In a pickle.

You may have noticed an absence of Fresh posts in the last couple of weeks, and I do apologize for those of you who have been checking in. For one thing, I needed to devote more time than usual to an ongoing job search. Yes folks, I am one of the lucky ones to be making a career change during our season of economic discontent. The upshot of the search is that it is an excuse to go out and meet lots of talented, intelligent and driven people. I've been lucky to come across so many kind people in the process, all of whom have helped or advised me in some meaningful way. Almost every day, I learn something new and interesting about the communications industry or a particular organization or company. And I get to eat my lunch at home. Those are the perks. I probably don't have to tell you that there are a few detractors, like an excess amount of pajama wearing in front of the computer, though I imagine that for some that doesn't sound so bad.

But enough about that, the good news is that I've also been busy with lots of Fresh-related activities, though the research meant less time to write. Kind of a pickle, is it not? Not to worry, I'll be sharing what I've found over the next couple of weeks. But back to the subject of pickles...

In Pennsylvania, we've hit our bumper crop of squash and cukes. At a nearby farm*, until about a week ago when a nasty bacteria devoured the remaining cucumber plants, we couldn't eat these crops fast enough. For my part, I was dumping handfuls of shredded zucchini into chocolate chip cookies (which is a really good idea, though it wasn't mine), eating plenty of raw zucchini and cucumber salads and generally fretting about the still looming pile of cucumbers in my crisper drawer. I knew what had to be done, but to be honest, it scared the crap out of me.

What exactly was I so afraid of? In a word, preservation. Dehydrating. Pickling. CANNING. Sure, I've frozen large batches of pesto, pumpkin puree and tomato sauce, but when it comes to the more advanced preservation tactics, I chicken out. Maybe it's the multiple rounds of blanching for pickles or the exacting nature of perfecting the PH level for safe canning, but the idea has always intimidated me. But not this year my friends.

I decided to start small with refrigerator pickles. Using the basic outline from this recipe, I sliced up my cukes, prepared the brine and anxiously waited 24-hours to taste the transformation. The result was crisp, tart and tasty. Not the perfect pickle by any stretch, but they certainly perked up our sandwiches and were good enough to inspire me to take the next step.

Before the end of the summer, I'm determined to conquer this recipe for pickled red onions, and can some of the crushed heirloom tomatoes that Justin can't get enough of during the summer. Wish me luck, and I'll keep you posted.

*Skunk Hollow Community Farm is operated by Greener Partners, a sustainable farming organization that I've been volunteering and working with for the past year. I'm looking forward to telling you more about their mission later, but feel free to check out their site in the meantime.

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