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Probiotic Mimosas and Other Happy Accidents

Today was the day. On Saturday, I’d strained the water kefir from the water kefir grains into two pint jars. To one, I added some dried cherries and orange juice. To the other, I added some fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juices. I capped them and let them sit on the counter for two days, until this morning, when I opened them to taste them.

The lemon-lime tasted like a too tart lemonade. Not bad, needs more sweetness, and I really want them to carbonate more than they did, so I’m going to experiment more with that.

The orange-cherry, on the other hand, turned alcoholic.

I accidentally made probiotic mimosas.

Not that this is entirely unexpected. Kefir is a SCOBY – a Symbiotic Community of Bacteria and Yeast – and yeast is what turns fruit into alcohol.

I just didn’t think it would turn it into that much alcohol that fast.

I also started some cherry tomatoes fermenting and totally fucked those up.

Okay, well, not totally. They’re still edible, but they’re not fermented.

I made a super basic oops – I poured just-boiled water into the jars over the tomatoes, essentially cooking them and killing all the lactobacillus that would have done the fermenting.

I know better. It’s those beneficial bacteria we’re going for when we’re fermenting foods, and boiling water kills all of it.

Oops!

Now, I could get upset, toss the tomatoes, and never ferment again. But I went into this with an attitude of experimentation.

Failures aren’t failures, they’re learning experiences.

I’ll be draining those cherry tomatoes, tossing them in a blender, and making sauce for spaghetti for tonight’s dinner. I’m going to make a loaf of French bread and use it for garlic toast while I’m at it.

And the next time I ferment anything, I’ll remember to let that boiled water cool down before pouring it over the foods to be fermented.

The sauerkraut is coming along nicely though, so at least I seem not to have fucked that up. If I did, then that will go into the compost pile, which will LOVE the active bacterial culture in there.

Living life as an experiment is a powerful way to free ourselves from expectations.

When you approach everything as a theory being tested, it allows you to detach yourself from outcomes.

Expectations are one of the pillars of my Bitchslap work, and are in fact where the Bitchslap tends to occur the most.

The pillars are Desire, Need, and Expectation. All of these intersect and inform our experiences and the ways we respond to those experiences.

One of the more popular spiritual teachings under Capitalism is the Law of Attraction, which focuses almost exclusively on the Desire part of that equation, which ignores oppression, privilege, and conditioning in favor of hope and wishes. It works for some people – mostly those already in positions of privilege whose needs are met and whose experiences have conditioned them to expect to get what they want all the time. In other words, Law of Attraction works on privilege and entitlement, not on some sort of mystical, magical Universe energy that gives you all that you desire if you just vibe high enough.

If our core needs – food, water, safety, security – aren’t being consistently met, there is no amount of high-vibing that’s going to suddenly manifest us riches.

And if we expect failure, we’re probably going to get failure. Not through magic or funky energy, but through self-sabotage and giving up.

Of course, if we expect success where success isn’t possible, the failure becomes even more acute, shifting our expectations around future success, and if continued, becoming that sort of self-sabotage and giving up just mentioned.

But if we release expectations around outcomes, creating hypothesis about what might happen but being willing to experience whatever happens, it shifts things in ways that truly are magical.

We don’t get the unexpected because we have no expectations. What we get instead is surprises and learning experiences.

Like mushy but still yummy cherry tomatoes to turn into a pasta sauce and probiotic mimosas.

I could have been disappointed in those. But what good would that do other than to make me miserable?

Fuck that noise.

I want joy.

Even if I have to play some minor head games with myself to get it.

And it turns out those minor head games really are magical.

My life is living proof.

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Culturing Kefir: Day One

Last week, I started a deep dive into studying about the gut biome and probiotics. I’d long known the value of keeping yogurt in my diet – I have IBS and as long as I eat yogurt several times a week, the flares are less frequent and less severe – but the research shows that our gut biome has influence on way more than just our gut.

The gut has more than 100 million nerve cells, effectively functioning as a “second brain.”

Not only that, the microorganisms that make up the gut biome aid in digesting food, making nutrients more available for the body to use, as well as produce hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate body and brain functioning.

