Monday, August 19, 2019

Red Sundress, Almost Kitschy

This is a summer work dress: cool and breezy in 100% cotton, printed and dark enough to look decent through splashes and dirt from canning and gardening, and not restrictive at all for lifting and bending and wrangling and the full workout. I love it!

The bandanna fabric could be cutesy and kitschy; I sort of itched to pair it with rick rack or calico or even some crocheted lace.  But no: cute is not my look.  But still: I wanted just a little pizzazz somewhere.

  Look closely at the yoke in the front:  I hand-sewed running stitches in black and white perle cotton around some of the circles and squares!  Subtle and happy. 

Also, inside the dress, I made the channel for the drawstring out of striped blue cotton and finished the hem in light blue bias tape.  I really need a little fizz somewhere in my clothes, a little patchwork effect if you will.

I used this dress pattern seven years ago, the second dress I ever made for myself.  This time around, I did not widen the bodice, and I'm really pleased with the fit.  I wish I had made the red dress a touch longer.  Also, I have to say I no longer own that plaid sundress because the fabric turned out to be part polyester as plaids often can be, and I really cannot abide that wrapped-in-plastic feeling in the summer.

Genevieve took these photos of me as I ripped the unholy mess of cucumbers out of my raised beds.  That was extremely satisfying. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Summer of the Cucumbers

I have accidentally not blogged since June! Hello! How is your summer going now that it is ending? Mine was really nice and I have no reason for the lack of blogging except perhaps I was buried under a heap of cucumbers?

My family loves kosher dills/fermented cukes/sour pickles so much, and I had a hard time finding good pickling cukes, so I decided to use my raised bed space for cucumbers instead of green beans this year. I have tried cucumbers maybe once or twice before and got basically nothing: the vines wilted or the leaves got powdery or something ate everything.

Well. I planted the whole packet of Parisian Pickling Cucumbers, timing them to be ready once we got home from our big Seattle trip (there's a post!) and figuring that I'd only get a handful anyway if I was lucky.  Well no.  Turns out, this is The Summer When All the Cucumbers Grow.  All my friends who planted cucumbers are overflowing and pickling and laughing in disbelief.

As a cucumber novice, I am not very good at getting the buggers at the little pickling size I wanted. Overnight, they grew six inches into logs!  Which were bitter and seedy and tossed on the compost pile.

I made gallons and gallons of fermented cukes (method below).  I also made two batches of bread and butter pickles from the Mennonite Community Cookbook, as well as 7-Day-Sweets, a childhood favorite that involved pouring boiling water over the cukes several days in a row to make them crisp.  Why does this work?  I don't know, but it does.

I made pickle relish, fridge pickles, and salad after salad.  Because I planted so many plants close together and did not water them regularly, but regularly let some of them get too big, I had to deal with bitter cucumbers.  I tried cutting off the stem end and then rubbing it on the cut end until a bitter white foam came out.  I tried salting sliced cukes and then rinsing them.  My best success was slicing cukes and soaking them in salted ice water for about an hour, then draining and rinsing.

Last week, the cucumber plants finally showed signs of slowing down, so I yanked them out.  I still have over 1 1/2 gallons of fermented dills in the fridge, plus fridge pickles, and a crisper drawer full of cucumbers.  On my to-do list:  "decide what to do with cukes."  I guess we will eat pickles for every meal this winter?

Did you plant cucumbers this year and get a roaring crop? Or is something else bursting from your garden?

Fermented Dill Pickles

In a half gallon glass jar, combine:
1 Tbsp. fine sea salt (not iodized)
1 quart room temperature non-chlorinated water
1 Tbsp. dill seeds
1 tsp. dill weed
1-2 garlic cloves, sliced

Stir and/or set aside until salt is dissolved.

Wash and trim ends from small pickling cucumbers - I usually kept them under 4" and a thumb-size diameter. Drop them into the brine, shaking and pushing to fill up the jar but making sure they can all be submerged. May need to add a little more water and salt.   Keep the pickles submerged under brine by filling a smaller jar with water and capping it and setting it in the jar on top of the pickles.
Set jar in room temperature for 48 hours.  Should see foam and bubbling action.  Scrape off the foam before capping and storing in fridge. Keeps indefinitely in fridge. Sometimes I use a cup or so of the brine in a new jar of fermented dills. If you have fresh dill, use 2 heads or so in place of the dried stuff.