Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fighting Nature

Maybe I shouldn't be so shocked, but I'm still surprised when I run across a gardener who insists on being able to control nature.

A Master Gardener friend recently contacted me asking if I knew an expert who could talk to her garden group about growing tomatoes . Noting that problems with fungi were "particularly worrisome," she threw down the gauntlet: "Need to learn more about it and how to control it."

When I suggested that the high heat and humidity in the District of Columbia provide an ideal environment for fungi, and that selecting disease resistant tomatoes might be a better strategy than trying to keep fungi out of the garden, she got downright testy. My advice was "not helpful," she said. "I have grown tomatoes for over 35 years and it is a bit more complicated than just looking for the resistant ones. The fungi has (sic) been a concern with local gardeners here and I am looking for a person who has technical info about controlling the spread and what are the options."

I guess this falls into the category of no good deed going unpunished. But it got me thinking--or rather wondering whether I am simply crazy for thinking that trying to grow tomatoes organically and avoiding fungi are not concepts that work easily together in the same sentence. And am I missing something when I can look at the varieties of tomato plants in my own garden and observe that some of them clearly are more resistant to disease than others?

First, I should say that I have very little experience with pests and diseases in my garden. I rotate my crops every year. I use lots of compost I make myself. I do very little watering. But I don't know that I've ever seen a tomato plant--either in my own garden or elsewhere--that did not experience wilt or some other common ailment at some point in its life. Fungi are everywhere, and they are the most common destroyer of plants.

I looked online and found a report from the University of Maryland stating that commercial tomato growers in the state commonly spray fungicides on their plants. But they also practice crop rotation and selection of resistant varieties.

Standard practices besides rotation are to avoid planting tomatoes where other nightshade cousins such as potatoes, peppers and eggplants were growing previously. Keep tomato plants well separated to promote good air circulation. Try to keep the foliage dry--don't water from the top down. Don't touch tomato plants when they're wet. Wash hands and tools after handling tomatoes. Remove and trash (don't compost) diseased tomato plant material. Disinfect tomato cages before reusing.

I admit, I intially was not happy about the way my Mortgage Lifter tomatoes started to wilt early in my garden this year. They are a bit unsightly, but boy are the tomatoes good--big, juicy and full of flavor. Integrated Pest Management practices would have me consider whether I can live with the wilt as long as my Mortgage Lifters are producing such great fruit. More and more I'm inclined to think the wilt is tolerable. Our Cherokee Purples and Dr. Carolyns, both heirloom varieties like Mortgage Lifter, have suffered very little. On the other hand, our Striped Zebra plants hardly grew or produced at all--they were completely overcome with wilt. (I see a battle coming, as my wife really likes Striped Zebra tomatoes and can't believe there isn't a way to grow them successfully here.) My Big Boy plant, meanwhile, which is a modern variety, not an heirloom, has survived the whole season without wilt, but the fruit isn't nearly as good at the Mortgage Lifter or Cherokee Purple.

So how do you feel about this, fellow gardeners? Is fungus something we need to control, or are there ways we can co-exist with microbes and still grow great tomatoes?

Note: Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, one of my favorite seed providers located not too far from here outside Charlottesville, Virginia, sells a more disease resitant strain of Mortgage Lifter. The fruit is said to be a little smaller, but equally as delicious.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Kohlrabi Gratin

I have a secret love for kohlrabi. Kohlrabi has a wonderful, sweet flavor somewhere between turnip and broccoli. But you so rarely see it for sale anywhere that we mostly just dream about it. That's why we planted it in the garden this year--to satisfy our craving for kohlrabi anytime we like.

Our friend Larry calls kohlrabi "a little sputnik" because of its globe shape sprouting long leaf stems. It's not a root vegetable, but a swollen stem. Until recently, it never occurred to me that the leaves might be edible. That's something we'll have to try. Meanwhile, I usually prepare kohlrabi as simply as possible, just cutting it into large matchsticks, cooking it in salted water and tossing it with melted butter. But I wanted to do something that would really make kohlrabi shine. I thought it would be a perfect candidate for a gratin.

I make a delicious rutabaga gratin, and a dynamite sweet potato gratin stuffed with wilted greens. A classic potato gratin has fans who are very particular about the way it is cooked in the oven. So I consulted Madeleine Kamman--who is just about the most finicky cookbook author I know, and a damned good instructor--to see what she had to say about the classic gratin method.

There's nothing particularly difficult about the method Kamman describes. In fact, it could hardly be simpler: use lots of heavy cream and let is bake a long time. As the cream browns, scrape it from around the edges of the casserole and push it from the surface under the cream underneath. Continue doing this until there is hardly any cream left, and what cream there is is studded with brown bits.

For a kohlrabi gratin:

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon butter

1 lb kohlrabi, trimmed and peeled (I used a serrated knife to remove the peel)

coarse salt

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2/3 cup grated cheese (combine Parmesan with Emmentaler)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Rub the inside of a small, shallow ceramic casserole with the garlic. Grease it with the butter. Meanwhile, slice the kohlrabi very thinly. You may want to first cut it in half from end to end. Lay the kohlrabi slices in the casserole overlapping like shingles, seasoning them with salt as you go. You may make two or three layers. Cover with the cream and shake the casserole a little to distribute the salt.

Lay the casserole on a baking sheet and place in the oven. As the cream browns, break it up and push it under the cream underneath, scraping any brown bits from the side of the casserole and incorporating those as well. Continue doing this for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the kohlrabi is perfectly tender and the cream has been almost completely absorbed. Sprinkle the cheese over the gratin and continue baking until the cheese is completely melted and lightly browned. Serve hot.

We had this last night with a wonderful salad of fresh tomatoes from the garden with fresh mozzarella cheese and basil. This is not something we would eat on a daily basis. But for now, my craving for kohlrabi is completely and utterly indulged.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Crock Pickles

Cucumber season is nearing an end for us but we are still working our way through the pickle lexicon. Here's one called "Gram's Crock Pickles" that I like for a semi-sweet tang. I also like that you can use somewhat larger than usual cucumbers for these pickles and remove the seeds. Somehow a few cukes manage to avoid detection and grow bigger than we would like. Use them here.

