Friday, September 27, 2013

A Time to Celebrate - Family

Dad making soup
October 1st marks my youngest sister's 50th birthday. She finally made it. I am long past that now and feeling great to have had a wonderful life and still able to learn so much daily. I am truly grateful for my family, and particularly my sisters (all 5 of them). We always have a wonderful time when we get together, with everyone talking, everyone laughing (which puts me in mind of the quip: "I laughed so hard the tears ran down my legs!"), lots of wine and or other drinks, and most of all the foods. We all are excellent cooks. Some of us have stronger skill sets in one area (or maybe just more patience!) than another, but we are all wonderful cooks. This stemmed from Mom, who was a very good cook, and Dad, who loved to experiment when he had time, coming up with some marvelous recipes along the way.

Dad loved to experiment, and was not afraid to try new things. I recall when he and Mom collaborated on a recipe for Ham Bone Soup. Dad found a recipe for "Senate Bean Soup" originally, but was not pleased with how the recipe came out, so over the years he and Mom tweaked the recipe until it came out "right." He loved to make Stewed Tomatoes, and played with that recipe right up until the end of his cooking lifetime. When we were young, Dad would sometimes make us French Omelettes, something he learned when in France during the war. Mom made dishes from her Slovakian heritage with a few other staples thrown in, all of which were just marvelous.

I guess what I am trying to say is that all of us sisters learned what good food was since birth, and we all learned to experiment. When we get together for any event there is so much wonderful food; so many wonderful flavors. Standing around eating and savoring the flavors is something my husband described for me: 

"Have you ever had a meal where the visual presentation was stunning, the smells were incredible and the taste was so remarkable that you ate slowly, savoring every bite, wishing that the experience would never end?"

That is what happens when we all get together. Well, maybe not the "eating slowly" part! But it is magical. Laura, the upcoming birthday girl, makes the most wonderful truffles. I have never had the patience. Barb is always busy with job and her own family all getting together, but even as busy as she is, she always makes putting together a meal for kids, grandkids, extended family and their friends - seem easy. It is a gift, to be sure. She makes basic food taste sublime. Her "Friendship Bread" was nearly an addiction for me! I could write a short story about all the wonderful talents my sisters have in the kitchen. Please excuse if I don't get into the wonders each have created. 


So this is some background on my family and how we all got the "cooking gene", and I have taken it a step farther by bringing it all online.  I will be gone a week to celebrate Laura's 50th. In running around the house, gathering up things to pack for the trip, my husband came home with some small cukes to make into Bread and Butter Pickles. I had wanted to make them weeks ago and between one thing and another it didn't happen. Then the season for the small pickling cukes was over and I was left without being able to make these. I wanted to put a photo on my website, but had no cukes to can. I did get them made yesterday, finally, and here is a photo of the final product. 

Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread & Butter Pickles

1 quart apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
7 cups sugar
1 - 2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole cloves
5 pounds pickling cucumbers
3 pounds onions, sliced and quartered
Canning or Kosher salt, for sprinkling

Slice cucumbers to about ¼-inch thick and layer into a large colander, sprinkling salt all over them, layer upon layer. Set them aside to drain for at least 1 hour. Meanwhile, slice the onions and set aside. In a large nonreactive enamel or stainless pot mix together the vinegar, sugar water, turmeric, mustard and celery seeds.

In a small piece of cheesecloth, place the allspice, cinnamon and cloves and tie together for easy removal later. Place into the pot. Bring the mixture to nearly boiling to dissolve the sugar. Drain the cucumbers well and add them to the pot with the onions and bring just to under a boil. Remove the little bag of whole spices. Pack the pickles and onions into hot, sterilized jars and top with lids and rings. Place the jars into a boiling water bath to cover and process for 10 minutes at 0 - 1,000 feet. Add 5 minutes for 1,000 to 3,000 feet; 5 more minutes for above 3,000 feet.
For the next week I will be helping out at my sister Anita's house, making things to share with all of us for the birthday week. Anita has things well in hand already, but it will be a busy few days. Off I go!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.