Who you are, your mood, and even your personality, seem to be fundamentally affected by the 2-6 pounds of microorganisms that inhabit your body. We are not just one being – we are a symbiosis of millions of beings.

After spending hours reading articles, scientific journals, and blog posts about the gut biome and probiotics, food fermentation, and the many ways fermented foods have held status in the diets of virtually every world culture, I came across kefir, a European cultured milk, originating in North Ossetia, a region in the Caucasus Mountains.

The origins of kefir aren’t mysterious, but they are intriguing. Called “the grains of the Prophet,” they were said to have been given to the Orthodox peoples of Ossetia by the Prophet Mohammed and they were closely guarded by the families who held them. There were religious prohibitions against giving the grains to outsiders, and those prohibitions held firm for centuries, until Russian doctors wanted to be able to mass produce kefir after studying its beneficial effects in treating tuberculosis and intestinal disorders.

There’s a whole story about spies and princes and how a prince was forced by the Tsar to give ten pounds of kefir grains to a woman who was kidnapped by his enemies, and that’s how Russia was able to start producing kefir commercial in the early 1900s, and I absolutely recommend you do some Googling to see the fascinating history of this weird little colony of microbes.

All modern kefir is a descendent of that ten pounds of kefir grains that were forced from an Ossetian Prince after centuries of the grains being religiously protected.

There’s a whole lot to contemplate there, if you’re willing to sit with it.

Currently, I have a jar of milk sitting in my cupboard with about 1/2 cup worth of kefir grains in it.

They came in the mail yesterday, and I started a pint of milk with them yesterday, but as expected – I did a lot of research – they are a little bit slow culturing because of the shock of transportation and being introduced to a new environment.

They did start to culture the milk – there’s a distinct sour-yeasty smell to the milk, not spoiled, but cultured. However, they aren’t thickening it up the way a fully active colony will do, so I changed their milk today, gave them a fresh pint, and gave the culture from yesterday to the cats who loved the pre-digested goodness.

And that’s part of what culturing does – it pre-digests foods that can be hard to digest. I’m lucky – I have the gene that allows adult digestion of lactose. I can drink all the milk I want, eat all the cheese I want, and never have any issues with upset tummy from it. My husband on the other hand? Half a glass of milk and his guts are gurgling. Cultured milks, however, he has no problem with.

Kefir is different from yogurt, both in how it’s produced, and the final output, but they are similar as both the yogurt microbes and the kefir microbes digest the lactose and produce acids that change the taste of the milk, curdle it, and preserve it.

It was both the difference in making it – kefir is easier and takes less steps than yogurt, and less equipment – as well as the extra microbes – yogurt is cultured with bacterial colonies that you can’t see, kefir is cultured with colonies of yeast and bacteria that create structures you can actually see and hold – that turned me onto kefir.

With yogurt, I have to heat the milk to 175 degrees, cool the milk to 110 degrees, add the yogurt culture, and keep it warm between 100-110 degrees for 24 hours.

With kefir, I fill a mason jar with milk, add the grains, put a lid on it, stick it in the cupboard for a day or two, strain the grains out, put them in new milk, and use the kefir for whatever I want to use it for – and recipes abound because once you start a kefir culture, you’re going to keep having new kefir every day or so since you have to keep the culture active or it will die.

Getting yogurt culture is, admittedly, easier than getting kefir grains was, but not by much. To get yogurt cultures, I just buy a container of plain organic yogurt with active live cultures. Use a tablespoon or two of that in the heated and cooled milk and you’re good to go. You only have to buy one container of yogurt, and then just reserve some from every batch for the next batch. You can keep it in the fridge until the next time you want to make yogurt and the cultures will stay active.

For the kefir grains, I had to order them online. I got my from Poseymom.com, they came in less than a week, and so far, so good. I let a jar of milk with a lid sit out for a couple of hours to come to room temperature, but that’s actually an unnecessary step. You can put the kefir grains right into cold milk and then let it set on the counter and the culture will work just fine, which is what I did today when I changed the milk.

Kefir is a living colony of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that when consumed helps to repopulate the gut biome with the sorts of beneficial microbes that support immune function, neurotransmitter production, and digestion.