This is another recipe from "Pickled" by Lucy Norris. These are similar to the mustard pickles we wrote about earlier, a recipe some people objected to because it calls for artificial sweetener. Note the cloudiness of the brine from powdered mustard. These pickles are a bit less sweet and more full flavored, owing to a generous use of cider vinegar.

To make 3 quarts:

3 pounds pickling cucumbers
4 cups cider vinegar
1/4 cup pickling salt (or sea salt without additives)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered mustard

Trim both ends from cucumbers. Cut cucumbers into quarters (spears) and scoop out seeds. Tightly pack cucumbers into clean quart jars.

In a non-reactive bowl, mix vinegar, salt, sugar and powdered mustard. Pour brine over cucumbers to cover and screw on lids. Let pickles rest for at least 2 days, or until the cucumbers turn from green to brown. Store in refrigerator.

The pickles will be ready to eat after a few days. Don't be afraid to test one as your appetite mounts. According to Norris, they will stay crisp for a month, but will remain edible for six months. If you were careful to remove the blossom end of the cucumbers they will stay crisp longer. The blossom end contains an enzyme that likes to turn pickles soft.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Brain Freeze

Sunflowers, cosmos, zinnia--all are standing tall and proud, giving the garden an air of youth and vigor. Everyone comments on how good the garden looks at the moment. But I know better.

The squash and cucumber plants need to be pulled to make way for an attempt at fall potatoes. The turnips are beyond ready for harvest. The kohlrabi are giving up the ghost. I've planted a few seed trays of fall crops--cabbages, kale, lettuce, broccoli. But I haven't managed them very well. Half won't make it. Meanwhile, there are so many other things to plant that I haven't even begun to think of. And before I can get to that, a big bowl of cucumbers waiting to be pickled stares at me from the kitchen counter. I am staying up past my bedtime to can a bumper crop of Roma tomatoes.

I should be mowing the grass (we've had a drought, so not too much growth there) and beds are long past due for a good weeding. I am not so much avoiding all this work as just plodding along, somewhat stunned by the turning of the seasons and with it a long list of new things to do. It seems like deja vu all over again.

Even in our kitchen garden one mile from the White House in the District of Columbia, the toil never ends. If you start as we did back in February, the life of the garden seems interminable. I am developing a greater appreciation for all the work our forefathers faced just getting by from one day to the next. We are greatly satisfied to be feeding ourselves from our own small plot of land. But you know what? It's a lot of work....

Monday, August 25, 2008

Barbie Says, Let's Can More!

Careful what you wish for, Barbie. The ground around our Roma plants is littered with tomatoes. I have a feeling if you just gave the plants a good shake, you'd have an unending supply.

These are the pulpy, less juicy variety of tomatoes ideal for dicing and canning or turning into tomato sauce or paste. Each plant produces a phenomenal number of tomatoes. They were beginning to pile up around the base of the plants inside their cages. After collecting those, I went after the ripe ones still on the vine and realized that those were rarely still attached--they had fallen but were hung up in the foliage. Too many tomatoes even to count.

We may have enough tomatoes to last the winter. As you can see, our Romas are prolific but not necessarily large. Next year I'd like to try the famed San Marzano tomato and see how that fares. Any readers have experience with the San Marzano or care to make a comparison with the Roma?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

More Okra

If the only kind of okra you know is what you see in the supermarket, it may be you've never been inspired to eat it. What passes for okra in the store is typically awful looking. Even in our local Whole Foods the okra looks to be weeks old--all shriveled and covered with brown blotches. I don't know how the produce manager can sleep at night.

Okra should be firm and bright green (there is also a burgundy okra) without any blemishes. This is the kind of okra we are harvesting in our garden right now. The pods seem to grow overnight--we can hardly keep up.

There are so many things to like about okra it's hard to know where to start. The plant is related to the hibiscus. It makes beautiful flowers on thick, upright stalks. But it also has a strange, almost prehistoric aspect to it. The pods grow long and pointy (they're called "lady fingers" in parts of Asia) with distinctive ridges. Inside the pods, the seeds are perfectly round and eventually large and black like buckshot. The leaves are very large and elaborately notched. As the plant grows, pods form in the crooks between branches and main stem. Pick a pod and the plant keeps growing taller, forming more branches and more pods.

Some people don't like okra because it has a mucilaginous quality, or slime. My okra doesn't seem to be particularly slimy. But even if it were, you'd hardly notice because my favorite way of cooking it is a sort of stew with Caribbean origins: sauteed onion and green bell pepper, okra, corn off the cob and diced tomato. I've been making huge quantities of it lately and assumed readers were tired of hearing about it. So this morning I went through my cookbook collection looking for an alternate preparation.

You may have surmised by now that I am a pretty lazy cook. Slow would be another way to put it. I prefer foods that don't require a lot of fuss and tend to cook themselves. It just so happens that these kinds of foods--cooking slowly all by themselves in a pot on the stove or in the oven--also tend to develop great flavor.

Okra is well suited to this kind of cooking. You'll find it in all sorts of soups and stews. I spent the better part of the morning conducting a survey of okra recipes from my cookbook library. The first thing you notice is how many of the world's best-known authors completely avoid the subject of okra. James Peterson, in "Vegetables," describes an interesting okra salad with soy and sesame seeds, and a miso soup with okra and shiitake mushrooms. (You need to blanch the okra before dressing it as a salad.) "Joy of Cooking" and "Fannie Farmer Cookbook" give classic recipes for okra stews, and of course okra gumbos are standard.

But you really need to dig into the ethnic cookbooks to discover the full range of okra uses. Paula Wolfort describes some delicious sounding lamb stews and tagines with okra. In one treatment, the okra pods are stitched together like a necklace so they can be easily removed at the appropriate moment to cook down the remaining stew ingredients. Jessica Harris delivers numerous recipes for okra stews and soups in her various Caribbean and Creole cookbooks. I noticed the use of greens, such as callaloo, root vegetables, curries and even coconut milk in some of these recipes. They reminded me of an Indian dish I made a while back where the okra was first fried, then tossed with yogurt and chickpea flour and toasted spices.

