Archive for the ‘canning’ Tag

08-20-2016 Journal – Another Salsa Day!   Leave a comment

If you follow this blog you already know I love all forms of salsa and make many versions of my own.  One of my favorites has always been Roasted Corn & Black Bean made with varying degrees of heat.  I love getting feedback on what I make especially from my son-in-law who loves salsa.

I made a batch a few months back and for the first time he made a request for the next batch.  He said it was delicious and hot but it needed more corn and more beans.  Many people feel that putting beans in a salsa is just wrong. It may be wrong but I do it anyway because it tastes so damn good. Yesterday was once again salsa day with many more beans and a lot more roasted corn.

I first collect the canning lids and rims and the jars and heat them up in a hot water bath.

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If you decide to try this be sure to wear a thick pair of kitchen gloves to save yourself a lot of pain from the hot peppers. Plain latex gloves are too thin unless you double them up.  Add your ingredients into the pot and cook for approximately 15 minutes and then it’s time to fill the jars and return them to the water bath.

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Looks good and tastes even better.

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After a nice boiling hot bath for fifteen minutes they’re removed from the pot and allowed to cool for a few hours.   I always recommend waiting at  least a week or two before eating. It’s been my experience that over time the salsa gets a little hotter and a little thicker.  Then it’s corn chips (Yellow) all around the table for a sensational Mexican pig-out.  Top it off with everyone’s favorite beer or wine and you’re good to go.

MY MOUTH’S WATERING AND BURNING AT THE SAME TIME

I LOVE IT!

07-23-2016 Bread & Butter Pickle Day!   Leave a comment

Today begins my summer chore of making the first batch of Hot Bread & Butter Pickles.  Over the course of each Summer I normally can at least four batches of pickles. Each batch is usually 14-15 pints and I make both Dill and B&B versions.  All of my pickles are Hot which means slices of jalapeno and red pepper in each jar as well as a shot of ground habanero for good luck. Today I’ll walk you through the process but without giving up my secret pickling mix recipe.

The first thing this morning I prepared the jars and canning supplies by sanitizing them with boiling water.

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Once the jars, lids, and rims are boiled I then wash the cucumbers thoroughly.

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They are then sliced along with the red pepper and jalapenos. All are set aside until I’m ready to fill the jars.

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I  return to the stove to prepare the B&B syrup. It consists of my secret spice mix, 7 cups of sugar, and 7 cups of distilled white vinegar.

 

Packing the jars is my least favorite part of the process but still very important.  The jars are carefully packed, the syrup added, and the lids and rims tightened down. The jars then take a boiling hot water bath for a full fifteen minutes.

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Getting the first batch of the season completed is always a good feeling. Here’s the finished product . . . 15 pints of very hot and sweet pickles. They’ll be ready for eating after they sit for a few months to absorb all of the flavors.

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MORE TO FOLLOW

01-07-2016 Journal–2016’s First Salsa Day!   Leave a comment

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What do you do when you’re bored?  Everyone seems to have a few ways of dealing with boredom and so do I.  When I’m bored it’s usually being bored with the people around me and occasionally with life in general.  Over the years I’ve  had a very low tolerance for boring people up until the time I finally became one.

It’s only January seventh and I’m already going a little crazy being stuck in the house for most of the day.  I read a quotation once upon a time and it’s stuck with me over the years.  I’m not sure who the author of the quote was but I still find it pertinent all these years later. “Everyone is a bore to someone. That is unimportant. The thing to avoid is being a bore to oneself.”

Help Me!  I beginning to find myself really effing boring.  I plan every year to have a sufficient number of chores and projects to help me through these long winter months.  My biggest problem this year is I’m not the least bit motivated to do anything. The situation started becoming a real problem this week which forced me into taking immediate action yesterday.

The one thing that always helps me to get my mind right is to cook something. I made a quick trip to the supermarket and picked up all of the necessary ingredients and spent one evening watching Netflix and dicing jalapeno peppers, Serrano peppers, and habanero peppers. Then dicing piles of red and white onions, sweet bell peppers, parsley, and cilantro.  Yesterday was to be the first Salsa Day for 2016.

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‘First prepare the jars and lids.’

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I started by adding all of the ingredients together and allowing them to cook slowly. Then the hard work began as I seasoned and tasted, seasoned and tasted, and using a variety of hot peppers set the level of heat I was looking for.  I wanted this batch to be as hot as possible but not so hot that people couldn’t eat it.  It took a while but I was pleased with the results.

