Saturday, August 3, 2013

Pickles, pickles and more pickles.

Pickling cucumbers at Carpintino's
Well worth the drive to Kent
Two summers ago I managed to get a couple of my girlfriends to show me how to make pickles. They had been taught by their grandmothers and were canning pros, so I was lucky to get in on this pickle event. That afternoon we processed 54 lbs of pickles and I was hooked. I now do it each August in my own kitchen and have slowly adapted the Minnesota classic Huckbarth Family recipe and made this one my own. I use jalapenos instead of anaheim peppers, for a little kick. How many seeds determines the spiciness. Last year was my first year with the adaptation and I didn't put too many seeds in. This year I am throwing them in to see what happens.

Dill Pickles for 16 quart jars of dill pickles

  • Brine: 1 quart vinegar, 3 quarts water, 1 cup canning salt (per batch)
  • 1 dill plant
  • 3 garlic
  • 4 jalapenos peppers
  • 18 lbs cucumbers (so basically 1 lb per qt plus an extra lb or two so you can be choosy)
  • alum

  1. boil brine (while you do step 2)
  2. pack jar first with dill, 1 garlic clove, anaheim pepper slice & 1/8 tsp alum, then pack tight with cucumbers
  3. fill jars to 1/4 inch from the top with boiling brine
  4. wipe top, place hot lid & finger tighten
  5. Place in hot bath for 10 min (water should be 1-2 inches above the jars)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Steamers ala Saltspring Island

When Sean and I were on our honeymoon on Saltspring Island we had dinner one night at the Marketplace Cafe. The restaurant had great ambiance, delicious food and lovely service -but what really knocked our socks off were their steamed clams. Being from Seattle, I have had plenty of clams, but the broth on these was so rich and memorable that we had to ask the chef about the ingredients. Turns out the secret is sherry.

Even months after our return home Sean talked about those clams and so I have been slowing adapting a recipe to try to make it more and more like the ones we had on Saltspring. Here's what I've got so far:

1 lb live steamer clam
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 -6 chopped garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup cooking sherry
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter

1 fresh baked baguette or 1 round sourdough loaf

  1. Rinse and drain clams; set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in large heavy pot over medium heat.
  3. Add garlic, dill, and thyme and heat until garlic is just starting to brown (about 2 min).
  4. Add sherry and water and heat until steaming (about 1 min).
  5. Add clams, cover pot and cook 5 minutes.
  6. Add butter and stir gently until well blended with juices.
  7. Ladle out clams into a large serving bowl.
  8. Remove any clams that did not open all the way.
  9. Pour remaining juices over clams.
  10. Serve hot with fresh bread on the side.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A History of Groomscake

During the Victorian Era, it was traditional to pass small pieces of the wedding cake through the wedding ring of a happily married man or woman. The bridesmaids would then wrap the pieces and,  distribute them to all the wedding guests. custom had it that the unmarried women would then place the piece of wedding cake under their pillows that night in hopes of dreaming of a future husband.

Fruitcake was the traditional wedding cake in the United States until the mid-nineteenth century. Before the advent of the home freezer, the Groom's Cake, made of heavy fruit and liquor-soaked, had a long shelf life. That is why it was the one that was kept and eaten at the first anniversary celebration.

The Groom's Cake still retains the concept that it is a gift from the bride to her groom. While the wedding cake is served to all the wedding guests, the groom's cake is used for extra pieces that are packaged for guests to take home and "dream on." The Groom's Cake provides children and others who could not attend the wedding a way of "sharing" in the couple's good fortune. Superstition holds that a bride who keeps a piece of her wedding cake will have a faithful and loving husband.

In 2006 while I was cleaning out my paternal grandmother's basement, I  found a fossilized piece of wedding cake that had been saved by her mother, my great-grandmother, from her Christmas 1907 wedding cake!

I made a groomscake for my wedding and passed it out as the favor. William and Kate did the same with 650 boxed pieces of fruitcake, I only did 200. Here is the recipe I used and it was delicious!

White Groomscake Fruitcake
By Aida Mollenkamp


3 cups raw pecans, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups currants

1 1/2 cups dried pineapple, finely chopped
3/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup Cointreau

For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
Bourbon, for aging (optional)


For the fruit:
1. Combine all ingredients in a large container and stir to mix. Cover tightly and let macerate at room
temperature for 24 hours.