Still, of the dozens of recipes I looked at, nothing struck me as being exactly the dish I was searching for. Finally it dawned on me that I just might have to make up my own dish, using the ingredients right outside my front door. I had more okra to pick, potatoes already dug during a recent weeding adventure and two Tuscan kale plants that have been badly neglected. As I sliced onion and chopped garlic, a dish gradually came into focus.

Here is my version of stewed okra curry with tomatoes and coconut milk.

1 pound white or red boiling potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced medium

2 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (or substitute fresh tomatoes)

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

large fistful kale leaves, washed, separated from stems and cut into chiffonade

1 pound okra pods, trimmed and cut on an angle into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup coconut milk

1 teaspoon curry powder

Cook the potatoes until just tender in a large saucepan filled with salted water. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy pot or Dutch oven and cook the onion and garlic, seasoned with salt, gently until the onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juices, red pepper, kale, okra and the cooked potatoes, drained. Stir in coconut milk and curry powder. Bring pot to a simmer, cover and cook until okra and kale are tender, about 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve, either as a side dish or over brown rice.

As an option, you can garnish the stew with chopped fresh tomatoes. For a more classic curry, you could also add toasted spices such as cumin and mustard seed. Since we keep coconut milk and curry powder in the pantry there was no need to go shopping at all. I deduct a couple of points for getting two pots dirty. Otherwise, this okra dish fits perfectly into our gardening scheme. It's a winner.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Breakfast II

A previous commenter suggested adding toast to fill out our breakfast. Well, we can do lots better than toast. We can add homemade corn bread.

This is the "Company Cornbread" from Bill Neal's classic tome, "Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie." I made it using stone-ground white cornmeal and buttermilk from our South Mountain Creamery delivery. I had also made a big pot of smothered okra the day before (the okra are going crazy producing new pods on a daily basis this time of year) and when breakfast time rolled around walked out out the front door and picked a big, ripe Mortgage Lifter tomato.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Shopping: none

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Sauteed beet greens and sliced tomato.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Shopping: none

Our favorite part of harvesting beets from the garden is eating the beet tops. They must be fresh, fresh, fresh. Then simply give them a rinse and toss them wet into a hot saute pan with extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and maybe a splash of red wine vinegar. They are meaty and delicious. A big, fat Mortgage Lifter tomato seasoned with grated Parmesan makes a great side.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Catching Up

We had great fun during our week off in Pentwater, Michigan. But the gardener has to ask himself whether he can really afford a summer vacation.

While we were away frolicking in the sun, our vegetables were working overtime. I returned home to a big bowl of Roma tomatoes. Another bowl of okra. Another bowl of cucumbers.

Granted, a bowl of this and a bowl of that doesn't amount to much in the grand scheme of things. But we are not about to waste food. There was nothing to do but put our heads down and start canning.

In the picture above, you see the Roma tomatoes after 15 seconds--in batches--in a boiling water bath, then stripped of their skins. After trimming the stem end, I chopped them all into medium dice, boiled them for five minutes then canned them in two quart jars with 45 minutes processing.

The okra also made two quarts of Texas-style pickles with garlic and fresh jalapeno pepper. The cucumbers made two quarts of "crock" pickles--quartered, seeded and put away in a brine of cider vinegar and powdered mustard.

The next task was start start weeding some of our overgrown beds. In the process, I collected close to 10 pounds of potatoes and enough beets to make a large quantity of our favorite garden salad: beets, tomatoes and red onion with a splash of red wine vinegar.

By this time, daughter was anxious to get in on the act. (We're into that dreaded zone of 10 days between camp and the re-start of school. What's an 8-year-old to do?) We used the forked spade to dig up carrots, and went on a tomato patrol. The Mortgage Lifters and Cherokee Purples are hitting their stride now, producing some giant-sized fruit that lines up on the kitchen counter for final ripening.

Finally, we have some panty hose to start putting our storage onions away. We need to figure a system for keeping potatoes in our space-challenged pantry. We are eating pickles like mad, but not fast enough to prevent a pileup of filled jars.

And it's almost time to make room for fall plantings. The fun just never ends.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Weekend Update

From our department of Universal Government Truths, this just in: High fructose corn syrup is actually "natural."

I know--you thought HFCS was a science experiment disguised to look like something edible.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had previously told manufacturers they could not use the term "natural" to describe foods with HFCS in it because synthetic fixing agents are used in the manufacturing process. But now the FDA has found a way for companies like Archer Daniels Midland to proclaim HFCS as "natural" as, er, what? Fuel oil, maybe?

"The process sees the enzymes for making HFCS being fixed to a column by the use of a synthetic fixing agent called glutaraldehyde," according to an industry publication. "However, this agent does not come into contact with the high dextrose equivalent corn starch hydrolysate and so it is not 'considered to be included or added to the HFCS.' "

"However," says the FDA, "we would object to the use of the term 'natural' on a product containing HFCS that has a synthetic substance such as a synthetic fixing agent included in or added to it."

"We would also object to the use of the term 'natural' on a product containing HFCS if the acids used to obtain the starch hydrolysate do not fit within our policy on 'natural'."

Sounds perfectly natural to us. And you thought high fructose corn syrup just made you fat. Hah!


The new government outlook on what constitutes natural fits perfectly into the industry view of a healthy menu for kids.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest recently surveyed the meal choices at the nation's fast-food outlets and found that in almost every case, the options for kids added up to too many calories. In fact, according to the CSPI, 93 percent of 1,474 possible choices at the 13 chains they looked at exceed 430 calories—an amount that is one-third of what the Institute of Medicine recommends that children aged four through eight should consume in a day.

According to the CSPI, KFC has a wide variety of side items, but there are few meal combinations that keep a reasonable ceiling on calories. One example of a high-cal combo KFC kid’s meal (the chain calls them "Laptop Meals") has popcorn chicken, baked beans, biscuit, Teddy Grahams, and fruit punch, which has 940 calories. (KFC has since dropped Baked Cheetos from its kids’ meals, and some outlets vary the number of chicken strips or sides.)