Because it’s a living colony, it has to be cared for, fed daily, in order to continue living. When you start working with kefir, you’re taking millions of tiny beings into your care and building a symbiotic relationship with them.

Get mystical about it.

There is something absolutely breathtaking to me about caring for these microscopic creatures who will then become a part of me, joining my gut biome, and caring for me.

This mutual care isn’t often extended to the tiniest of creatures – it’s often reserved for fellow humans, and more and more, not even then.

We find ourselves in the midst of an ongoing humanitarian crisis with the President of the United States presiding over active genocide.

If we can’t even care for the least among us – the microbes that join our bodies to care for us – then is it any wonder we struggle to care for those whose lives we only see through the media?

We humans have become so disconnected from the world that sustains us, and all the ways She does that, and I suspect that disconnect is closely tied to non-animist spiritual practices. When we de-souled the world around us, declaring only humans – and then later, begrudgingly, higher order animals, had souls, we stopped seeing the deep interconnection that we have with the world. And not just interconnection, but interdependence.

These weird little bugs, contained in polysaccharide grains, are now dependent on me to provide them food in the form of milk every day. And in exchange for providing them food, they provide me food – pre-digested, nutrient enriched, cultured milk. And many of them will literally join my body, colonizing my gut, and producing serotonin, vitamins, and enzymes to aid not just in my digestion, but my whole body and brain functioning.

They’re special, and they need to be treated as such.

The Ossetians knew that when they protected them with religious laws.

We need to remember that, not just with my kefir grains, but with everything in this world. It’s all connected, and when we defile one part of the web, we defile the whole.

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A Vision of a Goddess

It starts with a Vision that I had several years ago:

A goddess is on her knees, her wrists in shackles that are connected to the walls at the head of a marble room with floor to ceiling windows along the opposite end of the room. Filling the room are just a few powerful men, laughing and reveling as the goddess shrinks, her power beginning to drain from her after so many years of bondage.

As these men laugh and party, they don’t realize that this goddess, who they claim to have chained for her protection, but really, they chained because they wanted to make sure they always had her, is now fading away, and that soon, all her power will leave their temple completely.

They believe that their shackles and chains and their temple of marble and glass will hold this goddess, this great power, this spirit that nourishes the world.

I look closer at the shackles and chains, and I see that they are words, letters, numbers, symbols. In spots, it looks like a stock market ticker! Which tells me what these chains really are, and who these men really are, which I knew when I saw the goddess, because I know the goddess. Well.

It’s Juno Moneta, literally the goddess from which we derived the word “money.” She is wife of Jupiter, and she was the patroness of the treasury of Rome, shackled by men of power throughout history for fear that if she roamed free, that they wouldn’t have what they wanted.

And what they don’t understand is that the Divine Feminine must be free. She must never be shackled, there must be no restriction on Her. And so for centuries, this shackled goddess has been held by a few, with only trickles of her power reaching others.

And I see this in the tears and wounds in her flesh. They’ve been cutting her, giving out slivers of her power, just enough to keep the people from demanding she be freed. For so long, they’ve been able to hold her, telling the people, “We must do this to protect her. The world is a scary place.” And for so long, the people agreed.

But the Goddess knows the time is coming where she will break free, and all will experience her joyful abundance. But first, she will tear down the temples of marble and glass, and the rumbles are going to be a bit rough. And looking closely, I see that it’s already begin. Those rumbles. Because as those men of power party and revel in their temple of marble and glass, they haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on right under their noses. They’ve started to feel the rumbles, and in their panic, they’ve completely ignored the Goddess they’ve chained.

Money is a Goddess, and she’s getting pissed.

That vision rocked my world and started to shift my perspectives on things in many ways. I’d been sucked deep into six-figure coaching world. Not that I ever made anywhere near six-figures, but I was sure that if I just figured out the secret to it, I would absolutely manage to reach that goal.

Of course, the “secret” was pre-existing privilege rooted in white supremacist patriarchal capitalism.

2015-2016 rocked my worldview, and not just because of the shitstorm 2016 election. A whole fuckton of shit happened for me spirituality that radically altered me.

