foil instead of boiling. If you roast, roast in a pan in an aluminum foil “bag” at 350 degrees for about an hour.

Put beets in a large saucepan or stockpot and add enough cold water to cover them  a few inches over the top. Bring to  boil, then turn heat down to maintain a slow boil. Cook until beets are tender when pierced, about 40 minutes.

Pour water off and let beets cool. Slip skins off once the beets are cool enough to handle. Slice and set aside.

Boil another pot of water.  When water is roiling and boiling, toss the little onions in skis and all.  When a scant three minutes have passed, lift onions out and allow to cool.  If you take a kitchen scissors and snip the end of the onion bulb you should then be able to easily peel these onions or pop them out of their skins. After they are clean set aside whole.

Place the sugar, cider vinegar, water, salt, and spices in yet another saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.  Turn off.

Working quickly so pickling liquid doesn’t cool off too much, arrange beets and garlic and onions evenly in your jars.  Ladle in the liquid  so it covers the vegetables(you might have a little left over, just toss it if so).
Cover with  lids, seal,  and cool down.  When jars are room temperature, put them in refrigerator.

Let the beets sit at least ten days before tasting.

Keep in the refrigerator up to 6 months. Maybe 8.

collecting

DSC_0651It’s so funny. I have never intentionally set out to collect anything, I have just found things I like I want in my home.  Yes for me, collecting is pretty much that simple.

This year I have purged a lot of stuff that no longer interests me.  For example when I was barely out of my teens I had a fascination with certain kinds of old glasses – sherry and cordial sized.  But realistically, I am not the generation who sips sherry by the fire, so I jettisoned them.  They were pretty, I loved them once upon a time, but now I want things I can also use.

To an extent I like  a LITTLE BIT of what would be classified as “country things”.  I am not however the gal with Holly Hobby Country wallpaper borders complete with hex signs and sun bonnets.  Nor will you find little gingham anything around my home.

The things I like are to an extent things of my childhood that I grew up around or admired in the homes of others.  I love gorgeous period antiques but for me to live with furniture pieces, I need things I can use, and use every day if I so choose.  So I love things like furniture with simple and elegant lines – I love wood.  Not deep heavy burdensome Victorian  finishes but beautiful woods with simple, clean lines, and their more natural hues and stains.

I abhor the current trends with regard to painting furniture because I feel good antique and vintage pieces are being ruined and sent to chalkboard and pastel paint furniture purgatory.  I am also sick of people calling themselves vintage and antiques dealers because they cover rickety furniture that is not necessarily worth saving with pastel paints and chalkboard paint.

Some people I know who are real dealers do a little of this with style, but not every piece in their inventory looks like it vomited pastel paint or *must* have a chalkboard.  I am a grown up I don’t personally want to live with little girl doll house furniture or people to mistake my furniture for particle board garbage from WalMart and Ikea. Sorry to sound snobby but,   I like the real wood.  Let that oak, cherry, poplar, walnut, whatever shine through.  Love the natural beauty.  Besides, wood pieces with normal wood finishes shining through will transition with you through whatever personal style evolution.  Chalkboard paint and too much pastel paint is as bad as houses that are so beige nothing stands out. And when you are tired of that stuff, you will find yourself leaving half of it on the curb for trash day.

I like a mix of old and new, and I have learned to trust my eye.  And I look at stuff – antiques stores, thrift shops, consignment stores, picking barns, garage sales – even if I am not buying  I look.  I look at how professional stylists are putting together rooms in magazine layouts.  You never know where a good idea might come from. But at the end of the day, what I do reflects my personal style and what makes a house a home to me.

I want every room to be able to be used.  Now granted I prefer to keep the teenagers out of my living room, but that is self-preservation as much as anything else LOL!

Since moving out to Chester County I have become fascinated once again with some primitives.  Candlesticks in particular. (Yes I know some of you are wondering if I have fallen out of love with plain milk glass nesting chickens, and the answer is no of course not.  But everything in moderation and my better half already thinks I have chicken issues….)

So anyway, for years I have had a black tin painted Toleware chamber candlestick that I picked up many years ago for $5 or $10 at the white elephant tables at Historic Harriton House on their annual September fair day, and between there and at St. David’s Fair and thrift shops for equally low sums over the years a few other chamber candle sticks.  They are just a little touch I like.  They look friendly and homey to me.

Recently out at Smithfield Barn I have come across a few primitive cast iron candlesticks.  They are very Pennsylvania and New England.  I thought they were fun so I bought them.  All were $10 or less each, incidentally.  I just liked their look.

So now I have researched them, and one is a primitive chamber stick (it has a finger or thumb hold and looks like it is in a little bowl), one is a “courting” candlestick (it looks like it is a spring in shape with a little wooden knob that can move the candle up as it burns), and one is a “hog scraper” “wedding band” candlestick ( it has a little screw to push up the candle like a lot of the cast iron ones do and it has a little metal band, maybe of brass that looks like a “wedding band”.)

Now I know mine aren’t fine antiques, they were used in a house in the country somewhere but I like them.  If these were the fine antique versions of themselves, they would be hundreds of dollars each. Mine will be used and enjoyed.  As a matter of fact you will still see cast iron candlesticks even in modern decor – Pottery Barn, Anthropologie, and other places.  And they are found a lot in European countries as well. But for my taste, nothing beats the American primitive form of cast iron and tin candlesticks.  Some are painted, some are not.

Cast Iron Vintage Shave Ice Tool

Cast Iron Vintage Shave Ice Tool – found for $2. Just a random display piece but is in full working order that I actually could use it!

If candlesticks like this interest you, check your more country antiques and vintage shops  and picking barns- I saw a few at Frazer Antiques last week, but they were a tad tasty in price for me – I admit it I am a bargain hunter.  You will also find country primitives like this throughout New England in places like Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont.  I think some of the most fine antique and vintage shopping you can do is in Maine and Vermont in particular.

Anyway, what bargains and cool vintage things have you found recently that you love?