Archive for the ‘cucumbers’ Tag

08/12/021 Harvest Time   2 comments

Needless to say we here in New England love the Fall. It’s harvest time for most crops but especially cucumbers which we wait for all year. This is pickle season for those of us who love hot pickles. I don’t mean just spicy hot, I mean hot enough to make your head sweat. My better half and I make pickles every year at this time because the demand for them is high with friends and family. Our time yesterday was spent making 15 pints of hot Bread & Butter pickles and 9 additional pints of smoking hot dill pickles. These pickles are made with our family recipes but we add the additional heat. We add a mixture of sliced jalapenos, serranoes, and my all time favorite, habaneros. Here’s how we get started.

Our preparation actually starts the night before with the slicing of many cucumbers. My better half usually handles that chore because she cuts a much more uniform slice than I do. She also handles slicing the hot peppers because in past years I’ve almost blinded myself by putting my bare hands near my eyes after forgetting to wear gloves.

First we get our lids, rims, and jars sterilized in boiling water. Then we mix a concoction of herbs and spices to make what we call the syrup that will do the actual pickling. We also add three large bottles of jalapeno vinegar which I made earlier this Spring. Just a friendly tip if you’re going to make hot pickles . . . wear thick rubber gloves. Not those flimsy latex gloves because the oils from the hot peppers migrate right through the latex. Once it gets on your bare hands you’re in trouble.

It’s really not a difficult process once you’ve done it a few times. We completed this entire job in 2 hours minus the preparation done the previous day. When you have a good product people want it which is why we have a long list of folks waiting for these pickles. In a normal year we’ll process 35 to 40 pints of a variety of pickles. Then we can get started with our hot pasta sauces, BBQ sauce, salsa, chili, and wing sauces.

It really is a lot of fun and will keep our family and friends well supplied until Spring. You should give it a try.

07-15-2016 Journal – Garden Production!   Leave a comment

I breathed a huge sigh of relief this week when we finally began harvesting a few items from the garden.  By far the plants that seem to be doing the best are the zucchini’s.  They are weeks ahead of the hot peppers of so it seems. Here are the first two we removed and they’ve already been made into a number of loaves of chocolate zucchini bread.


The cake was delicious as usual.

We also have five or six cucumbers ready for the table.  This meal consisted of chicken tenders grilled in a tequila & lime sauce and a cucumber, tomato, and onion salad drizzled with oil and vinegar.  Add to that vegetarian spring rolls and a cold glass of Chardonnay and your in heaven. It tasted way better than it sounds or looks.


One of the hazards of eating a meal on our deck are the hundreds of birds that consistently visit our feeders. Over the last few years we’ve been adopted by three generations of woodpeckers.  Imagine trying to eat your meal as they zoom into the feeder just a foot or two above your head.  They seem to have lost all fear of us.


I guess it’s nice to have visitors of a sort when dining but these guys are a pain at times.


09-01-2015 Journal–Herbs, Fish, and Gin!   Leave a comment

Goodbye August!  Now begins our downhill slide into Fall and the always unavoidable Winter.  This Summer has sped by faster than any I can even remember.


The better-half and I spent a couple of hours yesterday canning the remaining cucumbers, jalapenos, and assorted hot peppers from the garden.  With all of the canning competed I can now start dehydrating my collection of our main cooking herbs.  It’s amazing to me just how many herbs we consume each winter.  That’ll be my main job during the coming week because we have a large supply of oregano, tarragon, mints, parsley, and thyme to choose from.


We still have a few zucchini’s to be used along with a few kohlrabi’s and beans.  The sunflowers are now in bloom and the birds are already circling.  Those little beasts can strip a sunflower in a matter of hours once the seeds are ready to eat.


We didn’t feel much like cooking yesterday which means an afternoon visit to Applebee’s. For a lot of years we avoided the place because the food was mediocre and over priced.  Going there now is like visiting a brand new restaurant. They’ve changed their menu to something on the order of a TGIF.  The food selection is terrific, the preparation is excellent, and the prices won’t break the bank.  It was Fish & Chips for me and Shrimp for the better-half.  I also washed it all down with a couple of extra tall Gin & Tonics.  Life is good.




07-27-2015 Journal–Dill Pickle Day!   Leave a comment

Every summer about this time I donate one day of my time to the making of dill pickles.  I’ve loved dill pickles for most of my life and if I do say so myself, I make one helluva pickle.  Mine are a bit different from the store-bought variety since I pickle the cucumbers in a dill brine accompanied by a selection of sliced habanero’s and jalapeno’s.  The results have the best dill flavor I can supply with enough heat to make your head sweat. 


My better-half isn’t a big fan of the dill flavor so I’m relegated to making one small batch each summer that will usually last me most of the winter.  I have a couple of other people in the area who are also big fans of dill and I make enough to keep them supplied as well.



