Reduce. Reuse. Organize.

Our pantry gets messy. There are days items get taken down, and then put back up with no regard to where they went. We’re all guilty of it in this house. Last weekend I looked around at it and had one of those “MUST CLEAN EVERYTHING NOW” moments. You can see why.

DSC_5943-01Now sometimes on a blog you have to have no shame. So let’s take a closer look at this hot mess.

DSC_5936-01 DSC_5938-01My first step was removing EVERYTHING from the pantry, including the shelf liners.

DSC_5945-01 DSC_5946-01 DSC_5947-01Back to the “have no shame” part, the shelves underneath of the liners were absolutely horrendous. I have cleaned out and reorganized the pantry before, but not once had I ever taken up the liners. The liners ended up in the trash, and the shelving ended up with a heavy dose of cleaner.

DSC_5949-01 DSC_5950-01Once the shelves were cleaned and while they aired out, I started to consolidate the pantry items. I tossed items deemed old, out of date, etc. into the compost and recycling bin and then started moving other items into my favorite storage bins ever—mason jars.

DSC_5957-01While I know mason jars are the trendy thing on Pinterest and other places let me just say this, I know why. They are awesome. Around here though they just flow like honey and we believe in using what you have. We use them for storage whether it’s for dry goods or canned goods, and when they aren’t used for storage we use them to drink out of. When we don’t use them for either of those you might find flowers in them. In our place they’re general purpose goods and always nice to have around.  

While mason jars are great for storage, I on the other hand can never remember what flour is what without a label, so I like to make sure I label everything. This time around I used 2″ round labels I had left over from another project. I bought these at Paper Mart, an online retailer for a really good price.

DSC_5953-01In addition to labeling the product, I also put what company it was from just in case I either wanted to buy more, or wanted to avoid a certain brand again.

I don’t transfer everything in the mason jars. Mostly I put things in that are already partially opened, or I know would easily get bugs into them if I didn’t. For instance, I had some barley that came in a cheap plastic bag. I opened the plastic and realized there was a hole in the bag where a moth got in. These are the types of things that I try to transfer to mason jars when I get home from shopping or soon after. Flours are another one I like to keep in jars but filling them can be tricky. My thing is to alternate between filling and tapping on the counter to remove air so I can fit more in. While I keep my heritage flours/grains in the freezer, the off the shelf stuff stays in jars in the pantry.

Another organization technique I utilize are magazine/binder holders. I found these super cheap plastic ones at Target for a couple bucks a piece. They work great for holding the large cans of tomatoes and beans we like to keep around for a quick dinner or pasta sauce.

DSC_5964-01Other organization techniques including stacking items that can lay flat on one another, like egg noodle bags, and also utilizing the countless wooden bowls we have around here. I use our deeper one for tossing in pastas that only have a little left in each bag so they don’t get lost on the shelf, and I use our shallower wider bowls for storing potatoes/onions, etc. 

The theory of organization is as simple as use what you already have on hand, and then try and not spend too much if you need something special.

DSC_5978-01 DSC_5977-01My last bit of advice is to keep “like” things together. I have my flours and grains in one section, beans in another, pasta in another, baking in another, you get the idea. This really helps when I’m looking for something. Oh, and if you have a dog and an open pantry my tip is to keep anything they might find interesting higher up. For my dogs this includes the potatoes. They will eat an entire bag of them when we’re gone if they are within reach. We only need to keep them a shelf or two up to keep them out of the bag. Onions always stay up too because they are poisonous to dogs.

All organization complete, I finally have an organized pantry again!

DSC_5968-01So you don’t have to scroll up, here is the before and after from the same angle.

DSC_5943-01 DSC_5967-01Someday this pantry will be reverted back into a closet and I’ll have a beautiful walk in pantry/linen closet where our current bathroom is. Until then, a nice neat pantry to look at anytime I walk in the house after work has been awfully nice. Let’s not forget how much easier it makes prepping dinner. Now to see how long it stays like this.

xo,

Heather

Peter Pipers Pickling Party {Dill Relish & Bread and Butter Slices}

I need to figure out Peter Piper’s method for was growing veggies he could pick a peck of  that were already pickled. Until then, August is pickling season. Once again our garden has inundated us with mass quantities of cucumbers, within the last week. So I spent this past rainy Sunday in the kitchen processing about 14+ pounds of cucumbers. First up was 8 pounds of relish, and then about a gallon of bread and butter pickles. This is the first year I made relish, and it was a great way to use up the cucumbers that weren’t up to par for pickles.