During those years, I had a few clients who were the kind of women who actually did make six-figures.

I got the behind-the-scenes of quite a few of them.

The ones that weren’t living off trust funds or CEO husbands were so deeply in debt that they were living payment to payment.

It takes a LOT of money to make a lot of money, and the flow of money is controlled by the systems of oppression that started to develop thousands of years ago with the advent of patriarchy.

That’s what the Vision of Juno Moneta was telling me.

That no matter how hard I tried, no matter what I did, no matter how much magic I used, the only way I’d gain access to that kind of money was to sell my soul to the patriarchal powers-that-be.

The Goddess was chained, Her resources being doled out at the whims of a few powerful men. And to access those resources, one had to conform.

Or help set the Goddess free.

All the Goddesses whose images and stories had been co-opted in service to the Patriarchal God and His worldly institutions.

~

At first, it seemed totally nuts.

It was just my imagination, right?

Of course, now, we’ve had more and more light shining on the ways that just a few people are pulling the strings and controlling the economy of the world.

Revolution is threatening. We’re probably still a few years off from a full-blown revolution, but it’s coming.

And in the meantime, we can work to free the Goddesses, so that we can seek Guidance and Support from Them.

~
What Juno Moneta taught me – IS teaching me – is that money isn’t the problem. The hoarding of money and resources is the problem.

Believing that money, or anything at all, belongs to us is the problem.

This led to a deepening of my animist beliefs.

Nothing belongs to me because everything belongs to itself because everything has its own soul, is its own, unique being.

Even Money. She’s a Goddess after all.

~

This takes a radical shift in perspective. It’s hard. I still struggle with it. The “ownership” mentality is deeply conditioned in us.

~

So how do you free Goddesses?

By reading their stories. By tracing the ways that Patriarchy painted one picture of Them, and seeing how maybe, there’s more to Them than Patriarchy would have us believe.

By creating devotional practices to Goddesses that you resonate with. – this is my task, to teach you how to do that. Devotion is attention and a willing transfer of power. What are you devoted to know? What is your power going to now?

By taking action on the guidance of the Goddesses who come to you. Discernment is key here. Knowing your biases and seeing the White Supremacist Patriarchal Capitalist influences on your mind and choices.

By using your Voice.

~

Your homework today is to start a shrine.

This can be as simple or elaborate as you like. If there is more than one Goddess calling you, you can have more than one shrine. You can create shrines to ideas, to stories, to projects, too.

A basic shrine might be a candle and an incense burner. Every time you light a candle and incense, you call to mind the subject of the shrine. That’s a devotional practice.

Getting more elaborate, you might add objects that are related to or sacred to the subject of the shrine.

Juno Moneta was the goddess of the treasury, and protectress of funds. Roman coins were made in Her temple and were originally stamped with her image. Adding coins and bills to Her shrine might be appropriate.

Contemplative reflection: What does it mean that our money no longer holds the image of Her, but instead, the images of the men who founded White American Patriarchy? How might She feel about that? Allow Her pain to become Your pain, and then allow it to motivate you.

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Prepare Your Breakfast Before You Go To Bed

I am an autistic woman with ADHD. Part of that is a hyperactive hummingbird brain that is super creative, great at pattern recognition, and excellent at solving seemingly complicated problems. But a another part of that is that I’m highly distractible, have executive functioning issues, and frequently forget “basic” things like when to eat.

The easier it is for me to eat, the more likely I am to actually do it before I’m so hungry that I don’t have the energy to do anything more than shove a bagel in my face.

I do tend to have more energy and focus in the evenings. So I take advantage of that by making my breakfast in the evening, before I go to bed, so that it’s easy to just grab it and eat it in the morning.

The goal is to make things both easy and nutritious. But also, it has to be something that I’ll eat. I’m not terribly picky, but I do have preferences. And if it takes a bunch of extra steps in the morning, I’m probably not going to do it, so jars that have to be cooked in the morning are pretty much a no-go for me. I don’t have a microwave, so quick reheats aren’t really a thing in my homestead.

My go to, which makes room for LOTS of variety, is chia pudding jars. These are quick, easy to make, yummy, and super nutritious. Basically, they meet all my goals.

