Holm Family Cookbook

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Cowgirl's Foodie Blog

Pickling Party

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on May 13, 2013 at 12:00 AM

It's asparagus season here in Northern California, which means it’s time to pickle! Plus, I just finished off the final jar of asparagus from last year. Five of us gathered together for the task that lay ahead, we find that there’s strength in numbers! We were discussing our grandmothers who we had all helped out in the kitchen when we were young; they did their canning and pickling all by themselves, jars and jars of fruits and vegetables, well into their 70’s and 80’s. They were tough cookies. We find that it's more fun and motivating to pickle together, and doesn't take as long to clean up! Last year we pickled three lugs of asparagus, this year we moved up to four, you can find our asparagus recipe in our pickling blog from last year.

I'm a one click shopper with Amazon, which can be rather dangerous. In preparation for the pickling party, I got a bit carried away with new canning books. It doesn't help that my mother was a librarian, books seem to be in our genes! I ordered a variety to peruse in advance of the big day, and pulled a couple of recipes to use this year... Canning for a New Generation, The Art of Fermentation, Put 'em Up!, Pickled, and Ball's Complete Book of Home Preserving.

If you haven't canned before, it's get to do some research in advance. Ball has a great website to get you started, www.freshpreserving.com, or any of the books listed above will give you the details on preparing the jars, lids, and all of the equipment you will need.

This year we planned in advance to make some giardiniera, last year we just threw it together with the vegetables we found in my fridge and freezer, using leftover spices from the asparagus. I also love pickled beets, so I picked up a couple dozen beets to experiment with. My sister and cousin despise beets, say they smell like dirt, it’s one of those love ‘em or hate ‘em vegetables. We also tested out putting asparagus in the jars raw compared to blanching the asparagus in advance, possibly saving us some time. We won't be able to give you the taste results for at least 6 weeks, so stay tuned!



2 pounds beets

1 cup distilled white vinegar

½ cup water

½ cup sugar

½ tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon cumin seed

¼ teaspoon whole cloves


Prep the beets by boiling or roasting them until nearly tender. Slice into ¼-inch slices (I used a mandolin).


Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a medium nonreactive saucepan, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt, and then remove from the heat.


Pack the beets into 3 clean, hot pint jars, arranging them snugly but with enough room for brine to circulate. Divide the cumin seed and cloves among the jars. Pour the hot brine over the beets to cover by ½ inch. Leave ½ inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid.


Use the boiling-water method. Process for 10 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Recipe came from Put ‘em up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton




We adapted this recipe from Paula’s mother's recipe, and a recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. You can use a variety of whatever vegetables your family prefers.



NOTE: The amount of spices listed below go Into EACH quart sized jar:

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon mustard seed

1 teaspoon dill seed

2 cloves garlic chopped or more (we used more because we love garlic!)

½ bay leaf

6 whole black peppercorns



Small cauliflower florets

Pearl onions

Carrots, cleaned or peeled and cut into ½ inch slices

Tri-color bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips

Small Brussel sprouts

String beans

Artichoke hearts, halved or quartered


Pickling Brine

4 cups white vinegar

2 cups water

2 cups granulated sugar

1 tbsp. Salt


Prepare canner, jars and lids.


In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt. We chose to put the spice in the jars as we do with the asparagus, because last year we just threw a bunch of vegetables in the extra jars the we had prepped for the asparagus and it turned out great. The Ball recipe calls for a spice bag to go in the brine.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for 5 minutes. Add vegetables and return to a boil. Pack vegetables into hot jars within a generous ½ inch of top of jar. Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover vegetables, leaving ½ headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.


Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.


Adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry, Lauren Devine

 Nancy, Merry, Paula, Kim & Wendy, the Pickling Princesses


The Best Bloody Mary Mix on the Planet!

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 2, 2012 at 5:25 PM

There seems to be a renaissance in pickling these days, even amongst our family. This year we pickled 45 quarts of asparagus, resurrected our Grandmother’s Danish Pickle recipe after 20 some odd years of slumber, and also whipped up some Dills, Bread and Butter Pickles and Pickled Okra. And boy oh boy, were they good, it was well worth the effort.

Our pickled aspargus under construction

You can find a wide variety of tangy pickled products on the shelves of sustainable grocers in the bay area from Studebaker Pickles, and you can also visit the Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley where they are whipping up Kim Chee, Sauerkraut and Kombucha, who knew?!

On a recent trip to Portland, we were in need of an adult beverage, so we headed to one of the state liquor stores (unlike California, you can’t buy liquor in the grocery store), and as I was perusing the shelves, low and behold, I saw a McClure’s Pickle label; but it wasn’t pickles, it was Bloody Mary Mix. I felt like I had hit the jackpot! I have seen McClure’s products in specialty grocery stores here in the bay area and had picked up a few jars here and there, but I had never seen this concoction! Joe, Bob and the McClure family use their great grandmother's recipes for the Brooklyn pickles they produce by hand.

