Mama’s Fridge Pickles

This year, I grew my cucumbers vertically. The result was that they have been able to protect themselves from the Sacramento heat and will not stop producing. It’s been the summer of Mama’s Fridge Pickles!

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This is my personal recipe that I’ve tailored from a few trial and error attempts with multiple recipes. I love it because the cucumbers are jared in less than 15 minutes and the pickles are ready after 6 hours! They only keep for 6 weeks in the refrigerator, so make a note on the jar.

Here is what you will need:
4-6 cucumbers (I used 4 lemon cucumbers for this)
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 tsp Kosher Salt
3 springs fresh dill
1 smooshed garlic clove
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or a leftover pack from the pizza place)
1 quart Mason Jar
Mandoline (optional)

If you gather all you need first, this will go very quickly. If you have impatient kids who want to help, this is a bonus step.

First, wash and slice your cucumbers. I use a Mandoline because it’s fast and consistent. I do not recommend this as a kid job. It’s definitely a grown person job (for fingers sake). The goal is to have enough slices to reach the top of the mason jar.

Speaking of your mason jar, take two or three stalks of dill (or half of a dill package from the store) and cut off the stalk leaving the beautiful leafy part. Discard the stalk. Give the dill a little squeeze with your hands and place them in the bottom of your mason jar.

Smash a clove of garlic and drop it in.

Toss in your salt. Throw in your vinegar. Sprinkle in your pepper flakes. Tighten the lid back onto the jar and give that mason a good shimmy shake for about a minute.

Here is where you have to trust me. You will look at this mixture and then look at the cucumbers and want to shake your head. It’s going to be okay. Science is going to do the rest of the job and we just get to observe.

Place your cucumbers in the jar in the mixture. Some of you are great at making things pretty. I applaud you. Although this is a present for my friend Brit (you can see her art here), this is about as adorable as I can get. You do you. I’ll be me. It all tastes the same in the end.

After I fill it all the way up with the cucumbers, I tighten the lid back on. I flip it over one time to let all the liquid come to the top, just for a moment, then flip it back right-side up. Then I pop it in the refrigerator.

It only needs 6 hours. Come back to it. Flip it again if you want to, although you don’t have to. I often can’t resist the urge. The longer you let it sit, the more your stack will shrink.

In the end, your jar will probably be only three quarters full of pickles. This is a good thing!

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Don’t forget to add the expiration date and enjoy!

Written by Mariah Cook, Sacramento local and toddler mom with another baby on the way (any day). Pregnancy brain motivated her to write her recipe down somewhere otherwise it would be lost for good.

 

 

 

DIY Infused Local Honey

Ever thought of making your own line of honey without becoming a beekeeper? Need a project to do with school-aged kids while making gifts for friends this season? Today is your day!

This year, I decided to infuse Sacramento honey with garden herbs! To gift 12 special people in my life, I spent about $2.50 a person.

Here is what you will need:

  • 5 days lead time
  • Honey (I got 5 lbs because I wanted extra, talk to the honey people)
  • 12- 4oz mason jars
  • Dried Herb – choose one herb type per jar. If possible, dry the herb on the stem
  • Large soup pot
  • Tea kettle

First, stop by Sacramento’s famous Sacramento Beekeeping Store, located near X & 21st Street. Did you know they have a tasting area? For real though! You can taste all sorts of local honey and decide which one would go best with the herb of your choice. Also, they can help you calculate how much honey you will need. Why is that important? Because honey is very dense and is measured by weight verses ounces. For a 4oz jar you need 5oz honey. Honestly, my brain cannot even handle the calculations and lucky for me the beekeepers are there to help.

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When you see this, you’ve come to the right place! My kid is cute, right?!

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Tasting area! All were delish!

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Sacramento Wildflower honey has a strong and wonderful taste.

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I chose Delta Wildflowers! It’s more mellow. Who knew?!

Okay, a note about your dried herbs. The jar will look cuter when the herb is dried on the stem. A trimming of rosemary or mint can be dried upside down in a paper bag. You can also use a dehydrator but be careful with your delicate babies.  The key is to have completely dried herbs that are fresh (if not dried all the way, they will mold).

I wanted to use lavender but quickly learned a couple facts from reading up on it. First, only English Lavender is edible. That’s important, right? Second, only the flowers have enough flavor to infuse. My plants at home are not in season so I made due with purchasing local buds from my honey friends.

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Local herbs and instructions. Better safe that sorry.

So you’re ready? Let’s do this!

Sanitize your mason jars and lids. I boil the pieces for about 5 minutes and then let air dry.

