Friday, September 18, 2015

Pickled Asian Pears, Bread & Butter Pickles, Pickled Hot Peppers and some more Tomato Sauce

I was a little busy this last week becasue everything in the garden is exploding. All the peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes need to be picked. Also a woman came into the Tool Library brought me a bag of Asian Pears. I had to get busy and get some things preserved before they started to go bad. 

I started with the Asian Pears since it was a new recipe. I found the recipe on my favorite blog about canning Food In Jars. Marisa made these Pickled Asian Pears with Lemon from a book on she received called Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon. The recipe is simple, I had almost everything except the Mirin. I wanted to stay true to the recipe so I went to the store to get Mirin...damn that stuff can be expensive. It was $11 for a pint bottle. You can order it on line for cheaper but I didn't want to wait to get it in the mail. I also used fresh ginger instead of pickled ginger in the brine. I have never had asian pears so I was unsure if the pears were ripe, it seems they were a little on the crisp side. Since I was pickling the pears I was not too worried as I wanted something a little more crunchy. The receipe also does not use a water bath to preserve the fruit. You keep it in the refrigerator, it will keep for up to a month, which for is is not long enough. I don't know if I will eat 3 pints of pickled pears in a month. So I made another batch and gave them a water bath, we shall see which keeps longer. I also used the new vintage jars from Ball, I like the way to pears look in the blue & green jars, I don't think they look good in the purple jar. 

Next I had to get busy with the cucumbers. Because I had already made several batches of dill pickles a friend suggested Bread & Butter Pickles. I had some very large cucumbers and slicing the cumbers seemed the way to go. It again was an easy recipe from Food in Jars. Instead of using 2 red peppers, I used one red pepper and some of the home grown hot peppers from the garden. I have a lot of hot peppers. The only thing that throws me is you salt the cucumbers, peppers and onions for 4-12 hours to get a lot of the water out of the vegetables. The water is replaced with the brine. So I have to think ahead when making these pickles. I will wait for a week then open a jar to make sure the taste good, preliminarie taste test say they will be great, a little on the hot side but good. Of course I still had about 1/2 a grocery bag of hot I pickled another batch. I put the peppers in half pint and quarter pint jars because I don't think you need a lot of hot peppers. I'm not sure if I can go through a jar in a month.

Last but not least was the tomatoes before they went south. I mean if i'm going to grow the things I need to make sure that I use them all up. Last week I made some marinara sauce. I cooked the tomatoes for a couple of hours then sautéed up some garlic and onions in a large frying pan adding the cooked tomatoes and letting the sauce simmered for about 4 hours. It got rave reviews from the group of folks staying at the house, not to mention it kept the house warm on a rainy day. Because of the sauce I realized that I need to simmer my tomatoes a lot longer then the recipe stated. It said to simmer the tomatoes for about 1-1 1/2 hours. They really taste a lot better when you let them simmer for about 4 hours reducing the sauce by about a third. I would also like to say I now love my food mill. All I do  is cut up the tomatoes, put them in a large sauce pan, mash them with a potato masher as they heat up. Let them boil for about 5 minutes then run the batch through the food mill a cup or two at a time. It gets all the seeds and skins out very nicely and makes for a great looking sauce. I return the tomatoes to the sauce pan, add some salt & pepper, a little garlic and if I want hotter tomato sauce I roast some peppers and put them through the food mill. It makes for a great base for any tomato based dish. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sewing baskets and drawers

Everyone that sews usually has a sewing basket of some sort, sometimes it's a small tin, some times its a large plastic container and some times it's really cool drawers that hold all your sewing notions. One of my favorite things to find at an estate sale is the sewing basket. They are usually filled with forgotten treasures and cool notions. A friends mother passed away a year ago and she told me that she found something of her mothers that she thought I would like. We saw each other a few times and she said I still have that thing for you, I will get it to you soon. About a month ago she brought that thing over to the All Girl BBQ. To my surprise it was a set of old thread drawers filled with sewing notions that belonged to her mother. The set of drawers alone are a beautiful gift, but then to open them and find all kinds of other cool things...well I was blown away. The items in the drawers were beautiful, old scissors, beautiful threads, cool boxes and brass military buttons were just a few of the items that I discovered in the drawers. I wanted to savor the drawers, like opening a present that has several layers I kept finding things that made me smile. The items in the drawers were things that her mother had treasured, put aside to use at a later date or just saved because of course if you sew you will use that piece of ribbon on another project. 
The top two drawers had thread. Lots of thread on old wooden spools and in lovely boxes. I have heard that using old cotton thread is not recommended because it does tend to deteriorate. I really don't know if this is true or not, I have used old thread that I had on hand when making clothes. To date I have not had anything come undone or rip because I used old thread. Does thread have an expiration date? I'm sure there are some that say yes but so far I have been lucky and not had problems. The third drawer had a lot of old buttons & needles, most of the buttons were brass military buttons. There were 2 other small boxes, a small box of beautiful dark glass buttons and what looks like a gift box of Coats & Clarke thread and Milward Helix Needles. The bottom drawer was filled with iron on patches, seam rippers and scissors. There were a couple of very cute little shears, one with very decorative handles. My friend put some very cute ribbon in the drawers for me specifically because it was decorated with cupcakes. I can't wait to use the ribbon on my next Dottie Angel dress. 
My friend said that she wanted it give her mothers sewing notions to someone that will cherish the things in the drawers and use them. Looking at everything in the drawers she probably could sell everything at an estate sale, all the vintage notions would bring a decent price, not to mention that the drawers themselves are very cute. I felt honored to be given a gift of someone else's sewing basket as these types of things are very personal for each and every sewer. I know I have some random things in my sewing basket and one day I will get all the baskets that I have collected together and put together one supper sewing basket. Till then I will go from basket to basket looking for the perfect thread, button or random sewing notion that I know I have somewhere in my collection. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Dottie Angel Dress Simplicity 1080

I was very excited to finally get to make the pattern from Dottie Angel. It's a simplicity pattern 1080, and it was hard to find in the Portland area so I finally ordered it on line. I have been a fan of the Dottie Angel blog for a couple of years have always loved her style and in particular the house frock she was always had nice large pockets. When I saw the pattern I knew it was a dress for me. I had several of the same problems that others had. The tucks were too high and the instructions for the arms was kind of funky. I have never put bias tape on the inside seams either. I'm glad I decided to make a muslin for this pattern as it was easy to fix what seemed to be fitting problems. Several others lowered the tucks by about 2" and did variations on the sleeve. I  removed the ties that go around the back. Thought I lower the side tucks and I think I can go even a little lower by about 1/2" or more as there is some strange gaping around the underarms. I like the pattern and it's pretty straight forward if you understand sewing. If I was a beginner I would have been very frustrated, I mean I was frustrated when I made the fit terribly...even my husband commented that it "fit weird". After researching on line about others problems here & here , you can also see Dottie Angel Facebook page that has several photos of the interior of the dress, these helped me a lot. The dress is super cute and when I made adjustments to fit my body it's really comfortable. I was happy that I made a muslin. The fabric that I used was an old sheet I got at the goodwill specifically to use the fabric for this type of project. Though now I want to dye the dress a little darker...maybe a blue. I can see myself making several of these over the winter months for next summer...or I can wear them all winter with a sweater...either way I see several more of these dresses in my future.