When you picked up the bottle and shook it around, you could see that there was some love and attention given to this bottle of tomato juice. Flecks of hot chili flakes and black pepper, chunks of vegetables, this was a must have. And sitting next to it was a welcome addition to any Bloody Mary, pickled asparagus. So I loaded up my cart with a lemon, celery, some potato vodka and we headed back to the hotel. My friends had never had Bloody Mary's with pickled asparagus, and we certainly had never sipped on McClure's mix, this was a real winner, a unanimous vote for Best Bloody Mary Mix on the Planet!!

Bloody Marys concocted in our Portland hotel room

Our family's favorite Bloody Mary was found at The Point, a restaurant on the banks of the Sacramento River in the San Joaquin Delta. They have been voted Best Bloody Mary on the Delta numerous years running, and that's where I learned about adding pickled asparagus, because of course, we're near the asparagus capitol of the world! Unfortunately, they are closing this December. We were planning our next family reunion in February at The Point, so if you have any recommendations for a new restaurant serving killer Bloody Mary’s on the Delta, please post it on the Holm Family Cookbook facebook page!

Bottom's Up! Nancy

Danish Pickles (Asier)

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on September 4, 2012 at 9:05 AM

A Tilli Holm Calhoun painting of some of the Danish pickles served by our Grandmother

When we were growing up our grandmother, Ione Holm or Granny to us, would almost always set out a dish of her sweet and tangy Danish pickles at special family events. The pickles were not green like the dills or sweet pickles, but they looked like the white part of a watermelon rind cut into strips.

Making the Danish pickles took Granny a few days. First she had to round up all of the ingredients. The cucumbers that she used were much larger than the cucumbers used for other pickles. Local friend and farmer Augie Hagemann would leave the cucumbers on the vine until they were large enough (approximately 4 inches in diameter) and would pick them when Granny was ready to pickle. After picking up the cucumbers from Augie, she would visit another farm to get fresh dill. One of the farms she would buy the dill from was on Vineyard Avenue in Pleasanton. Although not much dill is used for the Danish pickles, she would use the rest of the fresh dill for dill pickles. Sugar, vinegar, and pickling spices would be the last on her list to pick up before she made her way back up to her home in the Livermore Hills.

The next day Granny would peel all of the cucumbers, cut them in half length-wise and scrape out the seeds. She would then lay all of the scraped and hollowed cucumber "boats" out on pans and sprinkle them with salt. The cucumbers would sit over night while the salt would draw the excess liquid out of the cucumbers. The following day would be pickling day. I can still remember the aroma of the cucumbers and pickling syrup that filled her house on those pickling days.

Salting the cucumber "boats"

The salted cucumbers the following day

The last time any of us had Danish pickles was probably about 20 years ago when Granny was in her 80's. For the last few years we've talked about making them, but were at a loss as to where we were going to get the cucumbers since Augie moved to Oakdale and no longer grows cucumbers. My sister Nancy started doing some research and talked to some of the farmers at our local farmer markets and found that Farmer Sean from Terra Belly Family Farm in Pleasanton (where she gets her weekly CSA) thought he had some cucumbers that might work, he could leave the cucumbers on the vine to get them to the size needed.

Nancy made arrangements with the farmer to pick up the cucumbers on a Saturday afternoon and that evening we gathered with some of our cousins and aunt Patsy to peel and scrape the seeds out of the cucumbers. Our 95-year old cousin Phyllis had made the pickles many times with Granny and was on hand to help out and provide guidance. Most of us had made the pickles with Granny at least once. The following day we cut up the cucumbers, packed them in jars with spices, and completed the pickling process. During the pickling day every time someone went outside and came back into the house they would say, "It smells just like Granny's house!"  It's great that some smells can bring back such wonderful memories.

Peeling the cucumbers


Drying off the cucumbers

Nancy was a pickling fool that day and in addition to the Danish pickles, we made dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, and pickled okra with her. Those recipes I will share in future blog posts.

After we were done pickling, Cousin Phyllis said that she was always told, "We make the pickles now and they will be ready to eat at Christmas time."  So now we wait for at least six weeks to try the pickles and see how close they are to Granny's.


I'm waiting . . . . albeit impatiently, but I'm waiting . . . . .

The Danish pickle pickling syrup being added to the jars stuffed with pickling spice and the prepared cucumbers

Danish Pickles (Asier)

8 pint canning jars, rings, and lids

4 very large cucumbers, 10 to 12 inches long

2 to 3 tablespoons noniodized salt

2 cups distilled white vinegar

16 sprigs fresh dill

Pickling syrup (makes 1 1/2 quarts)

3 cups distilled white vinegar

3 cups sugar

2 teaspoons pickling spice

Day 1:  Peel the cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Place the cukes in a nonreactive pot, salt heavily, and let them sit overnight.

