My Own Country, or Pickle All the Things

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I’ve been keen to try preserving food for a while, but I haven’t made my way into water-bath or pressure canning yet. I’m trying to protect myself from sweets, so jams are not particularly helpful. Without a garden, CSA, or car for procuring large quantities of cheap in-season fruit, the impetus just isn’t there yet. If I’m going to buy from the supermarket, I can buy any time of year and much of it still won’t be local. (This is on the list of things to address when I have an income. But not while living on student loans.) Although the Netherlands aren’t really that far away. Not like Argentina.

But I digress.

While I’m not water-bath or pressure canning against the upcoming winter, I have started putting food in jars. This is due largely to the blog Phickle. It’s all her fault, and I’m sure she’ll be delighted to hear it.

early pickles

Yes, the middle jar is weighted with a jar of sesame seeds. It was just the right size.

Probiotic foods are good for you, you know. We all know. Most of us assume this means eating yoghurt, and we either eat yoghurt or don’t and that’s the end of it.

Or, as in the case of the lacto-fermentation community, the beginning. (Lacto-fermentation is the same as the process that makes beer and wine, but for food.) For me, it started a few weeks ago with carrot ginger pickles. After they’d been ageing for a week I wasn’t quite sold on the flavor. After two weeks, though, they were perfect.

My first batch of ginger beer, ageing in whatever large glass vessels were empty at the time. Including, since I drink cold-press coffee most of the year, my French press.

My first batch of ginger beer, ageing in whatever large glass vessels were empty at the time. Including, since I drink cold-press coffee most of the year, my French press.

Currently on my counter are radishes (with cloves), an enormous crock of ginger beer, and the stems from the kale I had for dinner last night (with garlic and juniper berries). Sauerruben will follow as soon as I procure another giant turnip. It’s madness. Madness, I tell you! Delicious, delicious madness. If I can’t have a pet, I’ll at least have my productive, invisible colonies churning out pickles. The output is the GNP of my own tiny nation in my kitchen, measured in preserves.

Looks like the 3 wise men from a Sunday School play.

Looks like the 3 wise men from a Sunday School play. They’ve obviously come bearing tasty gifts.

The Cauliflower Revelation: Parm-Roasted Cauliflower and Avocado Salad

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Guys! Guys.

I just had cauliflower for dinner.

And it tasted really good.

It actually overshadowed the rainbow trout. Which, while unfair to the poor fish, was rather exciting for the rest of us.

Although really, it just goes to show that the old maxim “put cheese on it” remains excellent advice.

For people who like the pictures of food but don’t like strange grains, this one is for you.

Parm-Roasted Cauliflower and Avocado Salad 

Ingredients
1 head cauliflower
olive oil
1 avocado
2 cubic inches (2 oz?)  parmesan cheese
kale
1/4c Greek yoghurt
lemon juice (optional)
spices: black pepper, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, thyme*

  1. Preheat oven to 230C (425F).
  2. Cut leaves and the largest part of the stem off the cauliflower. Dice into 1/2 inch cubes. Don’t worry about crumbles. Add to large glass baking dish. Toss in 1-2 tbsp olive oil, salt, garlic powder, thyme and fresh-ground pepper to taste.**
  3. Bake, stirring once at 10 minutes, until slightly browned on top/edges (20 minutes). Remove from oven and turn once more, pushing the pieces in slightly so you can’t see the bottom of the pan between them. This will prevent most of the parmesan from burning onto the pan. Sprinkle with fresh-grated parmesan and bake another 10 minutes.
  4. Dice avocado into small bite-sized chunks.
  5. Slice kale into bite-sized pieces, removing large ribs as desired. 5 minutes before the parmesan-baking is done, heat frying pan to medium. Fry kale in olive oil until slightly wilted but not crispy stirring often. Season with salt, pepper and a hint of chili powder.
  6. Remove cauliflower from oven. Toss cauliflower, kale and avocado with lemon juice and yoghurt, adding more spices as desired.

Cauliflower

Patting the cauliflower into place to receive the parmesan. Note the browned edges.

*If you lack any of these spices, substitute in something similar. The thyme, for example, was supposed to be rosemary, but I grabbed the wrong jar and then really liked the substitution.