I use pint ball jars with plastic lids. They’re the perfect size, and fairly easy cleanup, especially since I have a dishwasher.

In the jar goes yogurt, milk, sweetener, chia seeds, and whatever other additions I feel like making. Sometimes I’ll add a splash of vanilla. Most of the time, I also add a handful or so of frozen berries; by morning, they’re thawed and ready to eat. I’ve also used dried berries, which are great as well. They rehydrate overnight sitting in the jar.

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

Chia Pudding Breakfast In a Jar

Course Breakfast

Equipment

  • Pint Mason Jar

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup yogurt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Instructions
 

  • Pour yogurt, milk, sugar, and vanilla in jar.
  • Add chia seeds.
  • Cap and shake to mix.
  • Add frozen fruit.
  • Cap and put in fridge overnight.
  • In the morning, shake it up and enjoy.

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Cheap and Easy One-pan Elbow “Lasagna”

I needed to make something for dinner last night. Money is tight. I’d say right now, but honestly, money is always tight. There’s this thing with my money flow that I always have just enough, just in time, but the definitions of “enough” and “in time” are the definitions of my Goddesses, Ancestors, and Guides, and I’m not always comfortable with their ideas for what those mean. I’m not homeless, I don’t worry about immediate starvation, but I sure would like to have some more padding in the bank account than I do.

I had to work with whatever was in my kitchen. No ordering out, no Instacart, not even a quick trip to the Save-a-Lot.

Luckily, I’d had some big blessings through the previous couple of weeks, and the cupboards and fridge are relatively well-stocked.

I’m only cooking for two of us: My husband and I live by ourselves with our (currently) 17 cats – a mixture of fosters and permanent residents. Cooking for two, of course, adds additional challenges, since a lot of recipes and foods are packaged for families of 4 or more. That’s not an insurmountable challenge though – leftovers are GREAT for those days you don’t have the energy or desire to cook anything.

One of the blessings was coming across a bunch of marked down pork sausage rolls last week at Save-a-Lot. They were about to expire in the next day or two, but were marked down from something like $3.99/lb to 99 cents. Almost expired meat is good to toss in the freezer, but you have to be ready to use it as soon as you thaw it. Don’t pull it out of the freezer and into the fridge and forget about it for a few days.

Jars of spaghetti sauce are part of my staples – I always keep several stocked, and buy more when I find them on sale. I’m not fussy about brand, unless I notice a brand tastes horrible, then I’ll never get it again. Mostly I stick to the same stores and get their generics, or name brands if I catch a killer sale.

Pasta is another of my staples. Noodles of all sorts. Spaghetti, elbow noodles, bowtie noodles, etc. Again, stock up when they’re cheap regardless of brand/type. I know how to make my own noodles, but that’s a pain in the ass and I’d rather spend my time on other things like plotting to smash the patriarchy on Facebook and weaving magic through my life.

Not that making noodles can’t be magical – it can be VERY magical. It’s just not my favorite thing to do, and I try to avoid things that aren’t my favorite as much as possible. Luckily, I have a lot of favorite things to fill my days with. Like the aforementioned patriarchy smashing, but also, plant-tending, devotional work, contemplative studies, and magic-making.

Cheese is another staple. I DO really like making cheese – and I’ll share some cheap and easy how tos in future posts, but I don’t really have the equipment to make as much cheese as I actually use. So I keep stocked up on a LOT of it.

Last night’s dinner pretty much threw all of that together into a pan on top of the stove, similar to a goulash, but with a different flavor profile and a fuckton of cheese.

Cheap and Easy One-pan Elbow “Lasagna”

Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni noodles
  • 1 lb pork sausage Mild, medium, or spicy to your preference
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce If you make your own, great. Store bought is absolutely fine.
  • 1 c cottage cheese
  • 1 c shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ c powdered parmesan cheese
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms Optional

Instructions
 

  • In a large pan (stock pot, dutch oven, or similar), bring 6 cups of water to a boil.
  • Add noodles and continue to boil for 10 minutes or until tender.
  • Drain noodles and leave in colander.
  • Add pound of pork sausage to pan, and brown over low to medium heat.
  • Drain grease from pork sausage and return to pain.
  • Add the jar of spaghetti sauce to the pork sausage in the pan. Stir.
  • Add mushrooms and cheeses.
  • Stir.
  • Bring sauce, meat, and cheese mixture to a bubble.
  • Add noodles, stirring.
  • Heat on medium for five minutes.
  • Enjoy.
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Lammas, Pickled Eggs, and Preparing for the Future

It’s August 1st. Lammas to some. Lughnasadh to others. Just another day to most of the world.