Put a sprig of herb in the bottom of your container or along the side. I used flower buds so I put 1/2tsp in the bottom of my jar. Meantime, warm water in your kettle until  it’s screaming. Then pour water into a soup pot. Place the honey (in the container you purchased it in) into the hot water to warm it until it’s nice and syrupy. The runnier the honey the better. Add more water as needed.

Once the honey is warmed, pour it into your jars. You will notice that the herbs want to rise to the top. That’s okay!

Close them up and store them upside down for 5 days.

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For flower buds, flipping them doesn’t matter; however, for sprigs it does.

All that’s left is to make them cute and give them away!

Side note, if you want to infuse more flavor than what this recipe suggests, a drop or two of edible essential oil of your herb will do the trick. Just warm the honey jar in a water bath, add and stir.

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My cute honey pots ready to go to their new holiday homes. I added a note stating it was Sacramento Delta Wildflowers for an “oooh-aaah”factor.

Did you know that honey never goes rancid? If it crystalizes, you can just warm it up in a water bath and it will be as good as new.

That’s about it. Have fun giving your one of a kind honey to your friends!

Written by Mariah Cook, Sacramento mom and lover of bees everywhere. After making and giving this honey, she was was asked if she has her own bee hive. She thinks the beekeepers in Sacramento are doing a mighty fine job and she will gladly support their work. 

Raising Backyard Chickens in Sacramento

Have you ever wondered how to get started raising chickens in your backyard? Rebekah Scoville and her family have their own brood in Oak Park. Below is her story. For those who are looking to do the same; you’re welcome!

In July 2013, I purchased a house that had room enough to fulfill the goal of raising backyard chickens. Two years later, I’m no expert at raising chickens but it has been quite a learning experience! Here’s my journey from idea to reality with our chicken coop in Sacramento.

Choosing Chickens
Armed with the book, A Chicken in Every Yard, I read about the different kinds of breeds and picked five different breeds with egg production and appearance as the primary criteria.  I wanted five full grown hens, but because the book suggested some chicks may not survive, we brought seven baby chicks home that day from Bradshaw Feed & Pet Supply.

Look how small they were compared to the hose nozzle.

Look how small they were compared to the hose nozzle.

We chose a Australorp, two Rhode Island Reds, two Ameraucanas, a Plymouth Rock and a Wyandotte. I like the look of a diverse flock with different varieties of hens and this mix was just right for us.  The one regret I have is only getting two Ameraucanas.  This breed is also known as an Easter Egg chicken because they are known for laying multi-colored eggs, which I was so excited about!

This is Ethel, our one Ameraucana.

This is Ethel, our one Ameraucana.

Sadly, one of the baby Ameraucana, or Easter Egg chicks was accidentally stepped on (by a toddler) about a week after we brought it home and had to be put down. While we did have one other Ameraucana chick left, it only laid eggs the same color as my other hens.  So the next time I choose baby chicks, I will get a few more Ameraucanas, to ensure more variation in egg color.

Here is a list of the supplies we had when we brought our baby chicks home:

  • Two large cardboard boxes taped together with cedar shavings and newspaper on the bottom. Newspaper is great for quick cleaning, just pick up and replace daily.
  • Small chick feeder. 
  • Water feeder. I had a plastic one at first, but it got moldy and gross after just a short period of time.  I would encourage you to pay a little more and get a metal one.  After a year the metal one still looks great, even after being outside in the elements!
  • Heat lamp. Chicks need a lot of warmth during their early weeks of life.  About 90 degrees for the first week and then taper down five degrees each week for five to eight weeks.
  • Chicken feed for baby chicks. I buy mine at Western Feed & Pet Supply.
  • Small cardboard box for the car ride home.

Our baby chicks were kept in our over-sized laundry room for the first six weeks to keep them warm and protected during their early weeks of life.  It was the only place to have them in our house while keeping them away from our curious toddlers. They were much more dusty and stinky than I had anticipated.  Chickens love to scratch and dig, which creates a good amount of dust. I don’t mind that at all when they are outside, but I did mind the sudden layers of chicken dust inside my house. The next time I have chicks, I am going to find a different place to house them for those initial six weeks while they are too delicate and small to fend for themselves outside.  The fun part of this period is that they are so tiny and cute!

The Coop and Run
We have a very basic, functional chicken run and coop set-up.  As you can see from the picture, it is nothing fancy. We were given the coop by my aunt who also raises chickens. My husband built the chicken run around the coop.