Most of the kids’meals (93 percent) at McDonald’s and Wendy’s are too high in calories, as are the possibilities at Burger King (92 percent), Dairy Queen (89 percent), Arby's (69 percent), and Denny's (60 percent—though its kids' meals don’t include drinks). (Since CSPI’s study was completed, Burger King has introduced one new children's meal with macaroni and cheese, apple "fries," and 1 percent milk, which has a reasonable 420 calories.)

And which chain came out on top? If you said Subway, you would be correct. Only a third of its "Fresh Fit for Kids" meals, which include a mini-sub, juice box, and one of several healthful side items (apple slices, raisins, or yogurt), exceed the 430-calorie threshold. Subway is the only chain that doesn’t offer soft drinks with kids’ meals.

"Parents want to feed their children healthy meals but America’s chain restaurants are setting parents up to fail," said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. "McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, and other chains are conditioning kids to expect burgers, fried chicken, pizza, French fries, macaroni and cheese, and soda in various combination at almost every lunch and dinner."

Besides being almost always too high in calories, 45 percent of the kids' meals at the 13 chains studied by CSPI are too high in saturated and trans fat, and 86 percent are too high in sodium. That’s alarming, according to CSPI, because a quarter of children between the ages of five and ten show early signs of heart disease, such as high LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) or elevated blood pressure.


That certainly explains why kids avoid the greasy fast food in the school lunch line, right? Or did we get that backwards?

Schools officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, report that this fall for the first time lunch lines will be monitored with security cameras to try and cut down on food thievery.

The school system's food and nutrition services department estimated that $1.2 million worth of prepared food was lifted from cafeterias in the past school year.

Penny McConnell, director of food and nutrition services, said she hopes the cameras will curb theft and send a message to students that stealing from the cafeteria is no less serious than shoplifting from a store. "I would hate for them to make this a habit and take it into the community," she said. "They could get themselves into some serious situations that could impact their futures."

Stealing food is pervasive throughout the county, McConnell said, in high- and low-income areas alike. In an April issue of the McLean High School student newspaper, a reporter watched eight students stealing food during one lunch period. According to the story, one student shrugged after being spotted; another smiled.


What's a little food pilfery when there are so many calories to go around?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released figures on food availability and with some helpful translation services from the Ethicurean we now know that between 1970 and 2004 about 500 hundred additional calories became available for the average American to consume.

The figures don't show exactly what Americans did with those extra available calories. But judging from the expanding girth of many Americans, there shouldn't be too much guesswork involved.

Among the more telling findings is the increase of about 150 calories a day in fats and oils in the American diet since the 1990s.


A sure sign that U.S. farmers are hard at work is the number of "dead zones" in the country's coastal waters.

There's a huge dead zone where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico caused by fertilizers in farm runoff from the nation's heartland. Another appears like clockwork every summer in the Chesapeake Bay. Fertilizers produce algae that suck all the oxygen out of the water so that nothing else can live there.

Writing for the journal Science, researchers say the number of marine “dead zones” around the world has doubled about every 10 years since the 1960s. At the same time, the zones along many coastlines have been growing in size and intensity. About 400 coastal areas now have periodically or permanently oxygen-starved bottom waters. Combined, they constitute an area larger than the state of Oregon.

“What’s happened in the last 40, 50 years is that human activity has made the water quality conditions worse,” Robert J. Diaz, the study’s lead author and a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary, said in an interview. “Dead zones tend to occur in areas that are historically prime fishing grounds.”

While the size of dead zones is small relative to the total surface of the earth covered by oceans, scientists say they represent a significant portion of the ocean waters that support commercial fish and shellfish species.

In recent years, dead zones have grown in places like coastal China and the Kattegat Sea, where the Norway lobster fishery collapsed. They have also cropped up unexpectedly in pockets off the coast of South Carolina and the Pacific Northwest.

“There are large areas of the Gulf where you can’t catch any shrimp,” said Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. Dr. Rabalais has studied the dead zone there for more than two decades. “It’s sort of a losing battle.”


Finally, it's about time someone came up with a system where you can pick your favorite local food items from the comfort of your easy chair.

The University of Maryland recently uploaded a new website that allows consumers to choose everything from fresh tomatoes to ground emu from local farmers.

Developed by the university's Environmental Finance Center, the "Food Trader" site acts like a community bulletin board, where farmer's can list the foods they are harvesting and consumers can contact them directly about where they can buy it.

The next logical step if for gardeners like us to have our own website where we can tell consumers where they can get seeds so they can come over and start planting. We could also post dates for weeding and harvesting. How much do you think we should charge?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Compost Ready?

Even experienced composters sometimes get it wrong--knowing when your compost is ready to use.

Thankfully, Chris Elliott is here to show us how to test for perfect compost doneness.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Barbecued Pork Shoulder

Our visit to Dennise and Andy Wright's farm outside Hart, Michigan, on Wednesday yielded a 4-lb, bone-in pork shoulder from their small herd of Tamworth pigs. The Tamworth is an old breed of pig, brown and hairy. They were romping happily in their pasture enclosure when we visited, rooting and wallowing and bathing in their watering tank. I was anxious to taste one and my favorite cut is the shoulder for its deep, unctuous pork flavors. This is the preferred cut for pork barbecue.

Somehow I needed to turn this shoulder into a meal for a dozen people. A classic pulled pork seemed like the obvious choice, although I am far from home and my cooking utensil would have to be the old, rusting Charbroil gas grill on my parents' deck. I would convert it into a smoker by lighting just one of the gas burners, setting it to the lowest possible heat and placing a small aluminum of mesquite chips (no hickory available here in Pentwater) over the burner.

Seasoning the roast also was an improvisation using what was available in the spice cabinet: fajita seasoning, garlic salt, cumin powder, chili powder, some smoke rub, kosher salt, ground black pepper. I mixed about 1/2 cup and massaged it liberally into the meat. Set the meat in a small roasting pan and into the gas grill over the unlit burner.

The pork would cook like this for five hours uncovered (meaning the lid of the grill closed, but nothing covering the meat). After basting the meat every half hour with the pan juices I wrapped the roasting pan in aluminum foil and cooked it another hour just to get the pork good and moist. After cooling on a cutting board for 30 minutes, I removed the bone (it slid away easily) and chopped the meat into small pieces.

