Archive for May, 2010

Shifting away from my usual “take on writing and life” blog I wanted to share a great recipe and step by step instructions for Bread and Butter Pickles. A couple of years ago I was at a country festival and saw a woman selling jars of homemade Bread and Butter pickles at $8 a jar. I asked her how hard they were to make and she assured me they’re quite easy. I’ve tried a few times and she was right. I got a new recipe this week from the Blue Book Guide to Preserving. This is Edition 32. I’m also adding in tips I’ve learned along the way and made some minor modifications. This blog entry is more hands on for newbies than conventional cookbooks.

First, buy 4 lbs pickling cucumbers. These are the stubby ugly cukes not the shiny salad ones. Choose ones with bumps. They’ll make for a better crunch. Buy a bag of onions as well.

Clean and cut the end off the cukes then slice them into 1/4 inch pieces. I use a mandolin to make ridges but it’s not necessary. Next, cut 8 small (I used 5 medium) onions into thin slices. Combine the onions and cuke slices with 1/3 cup pickling salt. I used Kosher salt. I’m not sure what the difference is but mine works fine and you can buy it anywhere. Set them in a bowl and cover with ice then with a towel. Weigh it down with something heavy. I use my flour canister. Leave for 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill your canning pot (huge pan made for canning) with enough water to cover the jars and place a lid on top.  

At the 90 minute mark (time for the salt to draw liquid from cucumber mix), turn the stove on high and let the water in the canner start to boil. It takes a long time.

Thoroughly rinse all the salt off the onion, cucumber mixture. Drain and rinse and drain again. This is very IMPORTANT. My batch a few months ago was ruined because there was too much salt left on the veggies.

Clean your jars with hot sudsy water  (even if they’re new) and set aside. Place your caps in a pan of water to boil  and then simmer them. These need to stay bacteria-free so leave them in the hot water till the last second. Place your bands next to the jars. Get out your ladle and large mouth funnel and set those aside for later. If you can’t find a special funnel, cut the bottom off a paper cup. It’s messy but it works fine.

Next, in a large saucepan add all the below ingredients together. Once added, bring them to a boil stirring occasionally.

2 cups sugar, 2 tbls mustard seed, 2 tsps tumeric, 2 tsps celery seed, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp peppercorns, 3 cups white vinegar. (I’ve used apple vinegar as well)

Once boiled, fold in the onion/cuke mixture. You’ll notice as the water returns to a boil, the cucumbers will turn from dark green to faded pickle green.

When you’re at a good boil again, shut off the stove and start ladling the mixture into jars. I used quart jars but the next size down would be fine. Leave 1/4 inch headspace and add liquid with the solids. Adjust two-piece caps. Don’t overtighten. Add the jars to the now-boiling water canner. Wait for the water to boil again (shouldn’t take more than a minute or two) then process (meaning, sit and wait) for 10 minutes. The jar lids will pop noisily. This is normal.

After 10 minutes (don’t cook too long) remove from heat. With tongs, take the jars out and set on a towel on the counter. Don’t touch them for 24 hours. The book says it takes 4-6 weeks for the flavor to fully develop but I always open one as soon as the 24 hours is up to try them.

I hope you enjoy your canning experience. Let me know how it works for you.

-Tracy

Tracy L. Carbone ,  is the author of The Man of Mystery Hill, published by Echelon Press. Buy Now as an eBook on Kindle . The print version will be released August 15th, 2010, and can be pre-ordered now.

Follow Tracy on TWITTER for continual updates.

by Tracy L. Carbone

In the e.e.cummings poem  in just- cummings refers to the “goat-footed balloonman.” He’s a whimsical mischief maker, full of life, a figure who personifies spring.

It’s a great image, but how many merry balloonmen are really all that happy? How many street-entertaining, balloon-animal making men remind you of Pan?

I took the picture above of a  man in the park the other day.  His demeanor wasn’t jolly. He seemed defeated. Tired. He wasn’t dancing around, making balloon animals, or tossing them about to the children who romped nearby. He simply leaned on his cart.

I was reminded first of Levon by Elton John. Who’s sadder than Levon who “sells cartoon balloons in town” with a son who blows up balloons and dreams of moving away? Levon certainly doesn’t come across as a happy character.

A balloonman is supposed to represent joy and in cumming’s case, to symbolize spring and the god of fun. I was then reminded of Neil Gaiman’sAmerican Gods.” It’s the foremost fiction novel about disillusioned gods. Okay, maybe it’s the only novel on that topic but it’s brilliant.

As I looked at my tired balloonman that day, I had to wonder if underneath he was just a modern-day Pan. The worn out Pan of our generation. The one kids ignore because fun is acquired too easily. Compared to a Wii or X-Box game, an old man in a clown costume shaping balloons into dogs pales in comparison.

Maybe one of these days they’ll invent a holographic balloonman who smiles and jumps around like Loki, who twists rubber into amazing creations; and then the children will flock to him and the archetype will be restored. Till then though, if you see a balloonman, smile at him, encourage his whimsy, and please tip him heavily.