The process begins with a 48 hour bath for the cucumbers in lime water.  This will help keep the pickle slices crisp after the canning process has been completed.  While the cukes are soaking I slice up a sufficient amount of habaneros and jalapenos to add to the mix.  I was able to pick up a package of fresh dill yesterday and I’ll place a small sprig in the top of each jar. It’s mostly for decoration purposes but in addition to that I also add dried dill to the brine.


After the cucumber  slicing, dicing, and jar  packing, the final product is covered with dill brine and capped. Then into a boiling water bath to help seal the jars and to precook the pickles.  Then it’s on to the cooling rack for a few hours and here’s the finished product.


Thirteen pints of some truly hot and tasty dill pickles.  Good for any occasion or you can just sit and eat a jar while watching a movie.  If possible and if we have a good supply of cucumbers I may make a second batch of Kosher Dill pickles later this fall. It’s a totally different flavor of dill and I love it as much as these.

* * *  NEWS FLASH * * *

Today is a big day for us.  Today is our Independence Day from cable TV.  All of the companies equipment has been removed and will be shipped back in a few days.  The account was closed after the typical games these companies insist on playing.  They offered me a 50% reduction in my monthly rate if I would reconsider and stay with them.  I asked only one question. If they could afford to do that so easily now it must mean they’ve been overcharging me for years.  We agreed to disagree and that was that.  Good-bye, Good Luck, and get the hell out Dish Network.

* * * HOORAY FOR US * * *

06-11-2015 Journal–Garden Update!   Leave a comment


I thought I’d take a little time today to give you a general update of the garden. I realize that it’s still early in the season but with the warm weather finally arriving the plants have really begun to grow.  As usual there have been a few fatalities in the garden. Two jalapenos dried up and fell over and three of the cucumber plants followed suit.  The peppers had their stems cut which confused me for a time.  I thought it might have been deer but a nearby nurseryman  advised of a rash of cut worm complaints in recent weeks. They love chewing through the stems of healthy plants.  I’ll have to keep an eye out for them and squish as many as I possibly can.


The cucumbers were ones I purchased from Lowes  and I’ve come to find out that most plants purchased from local nurseries seem to thrive much more than those purchased from these big box stores.  I  think it all comes down to how the plants are handled.  Unfortunately at any big box store, they hire a bunch of high school or college students at minimum wage and set them loose on the plants.  Too much watering is just as damaging as too little and those kids are clueless.


With the new plants in hand I replaced the dead ones last night.  I spent some time chopping down the seed stalks of my rhubarb plants too.  This should help them fill out a little more and give me a better harvest when it comes time to make jam. I was surprised to find a number of rhubarb seedlings in one of the other frames. The seeds must have blown there last year and took root this spring.  I replanted them nearer the rhubarb patch will I’m going to be forced to enlarge next season.


‘There always seems to be one on these guys hanging around.’

I finally began caging the tomato plants when I found the first bloom on one plant.  I was going to wait until later in the month but the plants are growing so quickly they’ll need the support from the cages to keep the fruit off the ground.


As you can see by the photos the entire garden including the herbs are looking good.  If this keeps up for another couple of months we will have a ton of product to deal with  this Fall.  I have a feeling we’ll be canning a lot more than we did last year with a much larger variety as well.

05-20-2015 Journal–Time for Planting!   Leave a comment


It appears that the weather will finally permit me to get back into the garden.  I’ve been monitoring the long-range weather forecast for a week and it looks as if the chances of a hard frost are behind us.   Most of the night time temperatures for the next two weeks are in the high forties and low to mid-fifties.  Today is the day that the majority of the garden will be planted.


I’ve had a lot of plants in my cold frames for more than a week letting them get accustomed to the weather and cooler temperatures.  I collected my three dozen hard boiled eggs, a bag of fertilizer, and headed to the garden.


Dig a five inch deep hole, drop in an egg, crush the top, drop in a little fertilizer, and set the plant in place.  Do it about ten more times and you have a nice patch of jalapenos peppers  to harvest later in the Summer.


Next came the cherry tomato plants. I decided to double the number of plants from last year because we eat so much salad during the Summer months. We came up a little short last year and I don’t want that happening again. What good is a salad without tomatoes.


I planted the zucchini, yellow squash, and kohlrabi’s next but ran out of eggs.  I plan on picking up more eggs tonight and tomorrow I can plant all of the remaining cucumber plants.  Twenty minutes of sprinkling completes the planting for today. Hopefully we’ll get some rain in the next few days or I’ll be running the sprinklers again.


I was a little surprised to find that I had two areas in the frames where I could add some miscellaneous plants.  The better-half and I will decide what else we need and have them planted over the weekend.  My goal was to have everything planted before the end of the Memorial Day weekend and we’re right on schedule for a change.

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



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.


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.


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.


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.



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.

09-03-2014 Journal Entry – 2014 Garden Results   Leave a comment



Today’s my day to brag a little.  We finished the last of the canning yesterday which means that within the next three weeks I’ll begin to close down the garden for this year.  I have to say it’s been a great gardening summer with more enough rain to keep the plants happy and a level of production at least 30% better than last year.  This first list is the approximate amounts of veggies we harvested over the last three months.