Day 2: Sterilize the canning jars and lids. Wipe the cukes dry and cut into 1-inch slices. In a nonreactive pot, bring the vinegar to a boil. Slowly pour the boiling vinegar over the cucumbers. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

To make the pickling syrup, combine the vinegar, sugar, and pickling spices in a large, nonreactive pot and bring to a boil. Place the cucumbers in the boiling syrup. As soon as the boiling resumes, remove the cucumbers. Place a couple sprigs of fresh dill in each jar, fill the jars halfway with syrup, and pack the jars with the cucumbers. Top off each jar with the remaining syrup, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top. Seal the jars with the lids. Place the jars in a hot-water bath, cover, bring to a boil, and process for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and allow them to cool. Make sure all the lids have sealed. Store for 6 to 8 weeks in a cool, dark place before serving.

Still waiting . . .


Pickling Asparagus

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on June 13, 2012 at 1:50 AM

Pickled asparagus

During May a small group of friends and relatives reserved a Saturday to pickle asparagus. My sister Nancy's sister-in-law bought three cases of asparagus from Victoria Island Farms near Stockton and shared her knowledge and family recipe with us.

The cases of asparagus to be canned

We canned the asparagus at Nancy's house in the Livermore Hills. The first lesson we learned that day was to make sure you read the recipe correctly during the planning stages.  Apparently, a person who will remain nameless, saw the amount of spices that goes into one jar and thought that was the amount for one batch. Lesson number two was to make sure you have all of the ingredients on hand the day before you start the canning process--this is especially important when you have a 40+ minute round trip to drive into town to the grocery store. I ended up having to drive into town to purchase more of the spices when we were well into the canning process. During my trip into town and back up to the hills I got stuck behind mini vans driving 20 to 25 mph in a 50 mph zone, which made my trip longer and excruciating.

Nancy's backyard

The third lesson learned on asparagus canning day was before you make that trip into town, be sure you know exactly what you are supposed to purchase. I had a list that said "dill" on it. I grabbed dill weed and the recipe called for dill seed.  So we improvised and used the dill weed. The pickled asparagus turned out just fine. Excellent in fact. Every time I have served the pickled asparagus, I have received a lot of compliments about how great it is and how we could sell it and make millions of $$. 

Spices needed for pickling asparagus: mustard seed, dill SEED (not weed!), crushed peppers, garlic, bay leaves, salt

We packed the asparagus so tightly in the jars that we had a few jars prepared with spices and extra brine left over.  Nancy decided to try to make giardiniera (pickled vegetables) with the leftovers. She raided the veggie drawer in her refrigerator and her freezer for fresh and frozen veggies and found enough to put up 4 or 5 quart jars. Just like the asparagus, we blanched 'em, iced 'em, and drained 'em. I've not yet tried my jar of giardiniera, but Nancy said the veggies turned out great. 

The giardiniera we made with extra jars and brine

We ended up making 48 quarts of pickled asparagus out of the three cases of asparagus.  Below is the recipe we used. Under the recipe are pictures that show the steps taken to pickle the asparagus. Note that the recipe includes crushed red pepper and garlic, which gives the pickled asparagus a bit of a zip. It's not spicy hot, but has some zip. Some people just don't like zip, so you might want to keep this in mind if you do make this recipe and when serving the finished product.

Pickled Asparagus


Fresh asparagus


NOTE: The amount of spices listed below go Into EACH pint sized jar (double measurements for quart jars):

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon mustard seed

1/2 teaspoon dill seed

1 clove garlic or more (we used more because we love garlic!)

1/4 bay leaf


5 cups white vinegar

5 cups water

1/2 cup salt


Using the appropriate method for canning, wash and sterilize jars and lids.

Cut the asparagus* to the appropriate length for the size of jar you are using.  Blanch asparagus 1 1/2 to 2 minutes and then plunge the asparagus into an ice water bath. When cool, remove from the ice water and drain. Place the asparagus on trays until you are ready to pack them into jars.

Start the water bath and brine. Place the spices in the bottom of the jars and then tightly pack the asparagus in the jars. Bring the brine to a boil. Pour boiling hot brine into jars and then seal the jars. Process jars for 10 minutes in the water bath.

Allow the asparagus to sit at least a couple of weeks before eating. 


*TIP:  You might want to consider saving the bottoms you cut off to use in soups during the winter.  To prepare the bottoms for freezing, blanch, drain, and put them into freezer bags. Store them in the freezer until ready to use.  

Cut the bottoms off of the asparagus

Blanch the asparagus

Put the asparagus in an ice bath

Drain the asparagus

Measure the ingredients into the canning jars

Tightly pack the asparagus in the jars

Bring the brine and the water to process the asparagus in to a boil

The jars tightly packed with asparagus

Pour the brine into the jars packed with asparagus

Removing the jar lids from the sterilizing bath

Place the lided jars into boiling water to process

Process the jars for 10 minutes in boiling water

Remove jars from processing pot

Allow jars to cool and lids to seal

We all need some zip in our lives.


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