I prefer a Carolina-style mustard sauce for this treatment. I poured the pan juices into a sauce pan and skimmed off the fat (about half the liquid). That left about a cup of juice, to which I added perhaps 1/3 cup cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons yellow mustard and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Whisk this well, then bring to a boil and cook for a minute or two. Mix the sauce with the meat to taste, or until the pork is just wet enough to hold together and sit on a hamburger bun without falling off (a potato roll would be even better).

Serve any leftover sauce on the side with your favorite cole slaw and corn on the cob.

The Tamworth Pork was worth the trip to find it: dark, fatty and flavorful. There was not a lick leftover. This was leagues ahead of any pork you can find in a store, and everyone noticed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Change of Venue

We've been in Michigan this week, specifically Pentwater, a small town northwest of Grand Rapids where my family has been vacationing for years. There's lots of boating, swimming and dune climbing. But finding our kind of food has been more of a challenge. The nearest supermarket is in Ludington, 15 miles away. I hate to come off like a snob, but I did not warm to processed turkey, processed ham, processed cheese and potato chips. Very quickly I was missing my garden-fresh vegetables and homemade pickles.

Was there any food for us here in Pentwater?

In the local wine store I noticed a sign advertising a farmers market in the village square. On Monday afternoon we paid a visit and found one vendor with a few eggs and a truckload of hand-dyed yarn. The woman running the stand was Dennise Wright, who owns a farm a few miles away outside Hart with her husband Andy and their nine children (soon to be 10).

The Wrights have 40 acres where they raise mostly chickens, turkeys, pigs, sheep, goats and a few Guernsey cows. They have a few cow shareholders for the raw milk and in high season drive 220 miles each way to sell their meats at a market in Chicago. Dennise invited us for a visit. Yesterday we stopped by to tour Liberty Family Farm where the Wrights are trying to duplicate some of the "grass farming" techniques of Joel Salatin. The pigs and chicken forage behind movable fencing, rotating through clover and weeds and leaving fertilizer behind.

The Guernsey cows are improbably friendly and docile with their huge brown eyes. One bull calf is growing horns but still nursing. He will eventually end up as steaks and hamburger. This time of year, the meat larder is running low at the Wrights'. The pigs are still growing; a few were scheduled to be slaughtered on Friday. Too late for us. We purchased a roasting chicken broken down into parts as well as a partial leg of lamb and a 4-lb pork shoulder roast. Pentwater has a full-service produce stand on the outskirts of town. We stopped there for some local vegetables and fruits and came up with the following menu:

Grilled chicken and lamb fajitas with quacamole
Black bean salad with corn and summer squash
Peach cobbler with local peaches

There's a larger farmers market here on Thursday mornings as well. We'll pay a visit to see what some of the other local farmers are growing. I bought a dozen of the Wrights' eggs ($3.50 a dozen here, compared to $5 in Chicago) and have been eating them daily for breakfast. We could also make egg salad. Today I've got our pork butt smoking with some mesquite chips on the grill. We'll have pulled pork sandwiches and homemade cole slaw for dinner.

Suddenly, those trips to the supermarket in Ludington aren't looking so necessary after all. The local food movement is having an impact even here in Pentwater, Michigan, if you make the effort to find it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Pickle Round-Up

All you skeptics out there should know that our Hungarian sun pickles, which sat outside our front door for four days in a two quart jar with a fat slice of rye bread, produced some of the best pickles we've ever tasted. These pickles are incredibly crisp, not too salty, with just enough flavor of dill and garlic and a faint, yeasty sweetness.

We don't exactly understand how this fermentation works, between the salt and the yeast, but this may be our new favorite pickle of all time. One reader calls them "penicillin pickles," yet they are incredibly easy to make. Unfortunately, they won't last forever, so we are eating some every day.

It's been a month now since we first started making our pickles. We've made quite a lot, and several different kinds. Here's a roundup:

Deli-style dills: We love these crisp, fermented half-sour pickles. It's the perfect pickle to eat with a corned beef sandwich. They are easy to make, the basic formula being two tablespoons of salt for every quart of water, then add dill weed, garlic cloves, peppercorns and oak leaves. Five or six days later, you should have a small bucket-full of pickles that will last a week or two.

Martha Stewart's Refrigerator Pickles: I wasn't expecting a lot from these pickles. They were a little bland at first, being preserved in white vinegar rather than fermented. But they have gained flavor over time and they are growing on me. Quick and easy, and they last a long time. I like nibbling on them with a piece of cheese.

Sweet & Sour Pickles: I wish these pickles were a little firmer. Perhaps I processed them a bit too long. But the combination of vinegar, sugar, cloves and celery seed provides a jolt of flavor. They are fun and addictive.

Bread & Butter Pickles: These also have to be near the very top of our list for most outstanding pickles. Don't spare any effort: get yourself some pickling lime for the long soak these pickles require to turn out firm and extra-crisp. These are a dense, full-flavored pickle with cider vinegar, sugar, cloves and ginger. Sit yourself down with some of these and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Oak Leaf Pickles: If you spend enough time in the pickle literature, you'll see all types of recipes calling for oak leaves, grape leaves, cherry leaves, currant leaves. The tannin in the leaves is supposed to help keep the pickles crisp. The original recipe for these pickles called for grape leaves, but the closest thing I have is the oak tree outside my front door. These are fermented pickles, similar to the deli-style dills described above, but fermented for two or three weeks until they are fully sour. They can then be processed for long-term storage. This is a full-flavored, classic dill pickle.

Mustard Pickle: I had my first taste of these this morning because they've been mellowing since I first made them two weeks ago. Again, I wasn't expecting much because they are so easy. But they are devilishly good, with plain white vinegar and a bit of mustard powder. Some readers objected to the tiny bit of artificial sweetener in the recipe. I'm sure you could leave it out. I could easily spend an hour or two with these pickles and a bowl of popcorn. Once processed, they should keep almost forever in the pantry.