I also love the flavor of beans and use some combinations of them in many dishes. Since the salsa I was making is Roasted Corn & Black Bean I needed a way to add bean flavor without having the salsa look like a three-bean salad. I took three varieties of beans and pureed them into a heavy slurry. I slowly poured the slurry into the pot and hoped for the best. I also hoped that slurry would thicken the consistency of the salsa as it cooked.  I really didn’t want to use tomato paste because the flavor is almost too strong. 

After all was said and done here is the result.  Thirteen quarts of Roasted Corn & Black Bean salsa that’s hot enough to make your head sweat and bring tears to your eyes.  Just the way I like it.

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My boredom disappeared almost immediately and one thing is for certain. The flavor of this salsa is as far away from boring as you can get.

Bring on the chips it’s time to eat.

07-15-2015 Journal–A Maine Chili Day!   1 comment

Every summer I set aside a few special days for restocking the shelves for winter. One of those days is spent making a large batch of salsa and the another is for for making of a huge batch of chili.  The salsa is canned for storage while the chili is normally frozen. As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing better than enjoying a steaming hot bowl of spicy chili with a bit of cheddar cheese melted on top while watching a Maine snowstorm through the kitchen window.

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My salsa day was completed last week and the finished product is on the shelf.  I decided this year to break with tradition and to make a different style of meatless chili, one that can be canned instead of frozen. I love experimenting and going-outside-the-box whenever possible and today’s the day.

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This chili is made from a number of off-the-shelf ingredients as well as fresh peppers from the garden.  For the first time in my life I’ll be making a non-meat chili using a Vegan approved meat substitute made from soy. I’ve always loved other soy products and I’m long overdue trying it in my chili.  This ingredient comes freeze dried and requires rehydrating in a vegetable broth before use. All preparations from that point on are identical as when using ground beef. I was more than a bit surprised when the soy looked and felt exactly like regular browned ground beef.

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I spent time yesterday cleaning and dicing jalapeño and Fresno peppers which will supply some of the heat needed for this chili.  Then I diced a few large white and red onions for that special flavor they provide.  Add to that a quantity of sweet bell peppers of assorted colors and you’re well on your way to a beautiful dish.

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Canning the chili this time around is new.  Normally to can chili containing meat you need a pressure canner.  By removing the meat, replacing it with soy, and increasing the acid level, I can now can the chili instead of freezing it.  I’ve always disliked freezing chili because it changes both the texture and taste. I’m hoping this experiment will keep the chili as close to the way it was originally prepared as possible.

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I’m also trying something new for this batch. Normally you seal the jar with a metal lid which is then held in place by a metal band.  Those bands are notorious for corroding and becoming difficult to remove. This year I’m sealing them exactly that way but just after the lids “click” to indicate a good seal, I’m removing the metal bands and covering the lid with a white plastic screw cap. This will keep the seal intact and keep the lid and top of the jar much cleaner during storage.

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The final result is fifteen and half quarts of a flavorful, hot, and spicy Black Bean & Corn chili. My mouth is already watering.

09-15-2014 Journal Entry – Fall Has Fallen!   Leave a comment

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I really do like the Fall of the year.  It ends a rather busy season that I also enjoy but at times it’s a relief to see it end.  The better-half and I finally decided to call it a day with the garden.  We began the process of pulling up the plants and removing the fabric from the frames.  Then delivering those plants to the compost pile for use as fertilizer two years from now.

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The last cherry tomatoes were collected, the remaining cucumbers were picked and should keep us in salads for another week or so.  I’ll miss them as I always do once the snow fly’s and because I’m not all that crazy about veggies shipped into the county from south of the border somewhere.  Thanks for nothing Walmart.

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The remaining jalapeño peppers have been left whole, cleaned and canned for use in the future.  They should still retain some crispness since they were only cooked long enough to kill the bacteria on their skins.

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Some of the cayenne peppers made their way to the dehydrator and will be dried and ground into a fine powder.  A number were also strung on thin copper wires for displaying in the kitchen. They make for an attractive curiosity once they start turning into that bright beautiful red color.