  • 10 – pounds of cherry tomatoes
  •   6 – pounds of jalapeños
  •   2 -pounds of cayenne peppers
  •   6 – pounds of snap peas
  •   4 – pounds of black beans
  • 30 – pounds of zucchini
  •   2 – pounds of kohlrabies
  • 50 – pounds of cucumbers
  • 4 – pounds of Beets
  • 5 – pounds of radishes
  • Two additional plantings of lettuce.
  • Two additional plantings of snap peas.
  • One additional planting of radishes


We then took most of them and processed them into the following list of usable foods for the winter months.

  • 10 – pints of hot mustard dill pickles
  • 15 – pints of pickled zucchini
  • 12 – pints of pickled jalapeños
  •   8 – pints of pickled veggie mix
  • 24 – pints of hot B&B pickles
  •   1 – pint of pickled jalapeño/habaneros
  • 13 – quarts of roasted corn/black bean salsa
  •   9 – half pints of radish relish
  • 18 – large loaves of zucchini bread
  •   5 – quarts of pickled kimchi
  • 12 – quarts of chili for freezing
  • 4 – pounds of kale, frozen


This last list are the herbs I harvested during the Summer to help refill our stocks for winter.  We use a great deal of them in every meal we make and we also supply to to family and friends when requested.  They’re extremely easy to grow and dry and taste great.

  •   1 – quart jar of dried oregano
  •   1 – quart jar of dried parsley
  •   1 – pint jar of dried habaneros
  •   2 – quarts of dried chives
  •   1 – quart of dried garlic chives
  •   1 – pint jar of dried jalapeños
  •   2 – quarts of dried kale
  •   9 – pounds of dried sunflower seeds
  •   1 – quart of dried Cilantro
  •   1 – quart of dried Basil

All of this was from a 350 square foot garden.

Gardening is not as easy as most people think but the rewards make it well worth the effort.  My better-half and I really want to know what we’re putting into our bodies. While it’s almost impossible to do that 100% these days, it gives us a little more peace of mind than the average person.  Along with gardening we’ve become two of the biggest pain-in-the-butt label readers anywhere.  It’s something everyone should learn to do because it’s enlightening and at times a little scary.

The better-half has a few batches of jam to prepare in the next few weeks but there’s no rush.  All the necessary berries are in the freezer and can be used at any time. I always look forward to the blackberry jam made from the berries we picked, there’s nothing better. 


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.

06-02-2013   2 comments

I thought I’d stop complaining about politics for a few days to begin complaining about Mother Nature and her lack of respect for me and my gardening skills. We seem to have the start of a summer with no moderate weather conditions.  For most of the month of May we had warm days and very cold nights.  We also were taken by surprise by a late frost or two that hit us with almost no notice.  The days were warm but the wind had a cold edge to it that just wouldn’t let up.  The frost ended up costing us a few dollars when it killed a number of the recently purchased cucumber plants.

In past years that would have set me off but I guess when you can’t do control something you have to move along and not let it make you too crazy. I replanted the cukes again after being assured by a nursery owner friend that we were safe from another frost.  Do we get a few days of moderate weather?  No effing way.

A week ago I was sitting on my deck relaxing and talking with my sister in Pittsburgh.  It was warm but still had a bit of chill in the air.  My sister was complaining about the heat wave they were suffering from and that the temps had been in the eighties for a few days.   We here in Maine usually receive the exact weather as Pennsylvania just three or so days later.  We had a day of moderate rain and then our heat wave arrived just as expected.  For three miserable days the heat was almost unbearable.  It was too hot to sit on the deck until late afternoon and sleeping became a freaking nightmare.  All of this weather and it wasn’t even June yet.  On top of the stifling heat the sun effectively roasted and toasted a large section of the garden.

So I make another trip back to the nursery for a few more replacement plants.  A number of other plants were slightly damaged as well but we were still hoping for a little rain to help them survive.  Three days later they died as well as did some of the latest replacements.  This kind of stuff is expected these days with weird weather patterns slowly becoming the norm.  It gives me a whole new understanding and appreciation of how it must have been back in the day when your life and your families life  depended on having a successful garden and crops.  Those old time farmers must have had a great deal of faith and a lot of guts.

Once again I replanted all of the cucumbers, watered them in, and prayed the weather would moderate a little with just enough rain to keep them healthy.  It was now the first of June and I hoped for the best.  Another mistake for sure.  I monitored the weather and soon became aware of possible thunder storms heading our way.  It began to rain and it poured for hours.  It was so bad that some of my newest plantings were washed out of the ground.  I’m beginning to get the idea that the gardening gods are messing with me.

If your going to garden you must be ready for almost anything.  Patience is required as well as a supply of really good cuss words.  They don’t actually help the situation but they do have the ability to make you feel a little better.
I’ve just replanted the cukes for the third and hopefully last time.

At the rate the grass is growing it should be knee high in a matter of days. That should give me something new to stress about.  Mother Nature is definitely not our friend so far this Spring.

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