Cajun Pickles: You figure with a name like this, they have to be good and they are. They gain heat from ripe cherry peppers and jalapenos from the garden, along with lots of flavor from the many different herbs and spices in the brine. These are another variety of fermented pickle and I just wish the recipe came with a method for canning them so we could put a few quarts away in the pantry. I hate the idea of them going bad before we can eat them all. This is one of those pickles to give to a friend who likes something with a kick.

That wraps up our pickling marathon for now. Seems to me what's missing here is a simple dill pickle made with vinegar for easy canning and storage. With all the references in our cookbook library, we should be able to find one so none of our cucumbers go to waste.

Remember to check your cucumber plants often and well. And may the cucumber fairy bless you plenty.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Real Food in The Post

Are the foodies at The Washington Post reading The Slow Cook?

A little more than a month ago I wrote about my father's quadruple bypass and Nina Planck's book "Real Food" under the heading "Is Cholesterol a Myth?" The question was whether the fetishistic approach to eliminating all traces of animal fat from the diet, fanatical exercise and a prescription for Lipitor are really the path to good health.

Nina Planck lays out the case for embracing traditional foods such as whole milk, yogurt, eggs and pastured meats and rejecting the industrial diet of factory-made foods and processed fats. This week the lead story in The Washington Post's food section is titled "The Great Divide: Who Says Good Nutrition Means Animal Fats?" and it's all about the growing number of consumers following the lead of advocates such as Planck and Nancy Fallon of the Westin A. Price Foundation. Fallon, along with unorthodox nutritionist Mary Enig, authored the book "Nourishing Traditions." Both Fallon and Enig are frequently cited by Planck, who also is a follower of Westin Price.

There's also plenty in here about our local raw milk contingent. I read the piece while spooning from a dish of the yogurt I made this week from our delivery of unhomogenized whole milk and heavy cream from South Mountain creamery.

Naturally, the medical profession does not approve of Planck, Fallon or the Westin Price Foundation, calling the evidence traditionalists rely on "antiquated." Fallon, who lives here in the District of Columbia and enjoys eggs and a thick layer of butter on her bread for breakfast, gave this retort: "Would you jump off a building because the law of gravity was discovered 300 years ago? This is good science."

Green Tomatoes

I have thirteen tomato plants growing in our garden, which means that a portion of my daily rounds entails admiring all the green tomatoes as they grow huge on the vine and anticipating what an avalanche of ripe red tomatoes we will soon have.

But then I think of some of our favorite tomato preparations such as green tomato and apple chutney and how we will be scrambling to find enough green tomatoes in October to make them and I think to myself, Why wait?

It probably should have dawned on me much sooner, but yesterday it hit me like a thunderclap that there was no reason at all to wait for the end of the season to start canning green tomatoes when so many of them are staring me in the face. So I turned my usual approach to tomatoes inside-out and just continued with my recent pickling operation, only switching briefly to green tomatoes to make a batch of our favorite chutney.

I can hardly think of a better use for green tomatoes, unless it is my wife's famous fried green tomato BLT sandwich, or perhaps her green tomato pizza. For months I have been missing something from the larder and that has been our green tomato and apple chutney, a wonderful condiment that of course fits marvelously well in an Indian meal, but also is fine next to a fatty pork roast, or slathered with goat cheese on a piece of toast or eaten right out of the jar with a spoon.

Since I've already written up the recipe, I won't repeat it. It's not difficult at all if you have a few basic pieces of equipment. And if you've been doing any pickling at all lately you probably have all the spices in your pantry already.

Spend an hour doing this and you will have the best chutney you've ever tasted for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Garden Aerial

I've had requests for complete views of my garden so here are a few from the second-story windows. This bed is on the north side of the house and now is mostly obscured by two Roma tomato plants. At the far left of the picture you can make out the spreading sweet potato vines. In June I tried planting beets and carrots on the shady side of the tomato plants without much success.

You can hardly make out the paths between the vegetable beds this time of year. The far left is the northernmost point in the garden where we've been harvesting Romanette beans. I just planted another crop plus black-eyed peas and pole limas. One bed in from that are Mortgage Lifter and Green Zebra tomatoes (lots of fungus damage there) and our eggplant, jalapeno and basil. The middle bed is okra (very productive right now) and rhubarb (hating the heat). On the far right we have Cherokee Purple and Dr. Carolyn tomatoes. Dr. Carolyn is a profuse and flavorful heirloom yellow cherry tomato.

Here you get to see our famous cucumber plants. We're still getting nightly visits from the cucumber fairy, but production is finally slowing. In front of the cucumbers are our Italian zucchini and at the far end Tuscan kale. I have a hard time killing any plant, so I dug extra holes this year for the leftover tomato plants. And on the far right is our herb garden: rosemary, sage, thyme, lavender, sorrel and one rhubarb.

Here are the first beds we planted four years ago and still going strong, although I am detecting some want for nutrients. We're already into a second crop rotation with the cranberry beans (upper left) all harvested since I took this photo. The kohlrabi is ready to be eaten, as is the Swiss chard, the beats, the turnips on the far right. The carrots are still a bit on the small side, leading me to think we need to add a big dose of compost here. In the lower part of the picture are oregano and marjoram on the left, then potatoes (half harvested) and parsnips in the lower right-hand corner. They seem to be happiest of all with just one weeding.

Finally, seed flats with our seedling for fall: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, Bibb lettuce, Romaine, etc.

It's been a good year. We've only watered three times all season.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pasta with Kale

On a recent visit to One Star Farm in Baltimore County I picked up this suggestion from owner Joan Norman for using kale: cook the kale in the pasta pot with the pasta. When the pasta is done, Joan said, so is the kale.

We have a couple of gorgeous Tuscan kale plants in our garden begging to be used. The leaves have great flavor, but they do cook a while before they are tender. So I applied Joan's suggested method to whole wheat pasta and you see the results here: Tuscan kale with whole wheat rotini and fresh goat cheese.

