Monday, December 13, 2010

"i don't have to leave anymore. what i have is right here."

the food: with added love!
the song: "Islands" The xx

I'm a notoriously horrible shopper. I get bored quickly. I'll never buy anything that's not on sale. Sometimes I find clothing I like but usually talk myself out of it before I leave the store. Honestly, I'm fine with this. But sometimes you actually need a new pair of shoes. And then the inability to spend money on clothing is really frustrating.

  My 13 year old Converse, on their last day of wear. RIP.

This is an odd time of year to have an aversion to shopping. Last year I swore off buying tons of Christmas gifts for family. Gifts tainted with stress are not good gifts. So, with the exception of a few smaller items (a picture frame for my MIL, a gift card for my college freshman cousin), our gifts will be homemade this year. Unlike shopping, cooking fills me with good feelings and allows me to focus on the people receiving the gift instead of if I can find parking at the next store. I am not a big fan of sweets, so instead of cookies and fudge, I'm pickling garlic and jalapenos and seasoning salt and sugar.

I did a test run of pickled jalapenos a couple of weeks ago with the aid of my best friend who brought over makings for Pimm's cups. Can you understand why I love her so? Our afternoon was tinged with Christmas magic. Or something.

I was a bit nervous going in, but I enjoyed the jarring process. The emphasis on cleanliness and the importance of following a formula reminded me of the handful of times I've helped brew beer. And that moment when the lid pops down is really satisfying. A little check mark to show you you did something right. This weekend, the husband and I opened a jar of jalapenos to test them out. Oh. Man. I can't wait to share these babies. 

My blog readers are mostly my friends and family, so I'm sorry to spoil the surprise! But please know that this week when I'm working on your gifts that I'll be doing it with love in my heart and a smile on my face. 

For more tips on pickling, this is a great resource.

Easy Pickled Jalapenos
adapted from Examiner

5 cups commercial 5% vinegar (white or cider)
1 cup water
4 teaspoons pickling salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 pounds fresh jalapeno peppers (I used a mix of garden jalapenos, banana, and bell peppers)
1 peeled carrot, sliced (optional)
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled (optional)
1/2 onion, sliced (optional)

First, sterilize your jars and lids. Wash the jars, lids and rings with hot soapy water. Rinse well and set aside to air dry. Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the jars completely and bring to a rolling boil. Submerge tongs in boiling water to sterilize. Then (in batches if necessary) submerge jars, lids, and rings in boiling water for 5 minutes. Carefully grasp the jars with the tongs and drain water from them before setting them, right side up, on a clean dish towel.

Keep water hot while you prepare the jalapenos for pickling.

Wash the jalapenos and slice 1/4-inch thick; discard the stem ends. If using the carrot, onion, and garlic, place 1 or 2 pieces of each in the jar. Pack the jalapeno slices into the sterilized pint jars. They should be tightly packed, but not crushed.

Make a brine. Place the vinegar, water, pickling salt, and sugar in a medium non-reactive saucepan or kettle. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low, and stir briefly to dissolve the salt and sugar. 

Ladle the hot brine over the sliced peppers in the sterilized jars. Clean the rim of the jar with a clean towel and place canning lids securely on jars. Place sealed jars back into boiling water bath for 10 minutes. If you did it right (which I'm sure you did!) the middle of the jar lid will pop down as it seals. Cool and store up to one year.



  1. Oh Emily! I LOVE this idea! I am sooo going to make this for my dad this year. And I think the Rosemary Salt for my mom, too (I come from a family of salt lovers -- we have, like, the opposite of a sweet tooth).

    So, thank you for these tips! Seriously, Ross and I were racking our brains over *one more* gift for my mom and dad, and this is definitely going to be it. YAY!

    Sidenote. I was just talking to Ross tonight about how I would like to develop my "palate" more. I have really low standards for myself when it comes to food - meaning, if it's fast, easy, and relatively healthy, then ok. But I fully realize there's a whole beautiful world I'm missing out on. Any tips on how to train your tongue, at home I mean, to be more sensitive to quality dishes?

  2. Ok Emily I had to come back and tell you that my husband and I made 7 JARS OF PICKLED JALAPENOS and 1 jar of Rosemary Infused Salt!! Ross also went crazy and attempted a batch of pickled brussels sprouts...we'll see how that goes.


  3. Awesome work on the pickling, Tolly! I bet they were great! I'm really curious about the brussels sprouts...

    As for refining your palate...that's a tough one for me too! I think the most important thing is to take time to really TASTE what you're eating, whether it is basic and quick or something your poured over for hours.

    There are different ways to define beautiful food. Simple and easy can be just as...if not more...delicious. There's a place for fancier food (I asked for truffle oil for Christmas!) but basic and earthy usually tops my list, too. Tonight, for instance, we're having slow cooked black beans, potatoes and spinach. Nothing exotic about it, but I am always so satisfied by the flavors.

    Great question, by the way! Now you've got me thinking...