Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Why I'm Not a Food Blogger

Occasionally I bug my friend Gina to become a food blogger. She's quite the foodie and often rushes to whatever store necessary a mere minutes after discovering a new recipe. It's always a treat to eat her creations, and I love hearing her crazy food stories that usually involve the food network, her just-as-food-crazy dad, or a late night craving for something Italian (and I don't mean a guy named Antonio).

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.

Ah well.

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


Anonymous said...

Hey--I don't recall signing a release allowing use of my big-faced image on your blog. I'll expect a royalty check. This was a fun one to read and not just because I was FINALLY featured after hinting around for, like, ever (and as I well should be as your most loyal reader and biggest fan)! BTW--when you weren't looking last night, I sent L. & Z. into your kitchen to pilfer a jar. Will you go see if they're still there? Thanks for sharing (and outing me as comment-shy, thus forcing me to prove I'm not...you sneaky-sneak, you).
Hesitatingly Yours,

Laura said...

As soon as I start making the big bucks (with the help of my make-believe editor) I'll cut you a check. Or I'll pay you in beets. Oh, but minus the pain and suffering expense of having your boyz overnight in addition to 2 stowaway beet-stealin' tots. :)

Jes kiddin', they were great as usual. I think. I slept like a log while they lurked in dark shadows, spying on each other. Or so I hear.

Now I have to go rest from the shock of seeing you in my comment section. :) (Who loves ya, baby?)

Actually, you might've just earned yourself some regular billing in my blog. Which you just might be sorry for, in the end.

diana-still-evolving said...

can we bust up your croquet game and make some dye?? I'd love to have a beet-colored rinse in my summer-blonde hair!! :D

Laura said...

Sure - why not? One year after making jelly, we tossed some hair scrunchies into the leftover grape juice! We'll take it to the next level with your head of hair!

sharon said...

Now that I have dried my eyes and can see the page, I must say I like your food blog better than any others I have read. And I enjoy food blogs but yours my dear takes the cake. It took a bit to get through it as I had to keep clearing my eyes and also because of the one incident where I didn't quite stay on the chair, what with laughing too hard. I would have to say you should consider a career in food blogging but you might want to keep your day job as well just in case. LOL

p.s. I have finally caught up on my blog so I don't want anymore nasty little comments from you sister! :)

Anonymous said...

No regular billing for this chickie, thank you very much. I'd be running for the Benadryl every morning as I break out in hives at the site of my NAME (or worse, my IMAGE) right there, on the computer, for all the world to see.

So, please use an alias. And make it special and exotic-sounding instead of New Jersey Italian, okay? And make me do interesting and daring things. And have well-behaved children. And a boyfriend named Anthony Bourdain. :o

That's enough of the blog banter for me.......back into my comfortable little box I go.

kalurah said...

OMG! (Wait, I HATE people who type "OMG" in comments!)
Oh well.
Aaaaanyway, now I know what I'm planting in my garden this spring.
I would live on pickled beets if my husband let me. And if it didn't turn my pee crimson red for the following week.
The only thing I've canned is Jam.
I'll def. give this a try once I get a hold on the required "specimen". :)

KMDuff said...

I think you could start a food blog called "This is not a food blog" or something. Your food posts are quite fun. And humor is nice to see in reading food blogs, though the food matters a little.

My DH would really like these beets, he grew up sneaking jars of them for snacks. Me, I have had beets 3 times in my life, all related to fixing them for DH. Beet ice cream was interesting...didn't blog about it b/c it didn't turn out like I wanted. :)