For the cake:
1. Heat the oven to 300°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with butter;
set aside.
2. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside.
3. Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix at medium-high
speed until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Add sugar and continue mixing until fluffy, about another 3 minutes.
4. Add eggs one at a time, letting each mix in fully before adding the next. Stop the mixer a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and transfer the batter to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Fold in the macerated fruit until just incorporated. Divide the batter between the prepared pans.
6. Bake until the cakes are golden, set throughout, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out
clean, about 1 1/2 hours.
7. Let cool 30 minutes in the pans on a wire rack. Run a knife around the outside of each cake, turn
them onto the rack, and let cool completely before slicing and eating, or aging.
8. To age the fruitcakes, store each at room temperature in an 11-by-7-by-3-inch plastic container with a
tightfitting lid and brush with 1/4 cup bourbon every 10 days for up to 3 1/2 months.

Monday, October 8, 2012

How to Change Your Name

So you meet the man of your dreams and
you decide to take his name (or you're just ready to get rid of Mildred as your middle name).  And now you are swimming in a sea of paperwork and rules. Where to start? This blog entry will be based on changing your name due to marriage in King County of Washington state, but could assuredly by applied elsewhere and under other conditions. This is one of those "if I knew then what I know now" post, hope it helps you.
  1. You can mail in your marriage license to the King County Recorder's Office at:
    King County Administration Building
    500 Fourth Avenue, Room 311
    Seattle, WA 98104

    Or the better option in my opinion, is to waltz on in there and take care of it in person between 8:30 am and 3:30 pm. It is $3 a copy and you should get 3-5 of them. (Why ever go back?)
  2. Now bring your marriage license and go to the Social Security Office and get a new card. You will need this change filed before you can switch over any existing bank accounts or credit cards. Just go in person and avoid mailing all sorts of critical documents. 13510 Aurora Ave N Seattle, Washington 98133 between 9 am and 3pm.
  3. Again, bring your marriage license and go to the DOL and get a new license. Since there are so few locations you have to choose between Shoreline, Downtown and West Seattle These links will show you location information, including current wait times. (Rumor has it West Seattle is pretty slow around 10am -just sayin'.
  4. Now you can call your bank and each of your credit card companies to change your name and issue you a card with your new name. And you can order checks. Because you have your new drivers license now you can open a new or joint bank account with say, your husband.
  5. Now that you have your new driver's licence number you can change your auto insurance into your new name.
  6. Let HR at your work know and contact your Health Insurer.
  7. Don't forget to contact voter registration to get your name changed before the next election.
  8. To apply for your new passport, go to: (Although a US Border agent told me that I could use my old passport for up to a year after, but why risk it?)

Friday, September 30, 2011

DIY: How to Remove Rust & Season Cast Iron

I was out on Vashon Island at Treasure Island Antique Store last weekend and came across and beautiful, but rusted, Jøtul goro iron. Aside from the light rust it was in very good condition and I knew I would regret it if I didn't buy it. When i got home I took a look at my grandmother's krumkake iron and notice it had a bit of rust on it as well (probably due to my unfaithfulness -I have been seeing an electric iron on the side). So I went about cleaning and seasoning them both using this method.

  • Here is what you will need:

    Rubber Gloves, Vegetable oil, Salt, Steel wool, Foil lined cookie sheet, Bacon fat/ lard, Pastry brush

  • * I donned rubber gloves and then put the iron in the sink. I sprinkled it with salt and then doused my steel wool in vegetable oil and started scrubbing away. Keep scrubbing and add salt and oil as needed. I sometimes use tweezers to push the steel wool into tight corners.

    * Rinse the iron thoroughly in hot water.

    * Place any solid cast iron pieces on a foil lined cookie sheet and put them in the oven or 10-15 minutes to completely dry them out. (To dry the iron, which has a rubber/plastic handle, I put it on a gas burner on low until it was dry).
    * Once the iron is completely dry you can paint it in bacon fat with a pastry brush (vegetable oil will leave it sticky, so it really is better to use bacon fat). Turn it over and paint the other side.

    * Put solid cast iron pieces in the oven at 250 for an hour. Re-apply bacon fat using method above and bake for another 30 min. (Again for the iron I just left it in the pan turning it once after 15 min. Or if the base is already seasoned you could put it on the base to do this.)
    * Remove from oven, wipe excess with a paper towel and let it cool.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2011

    Yes, I Can

    Alma Frink
    I can just barely remember my grandmother canning. I never saw her do it, but when I went over to her house she would often open a jar of peaches or apricots and let me drink a little of the syrup. I remember how sweet it was and how much I looked forward to it. But by the time I would have liked to learn from her, she had already given up canning and given all her tools of the trade away. My mother never took up canning and it seemed like such a complex mystery to me. But this summer a friend of mine invited me to make pickles with her and the mystery was unveiled.

