Thursday, May 14, 2009

Making Claussen Dill Pickles

For the past week I've been working on duplicating my favorite pickle, the Claussen Dill. This refrigerated brand isn't sold in Costa Rica, so I crave these pickles when I go back to the US.

Recently my friend and chiropractor, Dr. Jim McLellan, had me taste a pickle that he had made. He's always experimenting with something to do with food. In a very small backyard, he raises rabbits, tilapia fish, chickens for their eggs, and all sorts of vegetables and herbs.

My taste buds were shocked! The pickle he had me taste was a Claussen Dill. He said they were easy to make, and gave me the recipe. Here it is below:

1 1/2 quarts boiled water, cooled
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
8-10 pickling cucumbers, sliced into spears
6 long sprigs fresh dill
1 tbls coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup white vinegar

Put some dill and the garlic at the bottom of a big jar.
Add the cucumber spears. Put sprigs of dill in the center of the cucumbers.
Add salt and vinegar, then fill jar with cooled, boiled water.
Cover. Shake to dissolve salt.
Set upside down in cool, dark place.
Let sit 4-5 days, turning jar either upright or upside down each day.
Let sit upright 2 more days.
Good for about 6 months.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Susan's Epic Birthday

Susan turned 50 this week and it has been the endless birthday celebration. We started on Monday by having a free overnight at the Hampton Inn near the airport. Susan works in tourism and was able to finagle a free room, and she asked me to accompany her. It was a very nice hotel with a sparkling clean room, free full breakfast, and friendly service. The hotel honored her with a bottle of sparkling wine and a box of Ferrero Rocher candies. For dinner, we went next door to the Fiesta Casino and shared chicken wings and a Caesar salad. A friend of mine sent over drinks, and then it was Ladies' Night so we got more free drinks. The place started filling up with young ticas half our age. In fact, there were so many of them, they overflowed onto the dance floor and there was hardly any room to dance. It didn't matter to us, though, because none of the teenybopper guys wanted to dance with their grandmothers. So we called it a night and went back to the room.

Wednesday was Susan's actual birthday, and about 10 of us took her to lunch at TGIFriday's. I had brought a candle and stuck it in her bowl of ice cream. The staff sang the birthday song, in Spanish, of course, then we all sang in English, even though Susan and I were the only English-speaking ones in the group. A meal here doesn't last just an hour or hour and a half. Three or three and a half hours later, we finally left.

Margie, Lupe, Hazel, Yalile, Susan at TGIFriday's

Sue doing the hula while the TGIFriday's staff sang her happy birthday

Friday night was Susan's official birthday party. Yalile got to Coyunda's (the place where we go dancing Saturday nights) early and decorated the hall (with her two daughters) with balloons, streamers and funny eyeglasses, which we wore for a group photo.

Oscar, Margie, Patri, Anabel, Jenny, Jose and Michelangelo wearing our funny glasses

Yalile got folks to make yummy food - Mayito (he has a weekend restaurant where he makes chicharrones (fried pork) and roasted chicken) sent over chicharrones for about 20 of us, plus Yalile's neighbor made piccadillo (a mixture of finely chopped potatoes and some other ingredients I can never remember). I brought a chocolate cake from Robin's Kitchen (where I have lunch every Thursday with a different bunch of friends).

The Cake

The party was a fine tribute to a wonderful friend.

Susan with her birthday cake

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta at Patty's

Patty went all out for her Cinco de Mayo party. Since she lives on a narrow street with a treacherously steep dip, she asked us to park on the main drag, and her friend Wagner drove us to and from her house. About 40 of us celebrated the Mexican tradition of the fifth of May.

The food was delicious, of course, as were the margaritas. And who could resist the shots of tequila from the pretty bottle that Patty passed around?

Poet MariAmanda read a couple of her poems, although they were lost on me. It's hard enough for me to understand straight-talking Spanish, let alone metaphorical Spanish. But it sounded pretty and she read it with emotion.

Then the mariachis strummed and sang their way up the driveway to entertain us. I had brought my maracas, so I shook them in rhythm as though I knew what I was doing. A Latin friend of Patty's belted out a few songs with the band.

Patty and dog Lucky in front of the mariachis, with her friend in jeans also singing

Old friends Barb and Richie Highgate and me