Prepare the kale as usual, stripping the leafy part away from the stem. Roll the leaves together and chop into a chiffonade. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta (1 pound for six large adult servings) plus chiffonade from several kale leaves. When the pasta is done, drain, plate and garnish with goat cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

(The other side in the photo is our go-to smothered okra. We are harvesting lots of okra these days and making lots of smothered okra.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Something's In My Compost

We do our best to keep seeds out of the compost pile but something's always sprouting. Usually it's some kind of weed. We often see tomatoes. You can't hardly kill a tomato seed. But recently I noticed a melon vining it's way over the wire enclosure. Where did it come from? It must have been something we ate. But was it a farmers market melon, or a store-bought melon?

I was curious to see if it would set any fruit. So far we've seen plenty of blossoms and the vines are multiplying, spreading all over the yard. But nothing resembling a melon. I'm about ready to declare that this is simply one of those vampire melons, sucking all the nitrogen out of our compost heap and giving nothing in return.

Show us a melon, or it's into the compost with you!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Weekend Update

Whole Foods recently came out with its own standards for seafood sustainability that seem to provide a handy fig leaf for the farmed Atlantic salmon industry.

Whole foods would bar use of antibiotics, growth stimulants and pesticides in salmon farming, but it merely encourages salmon farmers to reduce fish escapes and aim for a one-to-one ratio of wild fish in feed for every pound of salmon produced.

Now comes Food and Water Watch calling on Whole Foods to put some real bite in its standards: refuse fish from net pen operations and implement a strict timeline for the one-to-one feed goal.

In a letter to Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, Food and Water Watch says "we hope that Whole Foods intends to have a deadline by which all seafood wholesalers meet these new standards and that if the standards are not met, the products will no longer be offered at Whole Foods."

The latter part of course is the crux of the matter. I am trying to imagine a day when Whole Foods posts a sign at the seafood counter saying, "Sorry, no farmed Atlantic salmon today because the farmers failed to live up to our standards. You'll just have to pay $10 more a pound for the wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon."

Ironically, Whole Foods will catch the heat even though it's doing more than any grocery chain to promote sustainable seafood. We're still waiting to see what other groups such as Monterey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute have to say about the Whole Foods standards.


The international Doha negotiations in Geneva collapsed and for a very obvious reason: Developed countries such as the United States insist that poor countries remove trade barriers for subsidized First World farm products, such as U.S. corn and soybeans. While it may put money into tthe U.S. farm economy, exporting those products into poor countries has the effect of putting struggling farmers out of business.

In Mexico, imports of cheap U.S. corn following NAFTA drove Mexican farmers off their land, resulting eventually in a tortilla crisis when the price of corn went through the roof (largely because we started making fuel for automobiles out of it.).

At Doha, Third World nation's stood their ground against the World Trade Organization's mandate to remove trade barriers, insisting that "development" become a centerpiece of trade talks. Only now there are more countries that want a slice of that exporting pie.


The reasons for growing food organically keep piling up. Researchers studying Colony Collapse Disorder in honeybees are finding bees with as many as two dozen different insecticides in their bodies.

It's still not clear what's killing bee colonies. But it is clear that insecticide use in agriculture is rampant and causing untold effects. The Environmental Protection Agency apparently isn't even testing these chemicals anymore, merely analyzing tests performed by industry. Certain of these pesticides are systemic, accumulating in greater concentrations in the soil and in crops from one year to the next, only to be fed upon by bees and other pollinators.

"We still don't know what's going on (with the bees) or why," said one researcher. "But bees are dying and we better figure it out...quick."


Spiking food and energy costs are pushing up the price of school lunches around the country and could force school districts to scale back healthy choices in favor of cheap processed foods.

In the Boston area, for instance, the cost of a school lunch is expected to go up 25 to 50 cents this fall. In an effort to ward off big deficits, some districts will be eliminating the fresh fruit cup. There are worries that kids from poor families that aren't quite poor enough to qualify for federal assistance may not have enough to eat.

"We truly are at a point of crisis," said Katie Wilson, president-elect of the national School Nutrition Association.


Cutting the fresh fruits in favor of processed foods would be just the ticket for big food corporations who, according to the Federal Trade commission, spent $1.6 billion in 2006 marketing to children under 17. Nearly $1 billion was aimed at children less than 12 years of age.

The FTC examined marketing expenditures by 44 companies. Spending on soda marketing came to $492 million, with the vast majority of that spending directed toward adolescents. Fast food restaurants reported spending close to $294 million, which was divided about evenly between children and adolescents. For cereals, companies spent about $237 million, with the vast majority of that targeted to children under age 12.

Needless to say, very little was spent trying to convince kids to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.

Marketing media included television and major movies such as "Superman Returns" and "Pirates of the Caribbean." Companies created limited-edition snacks, cereals, waffles and candy based on the movies. They offered prizes on the Internet to buyers of those products that ranged from video games to trips to Disney World to a $1 million reward for the capture of villain Lex Luthor.

The internet, where ad rates are relatively cheap, is coming to play a much larger role in marketing processed food to kids. According to the FTC, more than two-thirds of the 44 companies reporting online, youth-directed activities.


The Mediterranean diet, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and olive oil as the lipid of choice was supposed to be just the thing to keep you lean and fit. But now people who live in the Mediterranean don't eat it any more. They've switched to meat and sweets.

Greeks now have the highest body mass index of any country in the European Union. More than half of all Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese are listed as overweight. Average calorie intake in the last 40 years has increased 20 percent.

What's to blame? People have more money to spend, researchers find. Some countries that started out much poorer, such as Cypress and Malta, have increased the number of calories in their diets by 30 percent. And Spain has become an absolute fat guzzler. The average Spaniard now gets 40 percent of his calories from fat.


If you're looking for food here in the District of Columbia, you might try this handy, interactive web site. A coalition of groups supporting local foods and food assistance programs sponsor the site. Called "DC Food Finder," it will direct you to maps showing locations for farmers markets, food banks, soup kitchens and lists of local CSAs. Shouldn't every city have one of these?

Try it. You'll like it.

Bon appetit....

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Yogurt Success

As long as we're getting deliveries of fresh, whole milk and cream, I thought we should start making our own yogurt on a regular basis.

On my first attempt, I made the mistake of following instructions from a dairy cookbook, heating our unhomogenized whole milk to just 115 degrees (Fahrenheit) before inoculating is with some store-bought yogurt. I left it to incubate overnight in a cooler packed with jars of hot water. What I got was a runny, fermented sort of yogurt wanna-be. Why hadn't it firmed up?

