Bring On the Bubbly!

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Pop the cork…today we celebrate the invention of champagne! The man responsible was a Benedictine monk by the name of Dom Perignon. As director of the abbey wine cellar, Perignon was charged with the task of ridding the abbey’s homemade sparkling wine of its pesky bubbles. Perignon failed to do so, but as legend has it, he tasted his failed vintage and exclaimed, “Come quickly! I am drinking the stars!” And so champagne was born… Continue reading “Bring On the Bubbly!”

Summer’s Sweet Bouquet

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“As perfume doth remain, in the folds where it hath lain, so the thought of you, remaining deeply folded in my brain, will not leave me: all things leave me: You remain.” -Arthur Symons

I believe the olfactory sense is the most underrated. Aroma arouses subconscious moods, unearthing ancient and nearly forgotten emotions of early youth. When I was little, Woolworths would offer tiny bottles of headache-inducing “Blue Waltz” and “Midnight in Paris” for a mere dime that I invested for well-intended Mother’s Day remembrances. I have fond recollections of my sisters and me smearing honeysuckle blossoms on our skin after extracting the bead of honey on our tongues. The mustiness of geraniums and irises conjures early summer bliss. Even sunshine had a fragrance that clothesline garments absorbed. The wild mint that grew profusely along our fence would infuse our tea with a tingling burst.

Signature scents remind us of someone we know who douses the fragrance because it speaks to them. A subtle scent lingered upon our mother’s handkerchiefs while the brand of soap or shaving cream our father used could be detected when he would embrace us. Spicy musk, innocent powders, romantic florals, clean citrus…our partiality towards a perfume denotes our tendencies. Christian Dior is quoted as saying “A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting.” Continue reading “Summer’s Sweet Bouquet”

A Door Step Party

door step partyNo doubt, summer is the most social season the year. It is a time for block parties with the neighbors, family vacations, camping trips, evenings spent in the company of friends on the back deck.

Door-step parties were a favorite summer pastime for the Victorians. Continue reading “A Door Step Party”

Dilly Bean Season

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The mere sight of a canning jar musters notions of picnic season. We recall days of dodging honeybees to pluck strawberries for preserves, and canning tomatoes for beefy winter stews when the oscillating fans are traded in for robust hearth fires. Ball, Kerr, and Mason jars rivaled for popularity in hot kitchens when the pressure cookers were spitting and hissing. Mother would put her daughters to work with pinking shears to cut calico quilting cottons for tucking under the rimmed lids with country store charm.

Over the course of many summers, canning “Dilly Beans” has become an annual tradition in our family. A glorious day is devoted to this endeavor beginning with a trip to market in which the beans are hand selected. Then back to the homestead where my four sisters and our respective daughters don vintage aprons, and the pot is set to boil. It is a wholly sensory experience: the pungent aroma of vinegar and pickling spices wafting through the house, the rhythmic snap of bean ends being removed, the stolen taste of a crisp green bean, the wholesome feel of a hot, tightly-packed jar of beans in your hand. Finally, the labels are scribed by the children and floral cotton circles are fitted to the finished jars. And then the wait…best when enjoyed after several weeks (even months) of steeping but sure to make for a tasty snack even sooner.

And now I’ll share with you our family recipe, compliments of my sister, Ann:

ANNIE’S DILLY BEANS

Items Needed:
Sealable canning jars: 1 ½ pint

INGREDIENTS:
String beans
Garlic
Whole dried chili peppers
Celery seed
Fresh dill (flowering tops preferably)
White distilled vinegar
Salt
Water

Directions:

1. Into each jar, place 1 clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 whole red chili pepper, ¼ teaspoon of celery seed, and a flowering dill top. Then fill the jar with beans standing on end, stuffing them as tightly as you can into the jar.
2. For each jar you have filled, measure 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water. Boil the vinegar-water mixture, then pour it into the jars over the beans and spices, to ½ inch from the top of the jar.
3. Seal the jars and place them in a large pot of boiling water for a 10-minute heat processing. Allow 6 weeks for the flavors to meld, then open jars and savor! Store for years without refrigeration.