It’s a seasonal holiday. We’re halfway between the summer solstice and the fall equinox. The first harvests are coming in – for some, they’ve been coming in, for others, we’re still waiting.

I’ve already harvested all my raspberries. Strawberries were done in June. I’m still waiting on my tomatoes, though. They got a late start this year, so I’m hoping they’ll make it before first frost in October. We’ll see. If necessary, I can always move the ones in pots to my grow room in the basement before frost where they’ll stay warm.

Lammas was traditionally a time of celebrating those first harvests, and finishing off the last of last years preserves.

I do not have any preserves from last year – I’m just getting started on the hands-on aspects of my homesteading journey, though I’ve been planning and studying for decades.

But I can connect to the ancestral traditions of my western and northern European lineage. Traditions that until the forced conversions to Christianity were intimately tied to the seasons – and to the survival of the village.

Today, that means baking bread and pickling eggs. The bread will be part of this evening’s meal; the eggs won’t be enjoyed for a few weeks.

And so in this way, I’m both celebrating the moment, this procession of the seasons, while also preparing for the future.

Most of us don’t need to prepare for the winter in quite the same way our ancestors did. For most of us, an empty pantry can be remedied by a trip to the store. For those of us living in poverty, like myself, that might mean scrounging up change in an emergency to buy some ramen to get by until the next pay, or even an emergency trip to a food bank, but most people living in the Western world aren’t so dependent on seasonal preparations as our ancestors were.

I think this disconnection from the seasons does us a disservice. It keeps us from preparing in advance, and in so doing disconnects us from our future selves. We don’t need to prepare for long cold seasons hunkered down with no grocery stores. We don’t need to think about what our future self might need because we have the Capitalist consumer assumption that when we need something, it will be there for us to buy at some store. Just go to Amazon and you can find damn near anything you like. With free Prime shipping even. I just got two pounds of chia seeds for $7 yesterday. They’ll last me a month or two, then I can just order another two pound container of them.

So I’m using today to reconnect to my future self. To ask Her what she needs, and to start putting a plan in place to have it ready for Her, so she’s not scrambling in the way that I have frequently scrambled in the past because of poor preparation.

Design Your Own Pickled Eggs

Gwynne
A basic recipe for pickled eggs for you to experiment with creating the perfect-for-you batch of this savory delicacy.
Course Appetizer

Equipment

  • Clean glass jar with plastic lid. (Vinegar corrodes metal lids.)

Ingredients
  

  • 12 eggs
  • 3 cups vinegar Any type of vinegar will do. Experiment to find what you like best.
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt Table salt, sea salt, pink salt. Whatever you have on hand is just fine
  • cup sugar Raw sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, etc. Again, what you have on hand is fine.
  • various spices and seasonings Garlic, peppercorn, and pickling spice are common, but feel free to experiment with these in each batch you make. Turmeric lends a lovely flavor and color, for example.
  • beets, red cabbage, or red onions (optional) One or all of these will add color to your pickled eggs, but will also add flavor.

Instructions
 

  • Put vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a non-aluminum saucepan. (The vinegar reacts to aluminum and isn't so great.) Add your spices. (If you're using garlic, dill, or turmeric, leave those out of the pan.)
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat. Turn it way down. You want a gentle simmer for five minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let cool for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Stuff your eggs in a jar(s). Add garlic, dill, or turmeric if you're using them.
  • Pour your brine mixture (vinegar, water, salt, spices) to the jar and cap tightly.
  • Stick in the fridge and let sit for 2-4 weeks.
  • Will keep for about 3-4 months without pressure canning. Longer with pressure canning.