wild horses stampede
dust storm engulfs the valley
tempest through heartland
wild horses stampede
dust storm engulfs the valley
tempest through heartland
Note: Please use pickling cucumbers and non-chlorinated water to ensure your pickles turn out right. Please read Meredith Schultz’s comment at the end of this post for more info.
[dropcap]It’s[/dropcap] quite a pretty picture of colours and shapes, isn’t it? Well, I think so at least. I was pleasantly surprised when my partner returned from the shop with a selection of tasty items for the photo shoot. In particular, I was drawn to the fabulous mosaic pink brawn and the alien red/white stuffed baby capsicum balls. They’re both delicious, and I think they complement the green giant dill pickles very well (colour and flavour wise). I especially love the soft yet lucid chartreuse colour of the inside of the cut pickle – delicately specked with tiny white seeds. Red and green really do mix well together, don’t they? Thank you Jesus.
Despite the handsomeness of the dill pickles, I would be telling a lie if I said they were a total success. You see, even though the ones in the photos are firm enough to pass my judgement, about half of them were just a little too soft/meh for my liking. Alas – this is the perils of fermenting your pickles for too long, and adapting recipes. Don’t underestimate how fast fermentation takes, especially if the weather is warm.
I think there’s 3 reasons why my dill pickles did not turn out so crispy/crunchy. First (as mentioned above) and the principal reason – they were left to ferment in the jars for too long. Second – I had cut off the cucumber tips and stems before pickling them. This resulted in the brine entering the cucumber faster than normal, and is reflected by the softer flesh near the cut tip. Third (and an assumption) – the type of cucumber used were not suitable for pickling. Perhaps, Lebanese cucumber skin is too thin and the flesh is to soft? Also, some of the cukes that I used were already on the soft side when I bought them.
Despite all this, the flavour of the dill pickles was very nice/delicious indeed. They tasted salty, sour, tangy, juicy and spicy/aromatic. My partner even went so far as to describe them as being “the best out of everything on the plate”! But he often says that about everything that I make, except if it’s meat. I said to him, “I’m not completely happy with them because some of them are too soft”. He replied, “no, they’re all all right”. Then he stated, “you should have listened to me”. My guinea pig aside – from my point of view, which tends to be more critical about everything, the dill pickles are very tasty and full of aromatic briny flavours.
Giant dill pickles are not for the faint-hearted. While there’s a sense of fun and novelty to eating them, they are quite intimidating and a challenge to eat whole (especially considering the fact that they’re mammoth salty/sour flavour bombs). So, only some were served whole, but most were served sliced up – quartered and halved lengthways into long slender batons and some into more manageable thin disc slices.
For the record, there was a white “bloom” on the surface of the pickles/brine when I lifted the cloth lid off. It looked gross so I just scooped it out with a spoon and chucked it away. To store the pickles in the fridge, I simply transferred them into a resealable plastic container, along with the brine. There’s now enough pickles in the fridge to last us for months. Some of them had tiny white spots on the skin which I believe is normal. I’ve seen these spots on my pickled onions and on deli-bought olives before. I’m not sure what they are exactly, so if you know, please feel free to let me know too. I’ve eaten many pickled food with them on it, and I’m still here typing…just…joking.
Note: These giant dill pickles turned out well and taste very good, and I’m glad I gave them a go. Many lessons were learnt from the process, as outlined above. I’m quite confident in this recipe and want to make it work, so I’m going to give it another try but with a few adjustments. I will try and use a different type of cucumber if I can find them. I will ferment them for half the time, maybe even faster to ensure maximum crispiness and crunchiness. I will not cut off the stems/tips on the cucumbers. Also, I’ve read that “alum” helps make them crunchy – I have no idea what it is but I’ll see if I can find it and think about using it.
[dropcap]Check[/dropcap] out the small amount of liquid/padaek sauce that has appeared at the base of the jar. It’s not a great deal, but it’s enough for me to want to jump up with joy and even do a happy dance. On the other hand, as you can see at the top of the jar, not too much has changed, and the surface level of the padaek has remained the same as last month’s. That’s OK though, because at least I know it’s progressing and doing something in terms of making the actual padaek sauce.
As mentioned with the Padaek #1 update, both jars were moved from the kitchen cupboard and onto the kitchen bench where it is warmer. The change of environment hasn’t caused immediate dramatic changes in neither jars, but I do think it’s for the better in the long run, because it’s a warmer space which is meant to be more conducive to faster fermentation.
The weather over the past month here at Padaekland has been generally warm/hot and humid/muggy. Over the last week or so, it has been wet and stormy, yet warm and sultry. Strange, I know, and sometimes very uncomfortable too. Sort of like Melbourne and tropical Lao weather mixed together, if my memory serves me right. Today, it started off dry, hot, sunny and a little windy. Then, in early afternoon, dark clouds appeared, followed by rain and thunderstorm. The air remains warm and humid, and the fan has been on constantly. Even the birds outside are a little confused and disturbed as they squawk endlessly outside in commotion.
Note: This Thursday (the 11th) marks Padaek’s first birthday! bigsmile Pretty awesome right?! It was on Wednesday, 11 December, 2013 that I published the first blog post on the site – How to make tum mark hoong – Lao spicy green papaya salad recipe. You should check it out if you haven’t already done so. It’s quite a popular post.
On Thursday, I’ll be writing a celebratory 1 year anniversary post, so be sure to pop over for a read and catch up. On a sad note though, Thursday will be the last day that I’ll be writing/publishing the daily poems/haiku. I’m sorry for this if you’ve been following and enjoying the haiku, but it may come as a surprise that they actually take me a lot of time and effort to write. Instead, I’ll be continuing writing/publishing poems/haiku on the blog when I can, but just not on a daily basis.
