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It’s Pickling Time

When spring time came around this part of Virginia, (that’s Northern VA for me) all I kept hearing was it’s that time again, fruits and veggies are growing time to pick, preserve and pickle. Now if you have been following my story you’ll know I am new to all of this. I’m just a big city girl living in a small city learning all about farming, farm to table eating, preserving, pickling just healthy fresh eating. It’s actually really interesting, and it feels good knowing where all my stuff comes from and what goes into it. Last month I took a crack at making strawberry jam and that came out great, now It’s time to pickle!

So, before I started pickling I wanted to find out more about the science behind the process, what was this all about? Now, because it is summertime and to me its sandwich season I wanted to make kosher dill pickles and a sweet pepper mix to put on my sandwiches. Ok, so the science, there are 2 methods for pickling one ensures preserving by immersing the produce into an acidic solution such as vinegar like dill pickles and Mexican escabeche. The other a much older method is fermentation caused by a chemical reaction between naturally present bacteria and a foods sugars, like kimchi. Pickling is kind of a controlled decay, when living organisms die they start several responses in the tissue that activate the release of enzymes that start to breakdown the veggies. The acid from the vinegar along with naturally forming acid in the process slows down the decaying process. There are also certain salts, especially those containing calcium that will help keep some of the crunchiness of the pickle, which you’ll find in commercial pickles. But, this is why we can pickle vegetables in summer and enjoy them in the winter.

Sweet Pepper Mix Recipe

It wasn’t difficult at all to make the the sweet pepper mix really the whole process took me about an hour to do. It’s just a matter of simmering the jars and then boiling after they are full. I honestly find canning to be very relaxing similar to gardening for some people, I just get into a zone and when I’m done I have a pantry full of preserved goodness. Of course the kosher dill pickles were the easiest of all to make they just required heating of the pickling liquid and pouring it over the cucumbers, same canning process. I love kosher dill pickles so much I had to make them. They remind me of when I was a teenager in New York an I would go to the Village in Manhattan, They had stores you could go into that sold pickles out of barrels. So many different kinds, kosher dill, garlic, bread and butter, hot pickles the list went on, but they were so good. My friends and I would stop in buy pickles and shop the vintage stores. There really isn’t anything like a freshly pickled cucumber.

Kosher Dill Pickle Recipe

So, peter piper picked a pack of pickled peppers, just how many was that? Who knows? I know that I’ve packed a few and eaten a lot of them from little Gershwin’s which are such a great snack to the big ole’ barrel pickled ones. I know they are great on burgers and hot dogs and sometimes in potato salad for that extra zest. Don’t forget the sweet pepper mix, the sweet and spicy of the jalapenos and sweet peppers is a wonderful compliment to any Italian hero (sub, hoagie…). Either way, give it a try I don’t think you will be disappointed.

http://www.foodandwine.com/vegetables/pickled-vegetables/science-vinegar-pickles-explained

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Wild Garlic

As I walk around I have never really looked to see what kind of vegetation grows around us that we can actually eat, at least not around the city. I mean I am originally from New York city so the closest I’ve come to eating something from the earth is a salad and some herbs you order from your local restaurant or you buy from your local farmers market or grocery store. I now reside in Northern Virginia and honestly I have to say I still haven’t looked around, but I do have a plum tree that grows outside my house that is edible and I have picked from it and made jam from it, ok off topic. Back to the subject, I decided to research online at the library and so forth even found a wild plant nursery, I had no idea there was one in our community, which actually was an amazing find and I became a member. Why not right? What better way to learn more about what plants grow native to Virginia and you can volunteer at the nursery. So why not spend a little time learning more about how to grow and take care of plants, I don’t have a green thumb.

After visiting the nursery I continued my quest to locate something, anything that this new forager could find, but what did I know a flower is a flower and a weed is a weed. “Were there really edible flowers, and which ones were they?” I tell you thank goodness for today’s technology and google photo search, because without that I would have no idea what I was looking at. I kept at it and stumbled upon a patch of purple flowers. Now mind you, these didn’t look like your average daisies so I took a picture and what do you know? I finally came across my first ever edible wild gift from earth. I found wild garlic! Not bad I must say and I didn’t have to go far to find it. I just took a walk down a nature trail behind my community and voila! Little did I know I could have been picking garlic all this time I was living here instead I was buying it, oh the things we learn.

You know what else I learned? “Garlic is widely known for its antibacterial, antibiotic and maybe its antiviral properties, it contains vitamins A and C, calcium, sodium, iron, copper and phosphorus. Studies have shown that garlic may help reduce blood pressure thereby reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.” Although all types of garlic have the same benefit profile, wild garlic is thought to be the most effective at lowering blood pressure. It is also said that wild garlic can help to re-balance the bacterial flora in your gut, which can soothe the inflammation, bloating, cramping, constipation, and other stomach problems you may be facing.

