This Labor Day weekend, the challenge is to hang out at the lake house and still eat clean. This will be a bit easier because it will just be me, girl child and mom rather than the entire crew. Let's see how it goes. Call it practice for the next trip or two.
I knew that Mom was planning a spaghetti dinner for Friday night. Challenge accepted.
I don't water bath or pressure can these because I go through them pretty quickly, and I can't abide a soggy pickle. To make your own pickled okra, cucumbers (get the long English cucumbers individually wrapped in plastic or the short little pickling cucumbers. Regular cucumbers don't hold up as well), or carrots, you just need to make a brine and have some glass jars handy. In a non-reactive pot, combine water, vinegar, pickling or kosher salt (the anti-caking agent in table salt is not so good for pickling) and whatever seasoning you like. You can choose between white or apple cider vinegar (I like white for dill pickling and apple cider for other variations). I like some dill, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves in my standard pickle. You can play around and see what you like: juniper berries, rosemary/thyme, etc.... Heat your brine and stir until the salt dissolves. I like to make a big batch, so in my pot, I combine 6 cups filtered water, 3 cups vinegar, 1/2 cup (or less) pickling salt, and my spices. Heat the brine until the salt is all dissolved and remove from heat.
Your brine can cook your pickles. For a hard veggie like carrots, I add hot brine to soften them a bit. I like a crispy cucumber pickle, so I wait until the brine is room temperature to pour it over the cukes. You can also tuck onion, garlic cloves (they may turn funky colors, but are fine), and hot peppers in with your veggies. You can also use this recipe, minus spices, for jalapeños.
While you wait for your brine to cool, pack your jars. Pack 'em tight so your pickles don't float to the surface. Use glass jars. When your brine is at the desired temp, pour it over the veggies. I let mine sit on the counter, lid off, until they reach room temp before I put the lid on and refrigerate. If you have left over brine, put it in a jar and save it for when you have some veggies that need saving. You can also reuse the brine a few times. When it starts getting cloudy (usually after about three rotations of veggies), throw it out and start over. The point here is that you can make yourself a really fantastic, healthy snack that is super inexpensive and made to your own preferences. I love to keep brine ready to go in the fridge so I can just toss in some veggies and have a brilliant snack or something tart to add to a meal (they're best after they've sat for at least two days).
On to the Saturday night challenge: burgers. Dammit. I love a good burger, and I know there would be big, fluffy buns (don't make rude comments here), tons of cheese, and four varieties of chips. Damn. What to do?
So I made carrot fries. They're actually good! I cut carrots into match sticks, tossed them with 1/2 T. olive oil, two minced garlic cloves, and a pinch of garlic salt. I baked them at 350 for about 15-20 minutes until they were tender. Very garlicky. Yum.