My most favorite addition to this years harvest has hands down been my mandolin. It’s really important keep your pickles uniform so they heat evenly, and the mandolin allowed me to get slices of the same thickness.

For the recipes on this post I used the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This post is in no way paid for/sponsored by Ball, I just think they are a really great source. If you’re unfamiliar with home preservation techniques, I suggest you read the book and do some research. It’s extremely important your fruit is washed and unblemished, your jars are sterilized and your kitchen is clean before you start with everything laid out as you need it. The last thing you want is any sort of bacterial introduction, and/or to be running around grabbing things when you’re ladling hot liquids.

Dill Pickle Relish (taken from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

  • 8 pounds cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup picking/sea salt (do not use table salt for canning, ever)
  • 2 tsp ground tumeric
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups finely chopped onions (I found a mandolin worked great for this)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp dill seeds (I had no dill seeds, so I used a hefty portion of dried dill. I really wanted super dill relish though. Remember whatever you use will get stronger over time).
  • 4 cups white vinegar (about 5% acidity)

Directions (abbreviated from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, with notes from myself added in)

1. Finely chop cucumbers in small batches, transferring to a glass or stainless bowl as you finish. A food processor works great for this. Sprinkle with pickling salt and tumeric. Cover with water and place in fridge for about 2 hours.

2. Drain cucumbers and rinse thoroughly. Press extra water out with your hands in small batches. I initially use a couple books to press the water out.

3. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
4. Combine vinegar, dill, sugar and onions in large saucepan. Add in drained cucumbers. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce and boil gently, stirring to prevent sticking. Do this until slightly thickened and vegetables are heated through. This will take about 10 minutes to reduce.

5. Ladle hot relish into jars leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe rim, and seal handtight. My advice is to only fill one jar at a time and seal. Don’t leave the jar uncovered once filled.
6. Place jars back in the canner, until completely covered with water. Once the water is at a full rolling boil again, time for 15 minutes (this will depending on your altitude, research proper processing times for your area). Wait 5 minutes, remove jars and cool. Do not tilt jars to dump water off the top when you pull them out. This water will quickly evaporate.
Store in a cool dry place and give a few months for optimal taste, though it can be eaten within a few days.

Bread and Butter Pickles (adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

  • 10 cups sliced pickling cucumbers
  • 5 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup Kosher salt
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
 Directions (seriously abbreviated from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, with notes from myself added in)
1. Slide onions thinly and cucumbers into rounds of the similar size – this is where a mandoline comes in super handy! Combine cucumbers, onions, salt in a glass or ceramic bowl. Cover with water and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours. I cover with plastic wrap to keep anything out of the mix.
2. Rinse the cucumbers then drain thoroughly.
3. Combine vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed and mustard seed in a large pot until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
4.  Turn to low, add the cucumbers and heat through, about 10 minutes. Do not boil. Turn heat off if using gas, or remove from burner if using electric heat. At this point they will already taste pretty much awesome.
5. Add cucumber first to the jars and then fill with pickling liquid to cover pickles. Leave a generous 1/2 inch headspace.  Clean rims, add hot lids and rings. Process about 15 minutes in a hot water bath at a full boil. Remember “processing time” doesn’t start until it hits full boil.

After a long day in the kitchen over boiling water and vinegar, in the middle of August, I was ready for nothing except to take a shower. So tomorrow’s lunch will be almond butter and jelly. {If you lost me – I normally make lunch for the next day at night, and I was done with the kitchen}.

I’m shuddering looking at all of the equally green tomato’s in the garden.  I may need to nip this in the butt and make some green tomato salsa.

Ok, in all reality – I love it. I love not having to buy this stuff. I love having on the go gifts. I love putting up produce we grow and harvest right in our back yard. A garden is a great thing to have.

Happy Pickling,
Heather