Making Dilly Beans July 15, 2011

In the spring, I was reading some gardening blogs and came across these beautiful canning jars made by Weck. They are European canning jars that have apparently been around forever yet I was unfamiliar with them and fell in love with their shapes and simplicity. They are pricey compared to the American classic Ball jars but I wanted a few of them so I bought a selection of them here and when they came I was excited to put some of my homegrown vegetables in them this summer. As I see my tomato vines becoming trees, full of fruit, I’m thinking tomatoes for the winter months in some of these beautiful jars. Maybe some salsa. I also have an abundance of cabbage that is really tasty that Herb has been looking into chow chow recipes that would also be pretty in these jars.

So when I had picked a larger mess of beans than we could eat, ( ever wonder where the phrase “mess of” vegetables came from?) I decided to look into putting some of them up in the Weck jars. After some internet searching, I discovered that I needed to do pressure cooking on the jars to properly can the green beans and to avoid botulism. We have a pressure cooker but not one large enough to do the jars in.  I also came across a forum about Weck jars stating they were uncomfortable doing pressure canning with these jars. This meant that I needed to find a recipe that involved the water bath sealing method of canning.

I located a dilly bean recipe and adjusted it to my needs given that I wasn’t using the Ball jar version of canning. So I have included the recipe in case you want to try out a bit of canning.

I didn’t get photos of the filling of the hot liquid into the jars because there was a bit of panic at that point in the kitchen but basically I used a ladle and funnel to get the liquid in there and then carefully centered the rubber rings ( they get put into a pan of hot water to soften them up) onto the glass lids, and clicked the clips onto the lids. Three clips per lid. I let the jars cool overnight and the next day took the clips off and tested to make sure the lids had sealed. Gladly, all of them had sealed but if they hadn’t, the directions say that you can put them back into the water bath and try again.

So now, I am just waiting on the tomatoes to ripen up and become plentiful so that I can put them into the round version of the jars. YUM!






Another site to purchase Weck jars is here.

Dilly Green Beans

So many glazes, so little time…

Temmoku cup

When the first batch of glazed pieces came out of the kiln last week, I have to say I was both happy and sad. Some of the pieces were really nice, but sadly, it is clear that I need to do lots of testing and experimenting and learning what my glazes are made of.

Being concerned for the planet, I find that I worry that I am using too much water and that I only want to use the energy to fire things that I really love and feel will be a nice finished piece. So while I am throwing a pot, if it doesn’t look like something that I would want to keep forever, it goes back into the clay bin to dry out and be recycled into new clay.

I have taken the time to create all new test tiles and spent an entire week reconstituting my commercial glazes. I did a firing of those tiles and now have them hanging on a board in a somewhat color palette that I can look at and choose the glaze. I did a set for the white stoneware that I am using as well as the brown stoneware. One tile for each color clay with 3 different coats of the glaze, from light to heavy, to give me a palette.

In doing this testing, I used a quart sized yogurt cup of water to clean out my brushes and utensils and emptied that mix into a larger bucket in the sink. Over the course of the week, the bucket is full of  a mix of all my glazes which, from my research, can become a new glaze. (or not) My point is that I tried very hard not to let the chemicals go down the drain to end up in the water system.

After doing the tests, I then did the glaze firing on some real items. With each piece that I took out of the kiln, I had many thoughts going through my head about what I should’ve done different or what worked really well. Keeping a journal of each of the glazes as a reference so I can alert myself to the next time I use a particular glaze. I also bought a great book called Mastering Cone 6 Glazes by John Hesselberth and Ron Roy. It is written in layman’s terms and is helping me understand the science of what is going on with the glazes, giving me insight into food safe glazes and the leaching of the chemicals with certain foods following the FDA‘s standards for food, as well as, the Clean Water Act standards. It includes recipes that are stable and have gone through their rigorous tests. This may be where I turn in the future so that I know what the chemistry of the glazes are that I am putting onto the pottery I create. Much like cooking from scratch so that you know exactly what the ingredients are that you are putting into your body.

On the Sixth day of Christmas

My true love gave to me… 

A portrait of a domesticated goose.

6 Geese A Laying

According to, geese were the first animals to be domesticated by cavemen. They figured that they could capture the birds and pen them close to their living area and they had a continual supply of meat. So with that little nugget of information, it makes sense to address local foods and the local food movement. Now I don’t own any geese, (although I have been told I’m getting a “bird” for Christmas, that is “currently living” in our garage, which is a yearly “tale” to try to add suspense to my gift) and I don’t have a pen close to my house that I could house them. But  I should be able to find food sources locally that fit my dietary needs, that are in season and are not having to travel thousands of miles to get to my table.