    In an afternoon, four of us pickled 54 lbs of cucumbers and 7 lbs of green beans & I caught the canning bug. I went straight home and bought a pressure cooker. So far I have made a batch of ginger peach jam and canned 18 lbs of brandied peaches. I have a flat of blueberries in the fridge ready to make into a blueberry basil jam tomorrow. I found this great book, Put'em Up, in it Brooks has some innovative and tasty recipes. I made her fennel onion jam a couple weeks ago and it was amazing.

    Vintage Chief Slotted Spoon
    While canning yesterday, I realized that one of my grandmother's slotted spoons must surely have been used when she canned peaches. Although it is a multi-purpose spoon (it is stamped "Lifts, Whips, Mixes, Mashes, Crushes, Strains), it couldn't have been more ideal to fish peaches out of the boiling bath when I blanched them. So now the spoon is even more dear to me than before. I just wish she had left me some recipes, but knowing her, they were all in her head.

    I brought a jar of jam and one of peach halves to my mother. I thought it would be a nice reminder of all the peaches of my grandma's she used to eat. My mother was very thankful and told me she knew what hard work canning was. She said that while grandma did most of her canning while my mother was at school, she could remember coming home to the jars cooling on a rack on the counter. She said grandma didn't have a pressure cooker so she canned in the oven! I said surely she was mistaken, grandma must have had some sort of large pot she used. But my mother is certain that she put them on a cookie sheet and canned in the oven. I have never heard of it being done like that before. Boy, do I wish I could ask her.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Dalahäst: the Story of the Swedish Dala Horse

    My little friend, Zaza, is completely enthralled with horses right now, as many eight-year-old girls are. Any picture, book or likeness of a horse catches her eye and so I wondered if she had ever seen a Dala horse. She had not and her curiosity was piqued and so I have researched their history so that I might better answer her questions.

    Since my Swedish friend, Inga Marta, has a Dala horse plaque on her front door, I thought she might be a good starting point in my quest. According to Inga, as early as 1700, Swedish lumberjacks in the Province of Dalarna near the villages of Mora, Vattnas, Risa, Bergkarlas and Nusnäs would sit around the fire when away from their families after long day of tree-felling and log transport and carve wooden toys for their children. They cared a variety of animals, but the most favored was the horse.

    The horse was regarded as a creature of great value and strength to a family; a faithful friend that helped move lumber from the forest, worked the fields and helped carry equipment up to summer pastures and chalets. The horse helped in trips to the mill, village and church. Children delighted in their strength and company.

    These stocky, tailless horses become a well-established tradition. They were unpainted and had just the natural grain of the wood for ornamentation.

    In further research I learned that in the winter of 1716, while war was waged throughout most of Europe, many soldiers were housed in private homes in the Mora area of Sweden. Due to the severe winter and the war, soldiers and civilians alike suffered from lack of food and warmth. Lore has it that one such soldier, carved a Dala Horse from some scrap wood in the home where he was staying. Before presenting it to the child of the home as a gift, he painted it a bright red, readily from the copper mine of Falun. He decorated the horse with a decorative harness and saddle. This style is known as Kurbits painting and grew more popular in Sweden between 1780 and 1870.

    The woman of the house gave the soldier a warm bowl of soup in exchange for this delightful toy, and so a system of bartering emerged. Like-minded soldiers began carving and painting horses in exchange for food as well. Before long the Dala Horse was credited in part with the army's surviving the harsh winter; this is another reason why the Dala horse is now synonymous with goodwill and has become a symbol of Swedish frugality and dexterity.

    Dala Horses were traditionally made during the long fall and winter evening hours when little other work might be done. The traditional color of Dala Horses is a bright orange-red, but they are also to be found in natural wood, or painted white, blue, or black, all with ornate Kurbits-style trim. Today the village of Nusnäs, in Dalarna, is considered the home of the authentic Swedish Dala Horses. Over 250,000 Dala Horses are produced there every year. These horses also have distinctive shapes and often come in different sizes. Some horses like the Nusnäs horse are stocky work-horses; others are lean and upright with stately countenance like the Rättvik horse.
    These decorative carvings are a labor of love. Most are made of pine and the initial shape is sawed by machine and then past on to the craftsmen to finish carving. The horses are dipped in primer immediately after the craftsman’s carving, to reveal any defects in the wood that may need to be fixed. Any remaining cavities in the wood are filled in to ensure extra smoothness. They are then dried several weeks to prevent the horses from splitting after they are painted. 

    After a final sanding, the horses are dipped into the paint of the appropriate color and then the craftsman free-hands the ornate paint of the harness and bridle. The art of “rippling” or Kurbits painting requires great skill and takes many years to master. Each craftsman’s develops their own individual technique and many prefer to decorate horses of the certain size over another. That is why the horses are varying in size and no two horses are ever exactly identical.