Monday, May 28, 2012

Honeymom's Homemade Candied Dill Pickles

If you like sweet pickles at all, you'll love these.  My grandmother (we called her Honeymama) used to make these and whenever she had a jar in the fridge, I was there to mooch 'em.  Nothing better in the world than a longhorn cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread with Kraft Mayo, a slice of fresh tomato still warm from the garden and several candied dill chips.  She taught me how to make them, in self-defense I think, hoping I'd ease up on her supply. 

Oh, and you needed a tall cold Dr. Pepper in the return-for-deposit bottle to go with it. The beauty of candied dills is you almost have to make them yourselves. For some reason pickle makers have never mass produced candied dills for very long, if at all.

Here's what you need to make candied dills:

  • 1 giant jar of cheap hamburger dill pickle chips
  • 1 cup of sugar for each quart of the jar's capacity
  • 1 tablespoon of mixed pickling spice per quart
  • Vinegar (apple cider vinegar works nicely and gives it a unique flavor)
  • Cheesecloth
  • Twine

Here's what you do:

  1. Pour out the pickles into a collander and drain off the vinegar. 
  2. Rinse the pickles with fresh vinegar.
  3. Rinse out the pickle jar.
  4. Put the pickles back in the jar
  5. Pour part of the sugar into the jar. 
  6. Pour vinegar over it to dissolve the sugar.
  7. Alternate sugar and vinegar till the jar is about 3/4 full of vinegar.
  8. Measure 1 tablespoon of pickling spice onto a six inch square of cheesecloth.
  9. Wrap the cheesecloth around the spice and tie the open end securely with string.
  10. Tuck the spice ball down in the pickles
  11. Finish filling the jar with vinegar and the entire amount of sugar
  12. Put the lid back on and shove it to the back of the refrigerator
  13. Put a sign on the jar threatening to chop off the fingers of anyone who gets into the jar without permission.
  14. Shake up the jar every day or two to promote complete dissolving of the sugar on the bottom of the jar.  Open the lid and sniff. It doesn't help any, but it's good for your morale during the curing process. 
  15. Wait at least two weeks for the sugar and spice to permeate the pickles.
  16. About  a week into the process, make another jar or two. You will need them because if the first jar lasts a week I'd be surprised.
  17. Enjoy!
I make my own labels for these.  I wondered why no commercial pickler made candied dills for a long time. Then, I found candied dills made by a small local boutique pickler named "Annies". She sold them through a special display at Brookshire's and charged $7 a pint for them.  I used to buy them when I couldn't wait for a new batch to cure. They are that danged good!

Annie even sells one variety of candied pickles that have jalapenos in them. Those are really good too. I may try a batch of Honeymom's candied dills with a few jalapenos tossed in to give it a little kick. I'll let you know how it turns out.


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Identifying Birds - An Experiment

I've had a couple of bird families begin showing up at my bird feeder that I can't identify. I'm from Texas where everything at the feeder is pretty much a house sparrow or a chicadee, a squirrell or a blue jay. Here in Washington, we've got a new set of feeder birds.  The first I was able to identify was a dark-eyed Oregon junco. It took me verifying it with the Seattle Audubon Society website, but I was able to get a positive ID.  With these guys, not so much,

I think they are a pair, male on the left and female on the right. The female is striped all over. The male is striped on the belly with yellow bars on his wing.  You can see this more clearly on the pictures below. 

So here's what I'm going to do.  I'm going to ask friends on Facebook if they can identify the birds.  I'm also going to send a link to this page to a volunteer Master Birder at the Seattle Audubon Society and see if they can identify it.  It's the yellow markings on the male that are throwing me. The female looks like a common song sparrow. I haven't got a sample of their song yet, but if I do, I'll post it too.  I'll let you know how my search for the identity of these two is coming along. In the meantime, my poor little junco is outnumbered and having to slip in to the feeder while the new guys are off at the nest.

You can see the markings on the male's head and the striping on the belly and shoulders of the female.

You can see the yellow bars on the male's wings in this photo.