**Fresh-ground is much more flavorful than ground, and is better for almost all applications. Ditto for parmesan–the stuff that comes out of a green cardboard container does not count. Other Italian hard cheeses, such as Grano Padano, will also work. Even cheddar would provide a great taste, if quite different from the parm. Salt, however, tastes the same whether ground at the table or months in advance, provided it isn’t clumped together. (Mineral/sea salts taste better than plain iodized, though.)

The inspiration for roasting the cauliflower with parmesan came from this recipe. The rest came from a strong desire not to let a good avocado go to waste. Or the cauliflower. Or the farmers market kale. The cauliflower had been waiting for some love for quite a while. I think we can agree that the wait was worth it. 

Remember those kale stems we removed early on? Those haven’t gone to waste. But more on that tomorrow.

The Most Scottish Afternoon

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14:00
Try to ignore the glare from the 3-story blue tent protecting the BBC stage. The one that’s set up, as it is every August, right outside my office window. Pout a little.

16:10
Is that the Proclaimers? I meet the eyes of the guy at the desk across from me. No. It couldn’t be.

16:11
Check internet. It totally is.

16:20
Bagpipes. Unrelated to the Proclaimers. What’s next, Haggis falling from the sky? Highland dancers in kilts? (Usually I have to wait for graduation for kilts on campus.)

16:25
The sultry sounds of Sunshine on Leith. My deskmate and I fangirl silently. It’s nice that someone else understands.

19:10
Leftover haggis for dinner because I’d promised NTS the day before that we would use it up before it went off. Complete coincidence. I wanted Mexican.

For your viewing pleasure: a video of David Tennant singing with the Proclaimers (disclaimer: may not be suitable for music majors). You’re welcome.

Hiking Acadia

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This week, I’ve been reading another blogger’s posts (here and here here) on camping in downeast Maine with a nostalgia bordering on jealousy. (I suggest you read the rest of her blog, too, it’s the first one I check every day.) To be sure, her tent wasn’t nestled into the shadow of a fifteenth-century castle. But she captures a scene so familiar I can’t help being a bit homesick. Green Coleman stove older than I am, clothesline strung between two evergreens, glimpses of a nylon tent through the young spruces… It looks, in short, the way camping is supposed to look. The way it looks in my head. Early memories die hard. In this case, I can only be thankful.

After wallowing in her pictures for a while, I was thankful that I had been up in Acadia only a month ago, which stopped me from feeling quite so homesick. In fact, I had pictures of my own to wallow in.

Acadia

A while back, I reported, exhausted, a route map for a hiking trip in Acadia National Park. For the casual hike we planned, it turned out to be epic terrain. Also an epic failure to check the topo map before the hike. A good time, though.

The map doesn’t quite convey the sheer amount of rock we clambered down… and up… and up again…

canyon

So I brought you these pictures instead.

An energetic start

The exuberant beginnings.

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Robot climbers?

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Here, my lovely baby sister displays what the “trail” looks like. I didn’t expect the Brook Trail to be an actual brook, but I can’t fault the Park Service for truth in advertising.

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Three hours later, after 1330 feet of bedrock descent and 900 feet of clambering. Again, that is the actual trail they’re standing on. If it looks like solid granite, there’s a reason for that.

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NTS: still going strong. The sun is setting on our side of the valley, but it’s still bright on the side of Dorr Mountain.

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A sardonic salute.

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Daddy: Did we seriously just climb down that rock face and then up again?

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Hey, there’s a picture of me in here! That never happens. Which is why I feel no guilt about posting all three of them. IMG_7005

If we rigged a pulley to the top of the mountain…

Brid

Kisses to everyone. IMG_7011

Twilight at Raglan

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The most enchanting time of day at Raglan was after the public had gone home, when the light was soft and we had the castle to ourselves (!). There’s nothing quite like wandering alone through the ruins of a six-hundred-year-old castle in the dark, or climbing out of your tent in the wee hours of the morning, to see the moon rising over the castle above you.

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So, About that Castle…

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You know how I said I spent last week in a castle? Time to put my photos where my tent was. Or something.

Raglan great gate

Credit for a lot of these pictures goes to NTS, who took far more than I did.

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A slightly distant church.

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Naturally, there were cows.

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And the Hunter Home From the Hill, or Breakfast in the Park

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We’ve been away, indulging in a week medieval revels in the remains of Raglan Castle, Wales.