Tracy L. Carbone ,  is the author of The Man of Mystery Hill, published by Echelon Press. Buy Now as an eBook on Kindle . The print version will be released August 15th, 2010, and can be pre-ordered now.

Follow Tracy on TWITTER for continual updates.

by Tracy L. Carbone

Yesterday  I met a friend for lunch at the Frog Pond on the Boston Common. We planned to buy nachos from the snack shack and then spend our lunch hour discussing and lamenting the undecipherable complexities of relationships.

As I waited for her to arrive, I spotted a couple of old ducks sitting on the grass. It’s them in the picture above. At first they seemed to be run-of-the-mill ducks, common Mallards, not markedly different from all the others milling about who had claimed the historical Frog Pond as their Duck Pond.

Once they stood up though and waddled to the water’s edge, I saw that they were older ducks. The male stood up first,  restless to swim, and limped under his chubby feathered body. He took a few steps, excited to jump in, but then stopped, turned, and waited for his mate. She then arose, also a little heavy, and limped over to him slowly. Then side by side they entered the water together.

I was touched by the relationship they had, but as I watched them further, I saw how close they really were. The male kept swimming ahead, then would stop to wait for her.  It was obvious he was stronger and more eager to swim all around the pond, see the sights, look for crumbs or bugs or whatever it is the Boston ducks eat, but he never swam more than a few feet away from his mate, Mrs. Duck.

He didn’t appear resentful that she slowed him down, didn’t leave her for a younger duck who could keep up. Instead he’d go just a bit away then stop. And the way he kept turning around to look for her, make sure she wasn’t too far out of his comfort range was beautiful.

I know a lot of human couples like those ducks, who have stayed together through crisis and disease and old age. And I know my share of humans who didn’t want to wait for their Mrs. Ducks to catch up, who wanted to cruise the pond alone.

That little Mallard couple inspired me and that male was a good guy. Next time I fall in love, I want a duck like that.

Tracy L. Carbone ,  is the author of The Man of Mystery Hill, published by Echelon Press. Buy Now as an eBook on Kindle . The print version will be available this summer, and can be pre-ordered now.

Follow Tracy on TWITTER for continual updates.

by Tracy L. Carbone

Sometimes I fall asleep on the train to Boston during my morning commute. And then I wake up at some point really confused and see the most peculiar things, like walls of ocean or thousands of colors smeared across the sky like Van Gogh in real life. But then I wake up all the way and things come into focus and I realize there’s nothing extraordinary at all about what I see. I always enjoy these sleep-muddled forays into that weird realm.

And admittedly, sometimes when I’m walking down the street and not paying attention, I let my imagination run away with me and let real images blur into not so real ones. It’s fun in a way, and harmless (unless I trip over something).

I find if you keep looking at anything ordinary, eventually, if you let your imagination get the best of you, you can transform it into something else. It’s a fun exercise to boost creativity. This SITE has some wonderful images.

I’ve always assumed that everyone looked at regular people and sidewalks and doorways and saw magic in them, but the older I get I’m thinking, hmm, maybe not. Maybe it’s just the writers. It’s certainly amusing to cast nearly everything in a skewed dramatic light at will, but where does creativity and imagination cross the line into delusion?

Ally McBeal thrived on her visions. Her Dancing Baby became an icon.  Half the time people thought she was crazy but there were those special episodes where her co-workers surely envied her ability to transform make believe into real. The writers of the show celebrated her insanity. I mean, her “creativity.”

I, for one, like the quirky heightened way I view world, especially when I’m half asleep.  Next time you’re out and about, take a hard look at the world around you, toss in some childhood wonder, and see if you too can’t make a little magic happen before your eyes.

Tracy L. Carbone ,  is the author of The Man of Mystery Hill, published by Echelon Press. Buy Now as an eBook on Kindle . The print version will be available this summer, and can be pre-ordered now.

Follow Tracy on TWITTER for continual updates.

I have a collection of old poetry in a journal that will likely never see the light of day unless I post it somewhere online. This one holds a special place in my heart for a very old and dear friend, who, sadly,  is mostly lost to drugs now.  If even one person reads this and is touched, or reaches out to someone who needs help, then I’ve done my part.

All Is Well

by Tracy L. Carbone

Hey there, old friend,

Look at this End

You’ve come to.

“I’m clean,” you say,

Clean as Methadone screams

Through you,

Screams,

Till you wish you were dead.

Mumbling as you walk,

We all hear you talk,

Like a schizophrenic homeless man,

Jesus, how did this happen?

Long, dirty hair and soiled clothes,

Long since Coke went up that nose,

Or Crack inside your veins,

Or Heroin or Pot,

But too late now,

Look what you’ve got,

Swiss Cheese Mind.

Utter joy in our one room place,

Wrinkles on your face,

Free Methadone for all!

Abundant opiates!

Stand in Line!

Be on Time!

Or get so sick

You’re back on the street

Begging for money to get your fix,

Got to get it quick,

Quick, quick,

Don’t want to get sick.

Now you’re done.

Another day at the clinic and all is well,

Death knell…

But you’re legally clean

As Methadone screams

Through you

And you grow one day older.

All is well.