For example, at Christmas we have a dish that we have served in consecutive years that has become a favorite of ours, but isn’t the traditional Christmas dinner of ham or turkey. We make a stuffed beef tenderloin that involves sausage and apples. Locally we have an old time butcher, Crabill’s meats, that takes in local farmer’s cattle and the hunter’s take animals there to be processed. So that is where I go to buy the tenderloin for the dish that I make. They also make a homemade sausage that goes into the stuffing of this dish. I should be able to also pick up the apples that I will need in their small market area at the front of the store. While I can’t guarantee that the beef that I purchase is going to be free of antibiotics, I can at least say that my food has not traveled more that 20 miles to get to my table. And I can say that I have added to the local economy by buying the meat and I have help to keep a business sustainable here in my area.

Because I live in Virginia, certain foods are not in season here that might be in season in Florida. Strawberries for example. When I * am planning my Christmas dinner, I* will try to serve foods that are in season for my area. Of course, with it being a holiday, we might break this rule for a special treat, a dessert, but I will try to keep all the foods local and in season.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

Recently I read a book by Joan Dye Gussow called “This Organic Life: Confession of a Suburban Homesteader” . It opened my eyes to how to start a journey of trying to feed yourself with seasonal foods. Joan has a house on the Hudson River with a lot that  isn’t much bigger than my own and she grows probably 80 percent of the foods that she consumes all year on about an acre of land. She grows sweet potatoes  and potatoes and has a room in her house that is cool enough that she can store her harvests to last the entire winter. Then I read the book by Eliot Coleman, The Winter Harvest Handbook and got the inspiration to grow winter salad crops in cold frames. I haven’t perfected either of their ideas or techniques yet but I certainly am trying and hope to augment our food purchases with food that is fresh from my own yard. We had a wonderful salad tonight, as a matter of fact.


Cover of "The Winter Harvest Handbook: Ye...

Cover via Amazon

On a fun note, Eliot Coleman keeps geese on his farm. They are good for keeping the pests down and their fertilizer is wonderful but I think he mainly enjoys their eggs, which are supposed to be wonderful, although I don’t think I have ever eaten one. He keeps his geese in a pen called “Duckingham Palace” and the ducks get names like Henry and Charles and Di.


So without lecturing, I just want to say that if we all made the effort to seek out local foods rather than just depending on the food that has been trucked into the grocery store we would be helping our neighbors and helping our local businesses as well as the global environment.

*As a footnote, I need to add that I don’t do any real grocery shopping. I have told my husband that if he dies first that I will starve because he lovingly cooks and grocery shops for all our food. He is an awesome cook and enjoys doing it. I don’t mind cleaning up the dishes and kitchen and growing the salad in a box in the backyard. This stuffed beef dish is, however my specialty for our holiday meal and I will be the one to go get the supplies for it at Crabill’s Meats here in Tom’s Brook.

So, when I welcome my “bird” that is living in the garage, I’ll let you know if it is a goose or a gander or a chicken or a talking parrot. I’ve been told that it talks, so I have someone to talk to besides myself. I’ll know in 20 more days.

On the Third day of Christmas

My true love gave to me …3 French Hens

On the count of 3,

1,2,3, Go

1,2,,3, …Red Light

Third time’s a charm…

Christmas is all about children and buying children toys. Games, dolls, trains, BB guns, footballs, bicycles, sweaters, mittens, and the dreaded socks. So today I thought I would have some fun and add to your toy wish list.

I’m sure everyone remembers and is reminded of the recalls for toys that contained lead and other toxic elements from toy that were shipped from China which has led to regulations from the EPA. I won’t use this as a soapbox to bash China, that will be another post but the US Consumers Product Safety Commission has posted this list of toy recalls for you to look at and see if you need to be concerned about items that you may have purchased.

Depending on the child’s age will determine the appropriateness of a gift and just how much concern you should have. Obviously, if a child is on the age to put something in their mouth you want to be more aware than an older child that has more interaction with the toy.

For very young children you need to also be concerned with whether it is a completely safe, non-toxic toy. If it  was made in the USA using FDA-compliant, medical-grade materials. It is BPA-, PVC-, lead- and phthalate-free. Free of all the bad plastic stuff! Wooden items should be also be free of lead based paints and sealers. Personally, I try not to use items with these concerns for myself and would hope that you would also concern yourself with watching out for these too.

For Young Children

Green Irene offers these kid friendly items that have all been researched and are toxin free. Of course, there are recipes for homemade play dough that you could easily make and delight most children.