Our home for our little lady friends

Our home for our little lady friends

Chicken Run vs. Free Range Chickens
We chose to give our hens some extra room to roam with a slightly larger run, so we made our chicken run 10’ by 10’.  A run that is 8’ by 4’ is adequate for up to eight birds if you let them roam during the day, so our run has plenty of extra run for our little ladies.  We were so excited to start raising our chickens, we brought our chicks home before the chicken run was complete.  I figured we had to keep the baby chicks inside for six weeks anyway, so that would be plenty of time to finish our run, right?  Well, finishing the run took longer than planned (like everything, right?). My advice is to have your chicken run and coop space completely finished before buying your chicks.  Our run was still incomplete when the chicks became too large to keep in the house.  So for the first few months, they truly had free range of our entire backyard.  I liked this idea in theory; chickens roaming around happily eating the worms and bugs and producing eggs to their hearts content.  Though in reality, our backyard was completely covered in chicken poop within a few days.  Not just on the ground, but on the patio table, chairs, walkway, hose, outdoor mat, kids toys…anything and everything we had in our backyard, a chicken would poop on it.  It got to the point that I didn’t like to go into our backyard, let alone let the kids play back there because the poop was everywhere.  When we finally completed the chicken run, we put the chickens in their new home and thought we had solved the poop problem.  However, a new problem arose when in less than an hour of being in the completed chicken run, the chickens flew over our six-foot-high fence and were back to being queens of the yard. My father-in-law helped by clipping their wings so they couldn’t fly over (no chickens were harmed here and clipping wings is painless). Yet even with clipped wings, they still managed to escape. We ended up having to put chicken wire on top of the whole run. Doing that solved the problem. There was no more escaping and no more poop in the backyard. Finally! I do let the ladies out when we are in the backyard gardening, watering or playing.  I love letting them roam a bit, eat the bugs, scratch at the ground and have a bit of freedom. However, to help prevent the previous poop problem, my husband made me promise to put them right back in the coop when we go inside.

TIP: The best way I have found to wrangle chickens back into their coop is by squirting them with the hose. They hate getting wet so they run from it and I can get them to go in whichever direction I want.

Daily Maintenance
People ask me all the time if chickens are a lot of work, but in my opinion chickens are the easiest animals to own, even at this time in my life with two small children. Daily chicken maintenance takes about five minutes.  I go out with my bowl of food scraps, throw the ladies the scraps and some chicken feed on the ground of their run, change out their water, grab the eggs and I’m done.

The ladies loving the cantaloupe and other produce scraps.

The ladies loving the cantaloupe and other produce scraps.

Each month, I put new cedar shavings in the coop where they lay their eggs.  My hens insist on roosting at night on top of their coop, so I never have to clean out the inside of their coop because they don’t poop in there.  Whenever I have the time, I spray down the roof of the coop with the hose to clean off the poop that accumulates on top.  That’s all I do for them.  Like I said earlier, we let them out to roam sometimes and interact with them when we have the desire. I love that I can give them extra attention when I have time, but when days are busy, it’s a five-minute chore that rewards us with yummy, fresh eggs.  It’s a win in my book!

Pros of Backyard Chickens
I love having my hens in our backyard.  During the summer we get about five eggs a day from our six ladies. During the winter months when there is less daylight, their egg laying is reduced by about half.

These are the eggs I collected yesterday. Two days worth of egg production in the summer.

These are the eggs I collected yesterday. Two days worth of egg production in the summer.

I love being able to feed my family fresh eggs that were laid that day or just a day or two before. We are spoiled and rarely eat store bought eggs anymore. The other thing I love is that feeding the chickens eliminates our need to compost fruit and vegetable waste.  We give all of our fruit and vegetable scraps to our chickens and they love it! They eat a variety of produce with the exception of citrus. We even put our grass clippings in the coop as well. We don’t put any chemicals on our lawn, so it is safe to feed our chickens. I never have to feel guilty about not eating mushy grapes or when my kids only eat half of their bananas. We give it straight to the hens and they are much healthier and happier for it. Another small pro is the joy I get from looking out the back window and seeing my hens walking around. Observing them has a calming and relaxing effect on me.

Cons of Backyard Chickens
The cons are so small in comparison to the benefits, but I do think our coop is a bit of an eye-sore at times. We are in the middle of re-doing our backyard and one of my next projects is planting vegetation around the run to make it not stick out as much.  In the summer there are a lot of flies around the coop too.  Of course the chickens are a bit smelly too, but I don’t notice it until I am close to the chicken run. Our coop is on the back side of our property away from the house and I am thankful we chose to put it there.

Areas of Improvement
One of my goals is to plant more food in my garden next year so that I can decrease my feed costs. I like the idea of them eating more fresh produce and less processed feed.  Healthier hens produce healthier eggs and in turn, a healthier family.

Thanks so much for letting me share our backyard chicken story with you!  If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at rebekah@beersinsac.com.

Written by Rebekah Scoville who lives in Sacramento with her husband Scott (Sacramento beer enthusiast – check out their family business beersinsac.com) and two young sons.