23 April 2010

Thyme Pickled Mushrooms: April Can Jam Challenge: Herbs

I'll just get this out of the way: I fell off the wagon last month. I was frustrated with my tiny kitchen that makes everything an ordeal. I was frustrated with the lack of anything local to can since this challenge started. So I messed up. I didn't can anything. I bought some beautiful onions and I had no inspiration. I'm sorry.


I think I've come through this time with an amazing recipe.

Thyme Pickled Mushrooms


2lbs locally grown white button mushroom
A large bunch of locally grown thyme
3 lemons
2-3T green peppercorns
3T kosher salt
white vinegar

So, I realized the other week that pickled mushrooms are very likely to be delicious. And I knew that I'd be able to get some local herbs for sure this month. And local mushrooms. There are a couple of people that grow them year round here. So I thought about my favorite herbs. Well, my favorite one by far happens to be thyme. And thyme goes great with mushrooms. And lemon.

There's this amazing mushroom-leek phyllo pastry that I make every Thanksgiving from the Moosewood Celebrates cookbook. The flavor is awesome. The ingredients: mushrooms, leeks, thyme, lemon, sherry, and tofu. I wanted to sort of translate the mushroom-thyme-lemony goodness into pickled mushrooms.

So I started to research how to pickle mushrooms. Except several of the recipes had you boil the mushrooms, then pour olive oil over them and then water bath process them. That doesn't sound all that excellent to me. The oil scares me specifically. I've got a pressure cooker for those kinds of things. The one thing that the recipes all had in common was to boil the mushrooms first.

So I figured that's what I'd do. Only, I want to cook the mushrooms in something flavorful so that they get completely infused with the thyme. So I made a pickle brine to cook the mushrooms in. Here's what I did:

First, cut the mushrooms into quarters. most recipes tell you to cut off most of the stem. I didn't. I don't mind eating mushrooms stems.

Then I made a thyme pickle brine as follows.

In a large pot mix together the following:
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water
1 1/2 T kosher salt
1 t green peppercorns
1 lemon cut into 8ths
and a huge handful of thyme, don't worry about the stems, just throw it all in there
oh, and a piece of a dried hot red pepper

Bring the brine to a boil and add the quartered mushrooms. Cook for about 20-30 minutes until the mushrooms are reduced in size.

Next, I poured the mushrooms off into a colander and mixed up another batch of brine identical to the first batch.

Into each jar I put an eighth of a lemon and a generous handful of thyme along with a couple of green peppercorns. Then, I shoved as many mushrooms into the jar as I could. Go ahead and pack them in there tightly.

Then pour the boiling brine into the jar leaving 1/2" of headroom. Poke out all the air bubbles. The mushrooms are really good at catching air as the brine gets poured in.

Wipe the rims clean, put on the jar lids and bands and process for 20 minutes in a water bath. I went for 30 minutes 'cause of the altitude. I probably should have only gone 25 minutes, but I like to be on the safe side.

I think that these will be like most pickles, the longer you wait to crack a jar open, the better the flavor will be. Give it a month, then crack these babies open.

19 April 2010


My camera is dying. It was a major award. And now the shutter keeps freezing shut so that it only takes black pictures. I found a suggestion on how to reset the shutter. But I have to reset it now for every single picture I take. [sigh] I can't afford a new camera right now, hence the picture-less posts. My camera phone takes decent pictures, so that will be all I can do at the moment. Buh.

MOM. I just realized its your fault! YOU named it the major award. WHAT HAPPENS TO THE MAJOR AWARD AT THE END?!?!?! It gets broken, that's what.

Also, what movie has a MAJOR AWARD in it? You each get 3 guesses. Go!

Some thoughts

I was reminded of a semi-past-time of mine today. I like to look at things in the grocery store and think to myself "before we had grocery stores, someone had to make that. If someone made that, I can make that. What would it be like to make ________?" This may get me in trouble some day. But, so far, so good. I figured it'd be fun to make a list of the things that I either can make or do make on a regular basis that is usually bought at the store in the state that you use it.

So, here goes, things I now make that I used to only buy at the store:

pickles (seriously, I'll pickle anything)
jams and fruit butters
soy milk
cakes and pies
winter coat
all-purpose cleaner
tub and tile cleaner
toilet cleaner
face cleaner
face oil
face mask
lip balm
duvet cover
pillow cases
yarn (I LEARNED HOW TO SPIN!!!! When I get my first skein done and my first project knitted, you'll be hearing ALL about it.)
ice cream
hard apple cider

And now with my next list, things I've not made yet that are on my list to learn to make SOON:

bagels - and with Joy's success I'm not so intimidated!

cheese - I went to a cheese making class this year and the guy messed up mozzarella!

dresses - OK, so I've made a few dresses, but that was a long time ago and I've got a few on the drawing board and I can't get over my fear of them right now. I want so bad to make this really cute dress I have in my head but I'm terrified that I'll mess up the dress and ruin the awesome fabric.

crackers - I <3 crackers. I don't like them having all kinds of crap in them. So, I should make them.