My Playdough Recipe

3 cups flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups salt
6 teaspoons cream of tartor
3 1/4 cups water
food coloring (gel kind)

Whisk all the dry ingredients togethe in a large pot. Whisk in the wet ingredients (except for the food coloring) and stir until no lumps remain. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes until dough forms. Separate into several portions and add food coloring, kneading until uniform in color. Store in airtight container. This dough lasts a long time and is biodegradable so I have put it in my compost bin when it finally gets too dried out or yucky.

And for more information on making healthy choices read this from Healthy Child, Healthy World.

An interesting site that makes their products from recycled milk jugs is Green Toys.

And a list of other cool toy sites:

-Hazelnut Kids
-Eden Home
-Eco Toy Town
-Kid Bean
-Rosie Hippo
-Down To Earth Toys
-Bella Luna Toys
-Koukla Online
-Toy Spectrum

For Older Children

Books have always been a favorite in our house, but electronic games are very fashionable but I’m not sure how earth friendly they actually are. If you have a serious reader in the house and I would hope you do, then I would definitely recommend a Kindle for them. It is electronic but it is definitely earth friendly. You can store over 200 books which is much easier on the planet than the process of making a book. There are other eReaders out there as well and I would seriously look at those for older children as a great geeky gift.Kindle Video

Of course, batteries are a common item in most older kids toys and here are some facts from Planet Green about battery waste:

  • 5 billion: The number of batteries Americans purchase each year.
  • 146,000: Tons of battery waste those 5 billion batteries leave behind each year.
  • 25 percent: the percentage of total pesticide production each year that is used on conventional cotton crops.
  • 6: The number of phthalate plasticizers banned from children’s toys by the European Union in 1999. This legislation became mandatory in 2006.

So without using batteries what older kid wouldn’t want a solar powered lantern or flashlight. They can use these to read books in bed at night or for those camp outs in the backyard.

Toys R Us is actually offering a whole list of Green Toys.

Then again, there is always the box….

To home-made miracles of bread?

We love homemade bread and I have been making it for as long as we have been married so I thought I would share my bread with you today.

Cover of

Cover of Joy of Cooking

I use the Joy of Cooking cookbook’s recipe for White bread but I use Whole Wheat flour and instead of sugar, I use honey. We received this Joy of Cooking Cookbook as a wedding present and the poor thing is really starting to look worn out. (but that was 30+ years ago and we are starting to look worn out too!) Ours is the Eleventh printing of the book that was done in 1978. I think they have since reprinted it and updated it but I don’t know what they changed in the new one so I am hesitant to get a new one. I need to also add that I don’t have or ever intend to own one of those bread machines. I use a kitchenaid mixer and a bowl and just let the dough rise on the radiator. Less small appliances, less electricity and no more work and by mixing my own ingredients, I know what I am putting into my bread, unlike the mixes that you don’t know what preservatives they may contain. And this bread is usually gone before it goes stale anyway.

So here is the recipe as it appears in my book:


Wrote Louis Untermeyer:

“Why has our poetry eschewed
The rapture and response of food?
What hymns are sung, what praises said
To home-made miracles of bread?”

Two 5 x 9 inch loaves


1 cup milk


1 cup water

1 Tablespoon shortening

1 Tablespoon butter

2 Tablespoons sugar ( this is where I add honey )

1 Tablespoon salt

In a separate large bowl, combine:

1/4 cup 105º-115º water

1 package active dry yeast

and let dissolve 3 to 5 minutes. If using compressed yeast, crunble 1 cake yeast into 1/4 cup 85º water and let stand 8 to 10 minutes. Add the lukewarm milk mixture to the dissolved yeast.

Have ready:

6 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour ( I use King Arthur’s Whole Wheat)

Stir in 3 cups flour, beat 1 minute, then stir or work in remaining flour by tossing the dough on a floured board and kneading well until it is smooth, elastic and full of bubbles. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn the dough over once and cover with a cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, at least 1 hour. Punch it down to its original size and, it time permits, all the dough to rise until double once more. Otherwise, skip the second bowl rising, shape the dough lightly into 2 loaves, and place them in greased pans. Cover and let the dough rise again until almost doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 450º.

Bake the bread 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350º and bake for about 30 minutes longer. Remove the loaves from the pans and cool on a rack before storing.

(I usually have to cover the tops of my loaves after a few minutes so that the tops don’t burn or get too brown, but you will have to get to know your oven and what happens in there)

So in a few hours, the house will smell wonderful with the smell of bread baking and for the next several days we will have bread for sandwiches for the rest of the leftover turkey, toast for breakfast and as it gets older we can soak it overnight in an egg mixture for a really great french toast. I hope you find time this week to bake a couple of loaves. It is really easy and aside from the mixing time you basically just wait out the rising times and the baking.