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The only things remaining in the garden are the herbs. In a week or so just before the first frost I intend to further harvest a quantity of oregano, sage, parsley, rosemary, basil, and tarragon. Once dried they’ll be used to replace older herbs we have in storage.  I’ve discovered that if they’re stored in air tight containers they remain useable for up to two years.  Once they’ve lost their fragrance and flavor they need to be discarded and replaced.

I feel a little guilty wanting to see the garden end after all of the time and effort we’ve put into it but at the same time I can’t wait for it to be over so I can kick back and relax for a while.  I see Winter as the time I require to rest, recharge my batteries and begin the process of planning an even better garden next year.  I’m already considering building a small greenhouse, a larger cold frame, and even some sort of in-ground irrigation system.  For me half the fun of having a garden is the process of improving it each year and experimenting with new plants we’ve never grown before.

Our Winters here in Maine can seem endless if your not occupying yourself sufficiently.  Snow shoveling and snow blowing will only get you so far.

08-02-2014 Journal Entry – Festive Festivities!   Leave a comment

I’ve been so busy of late I decided to take today off.  My only task this morning was to can another ten jars of Bread & Butter pickles.  The garden is producing ridiculous numbers of cucumbers, zucchini’s, and beans, making it a little difficult to keep up. 

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‘After’

I really hope to get a little reading done over the next few days. Last weekend we visited a local fair at St. Matthews church in Limerick, ME. This is an event that we try never to miss. It’s a three day event and draws quite a crowd from southern Maine. It consists of a huge flea market where you can still find a treasure or two for a very low price.  Over the years I’ve found quite a few jewels and this year was no different.  I found two stainless steel stock pots in like new condition without a mark on then for $15.00. If I tried to buy them at a retail store it would have been more like $50.00.

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There were crowds of people everywhere but as always the biggest crowd was in the book tent.  Tens of thousands of books, sorted on tables, and being rummaged through by hundreds of people.  I normally am able to buy enough books to keep me reading for most of the Winter for less than $20.00. It’s hardback books for a buck and paperbacks for $.50 each.  I bought so many I had two make two trips to the car to unload the bag.  I may be a big fan of the Ereader’s but at these prices I’ll take a step back to reading actual books anytime.  I still like the feel of the book in my hands and turning each page manually.  An Ereader is more convenient to be sure but old habits are hard to break.

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‘My Winter Stash’

Another thing I look forward to are the french fries.  I’ve been on a no-carb diet for almost a year but there are certain occasions that demand that I eat some greasy, salty, and crunchy fries.  I pigged out and with the help of my better-half, her daughter and her husband, and the grandson, we totally destroyed a giant box of fries along with half a bottle of ketchup.  It was sinfully delicious.

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The grandson who is just now starting to speak spent most of his time near the tent where they sell used children’s toys.  He was drawn to a hot looking plastic Camaro with flashing red lights and shiny decals.  That should keep him occupied for a week or so making it an excellent investment.

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They offer some minor gambling with a chuck-a-luck wheel, a greenhouse selling plants, and a host of other food booths.  The odd clown or two doing face painting for the kids and a huge barbecue cooking area loaded with roasting beef and chicken.  The aroma is almost overwhelming.  I like all of it except for those clowns that always seem to roaming around the grounds and showing up right next to me. After all these years they still creep me out.

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‘Yikes!’

The better-half, the daughter, and the grandson are leaving on a road trip tomorrow heading south to Delaware and then on to Ocean City, Maryland. They’ll be meeting up some of her family members for a few beach days and a night or two on the Boardwalk. I guess I can expect another silly baseball hat and T-shirt to add to my collection. That also means a week off from everything on my better-half’s Honey-Do list.  I’ll be able to read a few books, relax on the deck with the cat, and clear my head a little. 

It should be a good week for us all.

07-27-2014 Journal Entry – Harvest Time Begins!   Leave a comment

I know it’s a little early in the year but with the garden filling up with cucumbers it was time to get busy.  Last night I gathered all of the equipment together in preparation for canning.  I cleaned jars, gathered lids and rings, pots and pans, and updated my experimental pickle recipe. We normally make hot Bread & Butter pickles and a lot of them.  I’ve made dill pickles in the past but never was really happy with the results. My approach to things has always been to identify a problem and then fix it and this new recipe for Hot Mustard Dill Pickles is the fix.

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I took my normal kosher dill recipe and jacked it up with a number of additional ingredients and spices. The end result will be pickles that are extremely hot, canned in a liquid containing dry mustard, curry, habanero powder, and a handful of other minor ingredients.  I soaked the cukes in canning Lime overnight which should help keep them crispy once their canned.

