It's not about the house.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pickled Beets & Eggs!

I know you probably think that title is some kind of joke -- like a new swear-word I made up or something -- but it isn't. It's what Johnny and I did with our yesterday. And by "we" I really do mean both of us, and by "yesterday" I really do mean that it took all freaking day.

See, a couple years ago, the Lady I work for mentioned that her mother used to make pickled beets and eggs when she was little, and she loved them. Said Lady is in her mid-sixties, not a big fan of "things" around the house, and rather fond of Mother Earth and All Her Creatures. So, when she mentioned this particular gustatory madeleine, I filed it away in my trusty noggin. Every year for Christmas since, we've given her a thing or two out of the Heifer catalog, and a quart or two of pickled beets and eggs. She loves it.

Except we've never managed to grow the beets ourselves. When we try, we get acres of beet greens and a couple bloody-looking peas. So we have to buy them at the grocery store -- and, if you've never noticed, fresh beets are apparently not the biggest sellers. At least not at this time of the year.

Remember the other day when I said I went to nine different stores in search of shower curtain rings? Well, that was not 100% true. I was also looking for beets. I went to four different grocery stores looking for beets (I checked for the rings while I was there, so I'm not completely lying), and I came up with exactly two bundles. Eight beets. So yesterday I tried three more stores, and came up with another two. Bundles, that is. But that would have to do.

Onions aren't so hard to find.

Or eggs.

Unfortunately, when we were ready to begin in earnest, I realized I forgot to check if we needed vinegar, so I had to go back out.

And when I got back with the vinegar and read the recipe again, I realized it said cider vinegar, so I had to go back out.

And then we didn't have enough brown sugar. Argh.

So from here on it was Johnny's job: cutting up the onions...

cutting up the beets, with the inherent bloody aftermath...

(Johnny insisted I wanted a picture of his bloody hands with the cut-up beets, to give it context. I didn't, but here it is anyway, because I'm all into marital harmony these days.)

I measured out the spices and put them in the tea ball -- you're supposed to use a cheesecloth, but who knows where the hell the cheesecloth ever is? -- while Johnny measured out the sugars, vinegar and water.

And then we remembered we hadn't sterilized our jars. So we had to put everything aside and sit and wait for the giant pot to come to boil.

In the meantime, I read Johnny a New Yorker article by Peter Hessler about why Chinese people are such terrible drivers. He laughs about this all the time, and it used to make me nervous that he did. I thought it was a racist thing. But this article explains -- humorously, but factually -- that nobody over there had cars until about ten years ago, and the driving schools are allowed to teach essentially whatever the hell they want. So they turn out nervous, awful drivers. Apparently, it's true.

(Another thing about Chinese and Johnny that used to make me nervous is that he says "Chinee" -- as in "where did that Chinee learn to drive?" Only about two years ago did I figure out that, to a dyslexic Dubliner, "Chinee" is the singular: one Chinee, two Chinese. It's not right, but it's not racist, and he's been saying it for 47 years so I just let it go.)

Eventually the water boiled, and Johnny packed the jars.

Then he poured the syrup into them, and for some reason it was my job to place them back in the hot water bath. Probably so that it would be my fault when one of the lids turned out to have a pinprick in it and that jar had to come out for an emergency lid-switcharoo.

The recipe said to process them for thirty minutes, but that sounds excessive (doesn't it to you?) so we process them for just fifteen. We've done it every year like this and no one's keeled over yet.

Ta da! (Those little white spots are where the eggs are touching the sides of the jars; they'll turn purple as they pickle.)

Except, the whole reason I started taking these pictures as we went along in the first place was because I wanted a shot of the shite sink with all the bloody beet juice in it.

(That's supposed to say "white sink" but I like the typo so I left it in. Actually, it's not a shite sink. It's pretty almost new. About a year and a half. When we did the beets thing last year my heart stopped a little bit, but it turns out that the beet juice washes easily away. Which leads me to...)

I forgot to tell Johnny I wanted to get that photograph, and he drained the beets and cleaned the sink while I was out getting the vinegar. Or the other vinegar. Or the brown sugar. I forget.

All that remained of gore-mess in the sink was this one fingernail-sized bit of stupid skin, which doesn't even look as meagerly disgusting in this picture as it did in person.

Ah well, it's finished. And tonight we have a whole new Christmas-related kitchen project to embark on, but I can't tell you about that one because the person we're making it for might actually be out there reading this dreck. If you can imagine.

Oh, yeah, and it probably won't be tonight after all. Because I have another dentist's appointment today and I'll probably have to come home and crawl in bed with my pop ice and my Dirty Boy.

Pickled beets and eggs!


Ladyscot said...

Just as a point of info... your little typo is an old fashioned Scottish (could be British, but I don't know) swear word. take away the "e" and you have the American equivalent. I know, pretty tame swear by today's standards, but that's what it was. (I remember my dad getting into trouble for using it when I was little).

jen said...

There are so many things that made me laugh.
The eggbeetpickled thing actually makes me want to vomit. Ack. Ugh. Blech...BUT, I like the pack of smokes. Its my favorite. Made me wanna go have a cigarette...I think I will.
The Shite Sink...I like it. I say Shite all the time, and I actually thought you meant to say that because I say it all the time. Well, not the "sink" part, but the Shite part. I like Shite Sink, though. I think I will start referring to my sink as a Shite sink.
And, Chinee. That shit, oh excuse me; Shite, is funny. I am also going to start using that. Thank you Johnny. You mean more to me than you know.
AND everytime Im flipping through the menu on the tv, and I see Dirty Jobs, my mind plays that trick where I actually see Dirty BOY. And then? I smile.

EGE said...

Oh Ladyscot, I know what shite means! I live with a jackeen, remember? That's pretty much why I left it in. But thanks for explaining it for the benefit of our slower readers.

Now, if we could just get someone to sponsor you -- you know, like they sponsor the close-captioning on the tv?

EGE said...

Oh, and Jen -- me too. Me too yuck. We've been doing this for something like five years now, and I have yet to so much as taste them. Johnny likes them, though, so he makes himself a couple extra jars. He likes to put them on sandwiches. And actually gets sniffly-sad when the last of them are gone.


Muskego Jeff said...

Yuck. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

I'll have to make some Haggis to cleanse the palette.

md said...

LOVE pickled beets.. not sure about the pink eggs though

Leslie said...

ohhhhhhhhhh pickled beets and eggs. Yet another reason why I wish you were my neighbor so that I could find or grow the beets for you and you could pickle them for me.