SHOES - this is the biggest one for me right now. I want so bad to learn how to make shoes. Just check this guy out on YouTube. The shoes he makes are amazing. I've watched every. single. video. He teaches shoemaking, too. You can apprentice with him also. I want to apprentice to a master shoemaker. I want to make my own shoes so bad. I also want to make custom lasts that exactly match my feet. Do you think that if I watch these videos enough times all of his knowledge will be imparted to me and that I'll be able to make shoes? 'Cause I don't think I can afford the apprenticeship fee. [sigh] Just think about it for a while. Making shoes is something that very few people know how to do. I can already make almost all of my other clothes. If I could make my own shoes I'd be set. I could have days where I wear only clothes that I have made myself. All the way down to, well, my shoes and socks. I know, I'm a dork. And a nerd. But not a dweeb.

knickers - not underwear, the pants that button below the knee and are made of tweed. I really want to ride my bike in knickers this summer. yes, it'll be hot. no, I don't care. I'll be hot in anything this summer.

t-shirts - oh man oh man, my last attempt at sewing jersey was the worst disaster I can imagine. Boatneck shirts don't have a neckline that hits below your boobs. Just sayin'. 'Cause mine totally did.

jeans - if I can figure out how to make jeans that fit me awesomely I'll never have a bad shopping day again. Also, the less I go shopping the happier I am. Stores stress me out.

I think that's about it for now, I'm sure there are more things I'll think of later...

05 April 2010

An Herbal First Aid Kit

I've been studying herbal medicine lately and I'm planning an herbal first-aid kit. My thoughts are that I could also sell the kit at the Farmer's Markets and on etsy and such.

Would you be interested in an herbal first aid kit?

Here are some of the things I'm thinking of including:
an all-purpose healing salve
a sore muscle salve
tinctures for headaches
a styptic powder or tincture
anti-sting poultice herbs
and some other things as I come up with them. Maybe a general women's health tonic tincture, or an allergy tincture?

And they'd all be packaged in a nice portable first aid kit box or bag. Not decided yet.

Disappointment, Discouragement, and Procrastination

Sorry, I've been out of sorts lately. I've been kind of depressed because my arm has taken so long to heal. BUT! I can ride my bike now. And do yoga. So things are looking up. [no mountain biking, bouldering, skiing, or snowboarding for another 2 months]

I've also been slacking on the Can Jam challenges. I've been really disappointed with the choices of items to can. NOTHING has been local and in season for me. Until alliums. And local food is kind of my thing now. I don't really want to can things that aren't local and in season. But, I picked up some gorgeous onions from one of my favorite farms, Kiowa Valley. And they sat. I had no inspiration. I should have used my cara-cara orange-red onion-coriander chutney from the citrus month of the can jam. But I forgot. I wanted to pickle the onions, but my kitchen was a mess and I had no energy to get my kitchen in canning order. So, better late than never I guess. Later I'll put my recipe up.

Hopefully I can do better this month with HERBS. I think I can put my hands on some fresh basil at the next farmer's market. And Whole Foods sells locally grown organic herbs if I can't make it to the market.

And I've been sewing a lot more lately. Some projects have been better than others.

I got all 3 of the built by Wendy books and Cal Patch's pattern making book also.

And, I got a bra pattern.

This bra came out awesome. But, it's the wrong size. And the underwires are the wrong size. So I have to order some new underwires and try again. But the good thing is that it was EASY. I mean seriously easy. I made this in about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. I was stoked.

Then I decided to make the boatneck t-shirt from The Home Stretch built by Wendy book. Well, I think I want a serger. 'Cause my shirt was a complete disaster! Take a look:

I think my face says it all.

From the back:

Yeah, the front is about 6 inches longer than the back. And that is so not a boatneck t. Wow I messed that one all up.

That mess-up kind of put me in a creative funk. I was all bummed 'cause I had this idea of how awesome the shirt was going to be. A majorly soft purple-y colored boatneck t with golden yellow top stitching and little tiny yellow buttons on the shoulder. Man it would have been awesome. I would be wearing it right now. And every single day.

Instead, I got what Nate now calls my "chastity shirt." It's THAT ugly. It's that major of a setback, creatively.

Then, I busted out Cal Patch's Patternmaking book [awesome, btw]. This book is my new clothes sewing bible I think. She doesn't include patterns, instead she walks you through measuring yourself and drafting the pattern. Then you make a muslin and make any necessary adjustments. So I did the first project, an A-line skirt with a side zipper and patch pockets. I got some wonderfully spring-y green stripe-y fabric. And I made a skirt. AND IT IS AWESOME AND I WANT TO WEAR IT EVERY DAY! Sorry, I got a bit happy there. Finally. After a bunch of let downs, I made something successful.

Not the best shot, but you get the idea. It's so cute. The muslin fit. But when I made the skirt, it did NOT fit right. So I put a fake flat-felled seam in the middle of the front and the back and that took about 2 inches out of the skirt and then it fit awesomely. I'm still getting the hang of this tailoring thing.

Then this weekend. I figure I had so much success with my spring skirt, I should make it out of some denim I had on hand. Thing is, it's stretchy denim. And my track record with stretchy is about 50% success. And yep, you guessed it. I totally botched the skirt. When I sewed the waist, I totally ended up stretching it all out of whack. So the thing totally doesn't fit. I guess the good news is that I'm totally awesome at putting in zippers! And I totally suck at anything stretchy. I keep pulling it all out of whack.

I tried making my own underwear. The first pair turned out all wanky. I forgot that you are supposed to stretch the elastic when you sew it on. So they didn't fit at all. Then I sewed another pair and I think I over stretched the elastic. They fit, and they fit well, so I consider them a success. But I'm not showing you a picture of me in my underwear. I have some sense of decency. The only problem stretching the elastic too much makes is that they ball up when they are not on.

So, hopefully I can get out of this creative funk. I think it's always good to own up to your mess ups. I do a lot of stuff well. But that doesn't mean I've always done that stuff well. I've had my fair share of messed up projects. But I usually don't have this many at once. That's been rough for me.

So, here's my personal challenge/goal: I want to make my own clothes. All of them. Seriously. I should be able to do that I think.

...I've just got to get the hang of sewing with knits. Any suggestions?

I've tried using the walking foot, but I don't think I'm doing it right, it still stretches all weird.