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Yesterday afternoon we picked the cucumbers, zucchini’s, and jalapeño’s from the garden along with some herbs.  I’d be making my mustard pickles and my better-half would be making her new experimental recipe for hot pickled zucchini or as she calls it Hot Zucchini Pickles. She’s trying to come up with a few solutions for processing and storing of the large number of zucchini’s we’re expecting.  She’s always made a lot of zucchini breads but we can only eat so much of that.

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We work well as a team and set up an assembly line in the kitchen.  I sliced the cukes, the habaneros, and a few jalapeños and set them aside. She prepared her zucchini,  and jalapeños, and we were ready to rock and roll.  She was responsible for packing the jars and I then added the brine, capped the jars and placed them into the water bath.  It took a couple of hours of work but we rolled along like a well oiled machine.

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After all was said and done we had ten pint jars of the mustard pickles and six additional pints of pickled zucchini.  The jars sealed properly and will be ready for labeling tomorrow. Unfortunately we have to wait a month or so before we can taste the finished product.  The veggies need time to absorb the flavor from the brine and the heat from the hot peppers.  We can’t wait to try them and will keep our fingers crossed for the anticipated good results.

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“The Finished Product”

07-23-2014 Journal Entry – Another Rainy Day!   Leave a comment

It’s raining like hell this morning so I decided to spend this time in bed enjoying the sounds and smells of the day.  I like walking in the rain almost as much as I enjoy listening to it but not today.  Today is going to be a computer day for me because I have a number of things that need to be accomplished.

In my last posting I made an attempt to create some discussion with my list of ten questions. While a good number of people visited and read the posting the response to my request for their answers apparently fell on deaf ears. Not one single response was disappointing as hell but not totally unexpected. At least I tried to wake up a few brain cells out there and just so you know, I will try again.

Today is the day I begin learning how to use the new software package I recently purchased.  Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 & Adobe Premiere Elements 12 has been purchased and installed and await my full attention for the next six hours or so. I’m also awaiting the arrival from Amazon of a 400 page User’s Manual I was forced to buy because those cheap bastards at Adobe don’t feel that including a Users Manual is cost effective.  Both of the programs are massive and without a manual you might never ever know all of the bells and whistles they contains. I’m praying that the manual arrives today or tomorrow so I can spend the next few days experimenting with the software. I need to get up to speed as quickly as possible because I have projects that will be much easier to complete once I’ve gotten a little hands-on experience.

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This week another of my goals is to begin preparations for my first canning class of 2014.  A number of my better-half’s friends are interested in learning how the process works so they can eventually can their own pickles. With so many requests I decided to do a class that would take care of them all at once.  I’m just a week or so away from canning my first batch of pickles this year so I’ve invited a group of them to get together, watch me do a batch, take appropriate notes, and return home to attempt to do some of their own. I’ve tried to convince them that canning is a simple process but they appear very skeptical.  I also make myself available 24/7 for emergency telephone calls when the occasional mishap arises.  I’ve done a few one-on-ones in the past which were very successful so this should be a breeze.

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I’ve been cleaning and preparing jars for a few weeks because it’s going to get very busy very quickly and I need to keep ahead of things.  I’m estimating we’ll be canning 40-60 pints of hot Bread & Butter pickles, 20 pints of hot Mustard Dills, and 15-20 pints of hot Kosher Dills.  Add in another 30-50 half pints of assorted jellies, jams, and relishes and you can see that we’ll be canning our asses off for six weeks or so. If I do say so myself, we make some damn good pickles, a truly excellent variety of jams, and the relishes can speak for themselves.   Many of the folks who request our pickles return the jars for a refill and as you can see I have them everywhere.

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Fun, fun, and more fun.

06-05-2014 Journal Entry–Mexican Food!   Leave a comment

I’ve been a lover of good Mexican food for years and after meeting my better-half (a good old down home Texas girl) and traveling to Texas on a number of occasions I was hooked.  During my recent trip to Dallas I was taken to this Mexican restaurant by my nephew who assured me I would be getting authentic Mexican fish tacos.  I was excited for the meal and as we arrived I could hardly wait.