After all this walking and searching I had one more question that I had to look up. I mean, I have to be honest just because there’s an apple growing on a tree in the woods does it mean it’s safe to eat? It could be a poisonous apple, you never know, not everything is edible. So, back to my handy dandy search engine I went. Not only were they edible but you could make some really delicious recipes with them. You can chop them up and toss them into mayo or sour cream for a dip or put them into your favorite pesto recipe or wild garlic sauteed in butter and toss in some pasta and spinach. I decided to go simple, every part of the plant is usable and smells of garlic. So, I decided to infuse the stems, the flower part and the garlic in olive oil then I cool it down completely and out of the infused oil I made a quick wild garlic vinaigrette. I could not believe how intense the smell and taste of garlic that came through from what I picked. I used 14 bulb that yielded me about 3 normal cloves of garlic, 3 purple flowers and 2 stems cut into small sticks.

All in all I had an amazing time looking around for something I could bring back to my home and share with my family and friends. It was also a strange feeling gathering food for my family. It transported me back in time and made me think about how fresh people must have been eating back in the days. How much time they got to spend enjoying their day outside gathering. For those brief moments of foraging I got to be one with my thoughts and nature and it was really relaxing and nature gave me a great edible gift in return!!!

In case anyone goes out and finds their own wild garlic or you just want to use regular garlic, either or here’s a one mason jar or salad bottle recipe for you. Real simple just add all the ingredients to the jar close it up when everything is in and shake it all up until combined. Personally, I think a food processor is the best way. Oh remember, I used my infused wild garlic olive oil for the oil in this recipe, you don’t have to do that.

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

2 tsp dijon mustard

2 tsp honey

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dried basil leaves

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

The Impressive Health by Liz Earle Well being: http//Lizearlewellbeing.com/wonderful-wild-garlic

www.organicfacts.nets/wild-garlic.html#medicinal-uses-of-wild-garlic

Wild Garlic (Allium Vineale) found on the walking trail in Alexandria, Virginia
Wild Garlic & Herb Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
(pictured with the infused wild garlic olive oil and salad with wild garlic & herb vinaigrette)

Wild Garlic (Allium Vineale) found on the walking trail in Alexandria, Virginia
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A Soldiers Meal

Memorial Day is when everyone comes together,  we prepare our beach bags for the beach and grills for our backyards. Yes it marks the day on the calendar that all the beaches and pools open and we can start BBQ’ing in our backyards but it’s also a day of remembrance and memories. To remember those who have served with honor, dedication and selflessness to preserve our freedom.

I often sit back and wonder about the many jobs people have held in the military. The one job I often wonder about was who cooked for our soldiers when they were out on the battlefield. Did they have a chow hall or mess hall somewhere? Did they eat the same foods we ate? Were they sitting family style like we were? What was it like out there for them on the battlefield? 

I recently read about a Marine Corp mess sergeant Willard Chamberlin, who was deployed to Okinawa toward the end of World War II.  Sgt. Chamberlin quit high school in 1943 and decided to join the Marines. He went to cooks and bakers school and from there was sent to the war in the South Pacific.  Sgt. Chamberlin cooked in the 3rd Amphibious Corp attached to a battalion of the 155 ‘Long Tom’ field guns,  attached to the 1st Marine Division. On board the ship they were not quite sure where they would be heading,  but they ended up in a landing ship off the beach in Okinawa.  Sgt. Chamberlin goes on to explain that close to arriving they had been told where they would be going and what their orders were.  According to Sgt. Chamberlin not long after they arrived the Japanese Kamikaze (suicide pilots) came down and hit the water near to their ship and blew up. ” The explosion rocked our LST (landing ship) so badly the chains holding some of the 155 millimeter cannons broke and the weight aboard our ship shifted,” he said.(1) “The captain of our LST ran the ship on the beach, opened the bow doors and we stepped onto the sand without getting our feet wet,” Chamberlin recalled. (2)  There was no impending danger when they exited the ship.  A few weeks later the Marines had seized the north end of the 70 mile island without much conflict.

So this is where this little piece of his story became interesting to me.  Sgt. Chamberlin was told to prepare some food for the troops. So he did, he set up on the beach and made them some soup and coffee. Now the article doesn’t say what kind of soup he made but I’m sure it was well received and appreciated by the troops. I’m sure they used whatever field rations that were available to them at the time. The usual rations could be a can of chicken soup  He goes on to explain “while cooking on the beach an object flew right by his head and buried itself in the sand by his feet.”(3)  When they dug up the object they found it was a piece of shrapnel approximately 20 inches long, 5 inches wide and 2 inches thick.  I thought to myself could you imagine setting up your grill in your backyard and something like that nearly missing your head and feet and impaling into your grass? I realized that the men that fought out there during the war were not sitting at tables enjoying a family sit down dinner but they were being served by cooks out in the field who would prepare any rations they had available.    

As for Willard Chamberlin the Marin Corp mess Sgt and rifleman, he saw the final days of the fight for Okinawa that ended on the beach at the south side of the island.  He spent a year or so in Okinawa after it ended and returned home in May of 1946.

 

(1-3) War Tales,  Sgt. Willard Chamberlin with 1 st Marine Division at Okinawa during WW II, by Don Moore

https://www.donmooreswartales.com

 

Sgt Willard Chamberlin at 17 when he graduated from the cooks and bakers school in the Marines.
Sgt. Chamberlin on the left and a few of his cooks stationed on Okinawa.