Then I recalled our yogurt lessons from "food appreciation" classes when we had cooked the milk at 185 degrees. I went back and read the pertinent section in Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking" and kicked myself for failing to remember that it isn't the bacteria that make the yogurt thick, it's the temperature.

Bacteria ferment the milk by noshing on lactose and making acid. That gives yogurt it's pleasant tang. The thickness occurs when the proteins in the milk are heated to a fairly high temperature. Heat concentrates the proteins and forces them to gather in thick chains. Commercial yogurt makers often add powdered milk and gelatin to achieve the thickness consumers are used to.

For this most recent batch, I mixed 3 1/2 cups whole, unhomogenized milk with 1/2 cup heavy cream and heated it slowly in a heavy saucepan to 195 degrees. I maintained that temperature for 10 minutes (according to McGee's instructions) before moving the pan to a cold water bath and lowering the temperature to 115 degrees, at which point I mixed in 3 tablespoons of our favorite commercial yogurt from Seven Stars Farm. I poured the mix into a warm quart jar and placed the jar in a cooler with a heavy pot full of hot water.

I placed an instant-read thermometer in the cooler, aiming to maintain a temperature of about 115 degrees. Turned out I didn't need to do anything further. The yogurt had firmed up after just a few hours, but I left it in the cooler overnight. The next morning it was thick and delicious. I couldn't wait to slice up a peach and smoother it in our fresh, whole-milk (with some cream) yogurt.

Without a doubt, this is the best yogurt I have ever tasted.

Note: take care not to boil or burn your milk. Use a very heavy saucepan and don't try to rush the milk to 195 degrees. Be gentle with the heat and stir frequently with a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula to prevent the milk at the bottom of the pan from scalding.

Friday, August 1, 2008


All this talk about pickles and rye bread made me hungry for a corned beef sandwich.

Unfortunately, the District of Columbia is not exactly known for its Jewish delicatessens. So this menu required a trip to the Parkway Deli, almost in Silver Spring, Maryland.

It was a pleasure to stand in front of the display case and ogle the chopped chicken liver, the white fish salad, the brined herring. I also found a bag of Utz potato chips cooked in lard, which would be our new preference over cooking oils such as processed sunflower or cottonseed. I grabbed some of the herring, along with the corned beef and a pint of cole slaw.

To construct the sandwich, I spread Dijon mustard on two slices of fresh rye bread. A goodly amount of corned beef was piled on one slice, then drizzled with a homemade Thousand Island dressing (mayo, ketchup, pickle relish, rice wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce), followed by a slice of Swiss cheese and a layer of cole slaw. It's too hot to light the over, so I placed the sandwich in an iron skillet over low heat and covered it to melt the cheese. After turning the sandwich once, it was beautifully toasted on each side, the cheese running.

Serve with the chips and one of our own deli-style pickles. Close your eyes and you are transported to the Carnegie Deli. The only thing missing: a cream soda.

Hungarian Sun Pickles

Hungarian sun pickles turns out to be cucumbers fermented in a salt brine with flour and a slice of bread. And, yes, they do spend a good amount of time sitting in the sun.

That according to Lucy Norris in her book, "Pickled." Not having grown up with a tradition of Hungarian pickles, I can't dispute Ms. Norris. But I'm still a bit stumped. I didn't do as well as I had hoped in my college microbiology class. Still, I'm pretty sure that the usual salt fermentation process involves a succession of bacteria, whereas bread and flour involve yeast. But Norris insists that "the yeast in (the bread) makes the fermentation process work."

Well, that's why I wanted to try this recipe: to see what happens. (Note: the amount of salt in this brine is much less than what I normally would use for lacto-fermented pickles.)

I ran into the usual problems of trying to match the volume of cucumbers I have on hand with the brining formula presented in the recipe. So I did it backwards. Instead of measuring out ingredients for the brine, I stuffed my container (a 2-quart jar) with cucumbers (2 1/4 pounds) , sliced in half lengthwise. I covered everything with water, then poured the water into a measuring cup to see how much I had.

The original recipe called for 25 to 30 cucumbers 5 inches long (no weight given) and 1 gallon of water to make 1 gallon of pickles. Again I ask, if you are filling a gallon container with a gallon's worth of brine, where's the room for the pickles? Once filled with cucumbers, my 2-quart jar needed just three cups of water. I rounded it off to an even quart to make the rest of the measurements easier.

Pack the cucumbers into the 2-quart jar along with a fist-full of dill weed with seed heads and three cloves of garlic.

Now, for the fun part. The following instructions are designed to allow hot brine to be poured into the pickle jar without cracking the glass.

Stand the filled container in a tall pot with some sort of rack at the bottom (I used my pasta pot with the strainer insert). Fill the pot with warm water to surround the pickling jar (my jar was somewhat taller that my pot, so the jar was not entirely submerged). Gently bring everything up to steaming over moderate heat on the stove. Meanwhile, pour 1 quart cold water into a saucepan and add 1 1/2 tablespoons pickling salt or additive-free sea salt. Heat that until it's steaming as well, the salt completely dissolved. Pour the brine into the pickling jar until the cucumbers are covered by an inch or more.

Use canning tongs or a couple of hot pads to remove the hot jar from the pot. Place it on the counter and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon flour onto the surface of the brine (no need to stir). Now push a thick slice of yeasty bread, such as sourdough or Jewish rye, onto the top of the brine. (I got a loaf of rye at Whole Foods. I thought that sounded more Hungarian.)

Screw the lid onto the jar and place the jar in a sunny spot outside. You can bring the jar inside at night, but keep putting it out in the sun for four or five days until the cucumbers have fermented to your liking, adding water if needed so the bread doesn't dry out.

When the pickles have fermented, remove the bread and the pickles from the jar and strain the brine through a fine seive. Return the pickles, the dill and the garlic to the jar and cover with the strained brine. Refrigerate. According to Norris, these pickles should last about one week in the refrigerator. My hunch is they will last longer than that. I'm anxious to find out.