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True to his word the fish taco’s were to die for.  We ate two huge plates of tacos, chili beans, and rice.  They drizzled an outrageous jalapeño cream sauce over the tacos that was so damn good it makes me hungry just thinking about it.  Four gigantic peach margaritas later and we were destroyed.  We slowly and safely made our way home and sat for hours because we just couldn’t move. 

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They also supplied us with chips and salsa which was good but the Verde sauce was the best.  It was not quite a salsa and not quite a sauce.  It also wasn’t quite hot enough for me so I decided upon my return to Maine to create a version of my own.

My better-half and I made a visit to a local South of the Border restaurant after my return to fulfill my ongoing taco obsession.  It only made me want to create that Verde sauce even more. I thought about it on the way home that night and the next morning I was off to do some early food shopping.

I found the tomatillos, jalapeños, and pickled green chilies to which I added a few spices, some onions, a little jalapeno vinegar and cooked it all until soft.  I threw it into a blender and liquefied it for five minutes and OMG.  My eyes began watering as soon as I took the lid off of the blender.

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Later that day the better-half made a pan of enchiladas over which I sprinkled a cautious amount of the hottest thing I’ve ever created.  It was mean, nasty, smoking hot, and freaking delicious.

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I was able to can almost a dozen jars of this sauce and it will definitely be used sparingly and as often as possible. I’m already planning the next batch so I can turn down the heat a little to make it palatable for all those so-called lovers of hot food who I’m pretty sure wouldn’t be able to handle this sauce.

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“The Finished Product”

08-02-2013   2 comments

Gardening.  It sounds so easy but in reality it’s not.  I’d probably be more obsessed with it if I were a full fledged farmer who was supporting his family with what he could successfully produce.  Being a part-time gardener gives me a great deal of satisfaction and almost as much aggravation.

Each spring my better-half and I spend a lot of time deciding what to grow, soil preparation, and how to process the things we’ll be consuming next winter. One of our goals has always been to grow what we want without the use of insecticides and other chemicals.  To do that successfully for a couple of amateurs is difficult and at times impossible.

This year the weather’s been fairly well balanced with enough rain to keep watering to a minimum.  Along with sufficient amounts of water comes sufficient amounts of slugs, bugs, grubs, and other visiting wildlife.  It then becomes a full time job to maintain a decent level of control over the garden.  Unforeseen problems make themselves known without warning and must be dealt with as quickly as possible.

For instance, I use a black fabric to cover the garden to prevent weeds from taking over.  The fabric is expensive but in the long run will save hours of unnecessary efforts throughout the summer.  Not this year.  I bought what I thought was a product that will hinder weeds and allow water and nutrients to seep through.  Buyer Beware.  We are now more than half way through the growing season and my fabric purchase was a total scam.  The weeds have grown under the fabric and now have penetrated into the sunlight.  The fabric has virtually dissolved into nothingness in spots.  This will make my end-of-season cleanup extremely difficult and time consuming.  My only thought right now is that Home Depot blows. How can such a large company supply a product of such low caliber without some sort of pretesting before it hits the shelves. I guess I’ll be just like the prodigal returning to Lowe’s with my tail between my legs.

Let me tell you a little something about slugs.  Not only are they disgusting, there are millions of them and they’re always hungry.  They can strip a garden in short order if not controlled by insecticides.  This year we were forced to give in and use a commercial product to kill as many of those little bastards as possible.  I won’t even begin to explain my thoughts on the effing tomato worms.  They’re green, voracious, fat, and make a satisfying "pop" when you step on them.

The cucumber patch is loaded already with dozens of future pickles and hundreds of blooms indicating a lot of canning in my future. Tomorrow will be my first official canning day of 2013.  With any luck I’ll be canning approximates 15 pints of hot Bread & Butter pickles and four experimental pints of Kool Aid pickles.  The Kool Aid pickles are something new I’m trying where you mix your dill brine with a double package of Cherry Kool Aid.  It gives you a kosher dill pickle with a sweet cherry taste in a bright red pickle.  It sounds crazy I know but a mixture of sweet and sour is one of my favorite taste combinations.  I just hope it works and isn’t a little too bizarre making people afraid to even try it.  We shall see.

I guess I can stop complaining now.  I’ll get a good nights sleep and be ready to hit the ground running in the morning.  A day of hot boiling water, pots of brine, and a huge pile of sliced cucumbers and jalapeño peppers.  A fun day to be sure.  The Fall harvest is finally beginning.