Sometimes I email recipes to her in hopes she'll get into one of her crazed cooking modes and make it. And by make it, I really mean make it for me. And sometimes I even forget to say please because I'm already laughing at the thought of her reading the recipe, making a list, and dashing out the door for the nearest ethnic grocer's.
She won't blog, though. Heck, she won't even comment on my blog. (Shame, SHAME.) This kinda platform ain't her thing, she says. I've tried several coercion methods. I even tried to sway her by threatening to make a food blog myself, thinking surely then she'd find it within herself to save the thousands of unlucky blog readers from having to eat my paltry excuses for internet-worthy recipes. But no.
I finally harvested my garden beets, and as I picked and rinsed and prepped them for canning, I thought of Gina, and the Pioneer Woman, and all the folks who either do or should blog about food. And for a moment I actually thought, why not me? I mean, I cook. I preserve garden goodies. I bake. (Well, once in a while. Sort of. Sometimes. Ok, rarely.) So I got out my camera and gave it a go.
(By the way - please don't visit the link to the Pioneer Woman above. Cuz I know if you do, you won't come back. And I'll miss you.)
Here are my lovely beets.
And so begins reason #1 I can't be a food blogger - I harvested them late. Some of those suckers are so big they could be used as softballs or shotputs, and that means those'll be woody in the center. No matter, we'll just preserve the right-sized ones and use the big ones for croquet balls later. (Have you ever used food as a sport? No? I highly recommend throwing food as hard as you can against stone barn walls. It beats squeezing those little stress balls anyday.)
Reason #2 I can't be a food blogger - When I started the canning process my kitchen looked like this:
Egad - you could lose small children in there.
Alright, so we've been messy lately. So what. You wanna make something of it? I've got a melon-sized beet in my hand that says you don't.
Reason #3 I can't be a food blogger - I didn't get pictures of the next few stages of gathering the canning supplies, cleaning the jars and lids and seals, and arranging it all in a very specific lay-out, because I got lost in the land-of-no-return that is my utensil drawer, looking for the myriad jar lids that seem to disappear in there as we eat canned food throughout the winter months. This drawer is first hard to open, then hard to close. It's looking much better now that I've fished the dozen or so jar lids out of there though. Just take my word on that.
You could lose small children in there, too.
Now, reason #4 I can't be a food blogger - I actually boiled, skinned, and sliced the beets last night. And forgot to take pictures. Actually, I didn't forget - it never even crossed my mind. Hey, Wife Swap was on - I was distracted by the southern dog lover wife calling the vegetarian meditating husband a wimpy woos.
Ok, so where are we.... oh yes, we're canning. Alright, so now I mix the brine for my pickled beets. I don't like calling them pickled because really, they're not pickled. They're spiced. Spiced beets. But we called them pickled beets growing up and it stuck, and now I confuse myself when I say spiced beets and people say, "Huh? What're spiced beets?" and I have to go into a whole lengthy explanation. Kinda like how this paragraph is getting lengthy. And boring.
So here's the brine. Doesn't that look yummy? No? Well then, that's reason #5 I can't be a food blogger - that kettle looks like something might crawl up over the side and suction-cup itself to your face.
Oh, and I forgot to tell you the ingredients (reason #6 I can't be a food blogger) - a whole lotta vinegar, a whole lotta water, several teaspoons of cinnamon, a couple teaspoons of ground cloves, and a bunch of sugar. The original recipe I have is for making 2 cups of beets only. So when I'm making 20 pints, I haven't a clue how much of anything to put in there. That's higher math and I don't want to hurt myself. So I guestimate and dump. And then when it's too briney-ish-esque-able, I add water.
Time to add the sliced beets to the brine and bring it to a boil. Oh hell, I don't have a photo of that either. (Reason #7) Oh, and I do add some sliced onions. Those are the little floating white bits, just in case you were wondering. (Reason #8)
Now it's time to sterilize the jars, lids, seals, and utensils (which include tongs, a knife, and a canning funnel).
Here's how my friend Diane sterilizes her jars. It's quite brilliant, actually, and so much easier than letting the jars tumble around in a pot of boiling water, risking breakage. First I wash them in a hot dishwasher, then I heat a 9x13 pan of water on a burner. I roll the jars on their sides in the hot water and stand them upside down so the steam can rise inside and kill any little buggers still hanging around. I also put the lids and seals in there, and the tongs and other utensils for a good steam bath.
See the steam? I burned myself a good seven or so times. Thanks for the technique, Diane!
Once the jars are hot and the beet-brine-mixture is hot, it's time to fill the jars. This isn't jelly-making, so there isn't a huge time crunch. Just flip a jar onto the counter (and be sure to use a hotpad to hold it), put the funnel into the jar's mouth, and start ladeling the beets into the jar. (Bloody hell, I forgot to mention ladle in the list above. Reason #9.)
Fill the jar with beets, then ladle enough brine to fill the spaces. But leave about 1/2 inch of headspace. (I think after canning in 100% humidity I have about 1/2 inch of headspace left m'self. Or maybe I only had 1/2 inch to start with.)
When the jar is full, wipe the rim with a dry cloth or paper towel, then use tongs to grab a lid and a seal from the boiling water pan. And this is where the knife comes in, because sometimes some of the feisty little jar lids seal themselves to the bottom of the sterilizing pan and they need to be pried off. Insolent little things. Taking care to use a hotpad, hold the jar with one hand and twist on the seal with the other - tight, but not too tight.
Now it's time to set the jars aside and wait for the little "pop" you hear when the jars seal as they cool. Make a little "pop" noise with your lips - yep, it'll sound just like that. The first one always makes me jump up and down like a giddy school grrrl and yell "Yippee!" And I get all motherly over them and coo as they pop, one by one. It's a sorry sight, but I've earned it.
Reason #10 I can't be a food blogger - ugly hands. Hey, I'm a hard workin' gardener who's never had a manicure. And look, I didn't follow my own advice and use a hotpad. No wonder I have ugly hands.
Reason #11 - I think I keep changing verb tenses. My PR editor is going to roll his eyes. My make-believe PR editor.
And reason #12 - I'm still messy. In fact, on batch #2 I got distracted by muppet youtube videos or something and let the brine boil over, which dribbled over the hot stove and under the sterilizing pan and started charring on the burners. Nice. And when I'm done, my house smells like burnt brine and the counter looks like this:
BUT!.... When I'm done, I have this:
And food blogger-worthy or not, THAT is a pretty sight. Those will sustain us through the winter, accompany us on many a gathering, and look lovely atop my salad or aside my broiled fish.
And I finished in 1-1/2 hours and took off my apron a mere 3 minutes before it was time to go to town and fetch the kids.
Badabing, Badabam. Beat that, foodies.
Why I'm Not a Food Blogger - Part II