That’s right; American wars are held at campgrounds, British ones in castles. To be sure, this occasionally backfires, as when said castle has neither modern conveniences nor medieval ones (see: fires in February), but in the summer, it’s downright spectacular.

For now, we’re busy settling back in: doing 14 loads of laundry, draping tents on anything in sight, slowly excavating the living room… also, resuming regular posting on the blog. This was our last big trip of the summer, so watch this space; pictures of all three will appear here soon.

It was a glorious week of living outdoors. The constant exposure to fresh air, light, and actual sunsets did away with the insomnia that’s troubled me off and on (except the one night I got chilled and couldn’t sleep until I broke out the heat packs. Yes, in August. 2am in Wales is like that). In an effort to bring more than just souvenirs (and dirty laundry) home, I’ve decided to make a few changes around here.

Breakfast in the park

Breakfast in the park around the corner. The morning is often the sunniest part of the day in Edinburgh, and it’s a shame to waste it. Exposure to 360-degree daylight helps the body realize that it really is day time. Throwing on my cloak in the morning is impractical with the wind, but I may have to go for polar fleece tomorrow! A willingness to do practical things outside regardless of weather was a major feature of the week-long campout.

church and park

Fun at Home

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This is what I did today. (Link leads to a topo map with hiking route and altitudes.)

It was hard.

Obviously, I’m working very hard to bring you new content for the blog. A.k.a. visiting with my family in my annual trip home.

There will be pictures. Cross my heart. But now it’s time for bed.

Moebius & Klein, inc.

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“If Möbius weren’t dead already…” I said, holding up what would (eventually) be a pair of trousers.

“You’d punch him. Repeatedly,” finished my husband.

“Oh, wait a sec. No, it turns out I’m just not old enough to wear pants.” Having wrangled them to a more trouser-like mien, the murderous look faded from my eyes.

“It would have been interesting, though, to have Möbius pants.”

“It would, until I tried to wear them. Wearing Moebius pants on a plane is like… bringing whisky to school in a Acme Klein Bottle. It doesn’t work.”

“Bringing whisky to school. In a Klein bottle. Right.”

o O o

“If Möbius & Klein isn’t the name of a company, it needs to be. I”ll have to start it.”

“Möbius & Klein, hm?” He clearly wasn’t seeing the potential here.

“Yes, Möbius & Klein.” I went on with some regret. “The logo probably won’t be able to be rendered in 3D space, though.”

My Home Office is a Tent, or Tiny House Living

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tent

Really, the question is, why isn’t yours?

Let me introduce you to 8 meters of olive green linen.

It came, with all of its other friends who are destined for Raglan (a week-long re-enactment at a castle in Wales), in these beautiful bags.

moose and bags

I had had some difficulty with the order, but these unexpected bags wiped it right out of my mind. I’m easy that way. I really dislike animosity, and I really like bags.

Moose and bags

I also like moose. (But I am not collecting moose; let’s be very clear here.)

Naturally, I prewashed the linen before cutting, and naturally, I didn’t put it in the dryer. Partially because I don’t have a dryer, but partially because it’s really not good for linen. 8 meters of linen, meet 4.5 meters of living room.

green linen

Tent! And my scouting mug. It seemed to match the tent.

green linen tent

And here’s its cousin, 6 meters of grey herringbone, with which I have fallen madly in love.

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This is hanging across the hallway–the hooks for the drying rack are on the left–and draped over the door to our bedroom. In a house this small, you do what you have to.

Since I’m leaving for the US in less than a week (!), I’ve been working on all of the small things that need to be done before a big trip. Buying summer clothes was the first item on the list. Since I moved here, I’ve worn out (dance class) or grown out of most of my summer clothes, but since I haven’t needed them since the last time I was home, they fell by the wayside. Until I remembered that it’s likely to be in the eighties in the Boston area in July. After the 50-odd-degree days that have characterized this summer in Scotland so far, I am so ready for some summer.

So to prepare, I did what comes naturally in the summer: I wrapped Christmas presents.

penguin-wrapped Christmas presents

No, I have no idea where your penguin calendar went. Why do you ask?

You know, with this color scheme, penguin paper would be even better for Channukah. It’ll be the new big thing. Tell your friends.

Happy June.

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