Back on a happy note. On Thursday, to help celebrate the blog anniversary, I’ll be holding a small poetry competition. Readers are asked to write and submit a food poem or haiku, and there will be a small prize for the winner, who will be selected by humble me. There’s only a short time-frame for the competition (7 days), so that I’ll have enough time to choose the winner and post out the prize so that it is hopefully received before Christmas.
So, remember to visit Padaek on Thursday, to read the anniversary post and submit a food poem. You can submit as many poems as you want, and you can write a poem of any style that you choose. Just make sure it’s about “food”. For the meantime, start practising/writing!
parents and offspring
share precious time together
family as one
Note: I’ve been told by a friend that old/green potatoes like the ones above are dangerous/toxic to eat! Please know and remember this, and please don’t eat old/green potatoes, no matter how interesting they may be to look at, take a photo of, or write a haiku about. I did not eat these potatoes btw. Thanks The Life of Floy & Flirl!
Note: Hooray, we’ve reached the final post of the series! As much as I enjoyed writing and sharing my views on food photography with you, I was starting to run out of good new ideas/info to talk about so I’m sort of glad that we’ve come to the concluding post. smile As a photographer, I still consider myself a beginner, no doubt about it, but I do enjoy learning and sharing things that I’m interested in. This is the reason why I wrote these food photography posts – and also in the hope that you might find some of it useful. Learning is a great thing and the world is full of stuff to discover/learn – never lose the passion/hunger to learn. And that brings us to the third point/tip. It’s another obvious advice, but it’s the last one so please bear with it.
3. Learn/study food photography and always be inspired/observant!
In order for us to be good at something, we need to practice and learn/study it. Simple, right?! Some people learn better from doing, and some from reading, or a combination of both. Which ever method you apply, the advice is the same – try and invest some of your precious time to learn and improve on your skills and knowledge on food photography, if you’re serious about it.
Start by reading and understanding your camera’s handbook. This way, not only will you know more about all of your camera’s capabilities and features, you’ll also enjoy using it more too. Time is precious to everyone, and usually it’s just easier to put difficult things aside (such as reading/learning) and instead, spend time online or doing whatever, but learning about your camera/lens/gear is a great investment for your hobby/budding passion/profession. In fact, I should practice what I preach more, because more often than not, I’m quite happy with just knowing about the basic operations of my camera, etc.
Besides learning about how your camera/gear works (through reading and doing), it’s also smart to read and study about photo theory and food photography too. The web is a great place to start with many free resources. The library and second hand book stores are also good sources for books on the topics too. Reading up on these topics is not only a great way to expand your knowledge and have an understanding of the bigger picture of your field, it can also help inspire you with new ideas too.
After reading, it’s as simple as applying what you’ve read/learnt and practising it on a regular basis until you’re competent and confident.
This advice applies to photo editing, and other aspects of food photography too, eg: the business side, etc. Like everything, you get out what you put in, and while it takes time and effort to learn something properly and in detail, you’ll be glad that you found the time to do so.
Sometimes, it can be a real effort and challenge to take photos, especially if we’re not in the mood or there’s obstacles that hinder us, for example, bad weather, bad lighting, etc. Sometimes, we just lack ideas or inspiration/motivation. One way to solve this problem is to always be observant and take note of the creative inspiration that exist around us. This includes mother nature, the TV, the web and the work of other food photographers (professionals and our fellow food bloggers/peers).
The web is an incredible source for inspiration. I am constantly inspired (and made humble) as I read/view other food blogs/food photos online – admiring other people’s work. Hardcopy magazines, newspapers, etc. are also a great source for inspiration.
My point is be observant and always open to inspiration from the things and people around you. Being inspired by other people’s work and learning from them is a natural thing. I’m not suggesting that you copy other people’s work because that won’t make you happy and your style/way is always much better. What I’m suggesting is that you take note of the work that you like/admire and ask why, and find out how you can apply the method/style that are shared to you, to improve your own work!
It’s a wrap!
That’s it folks – the wrap up on the series of food photo posts. I hope you found it a little bit interesting and helpful. A lot of the things that I talked about are obvious, and possibly what you already know and do. If so, I hope that it serves as a gentle reminder for you to continue doing what you love doing and work hard to reap the rewards. This series of posts started as a normal single post, but it soon got too long, so I divided it into three separate posts – which ended up being a job bigger than I had expected, and explains why some of the content got repeated/overlapped.
Anyhow, I had fun writing the posts and I’m glad that I did it and could share my ramble with you. It was a humbling experience, and also served as reminder to me about my own food photography/method of working, and made me realise that I still have a long way to go with my own food photo journey. Looking forward to sharing more with you as I learn more also. Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave your feedback.
Note: Coincidentally, Billy Law at A Table For Two has also recently written a series of food photo posts, with excellent experienced technical tips and advice. Be sure to check them out for some great food photo words of wisdom!
[dropcap]Really[/dropcap], there’s nothing new to report here, but it is the 5th of the month which is the date for the regular monthly update for the first jar of padaek. This is what I’ve been doing from the start, so I may as well stick with it. Besides, I hate falling out of routine, and I like to keep my word, even if sometimes, my selective memory gets the best of me. So, without further carrying on, I would like to share with you a photo of the padaek with nothing much happening.
On to semi more exciting news – since the last update, I decided to move both jars of padaek – this one, and the more recent “green lid” #2 jar of padaek on to the kitchen bench. Before, both of them were stored in the kitchen cupboard, next to under the sink, which was convenient, safe and out of the way. On the kitchen bench, not only are they more visible/easier to observe, on a daily basis, they’re also in a warmer environment, especially when taking into account that they’re right next to the microwave and electric kettle. Thinking about it, I do hope that this is safe place for them. In actual fact, I think I might move them to the other end of the bench just to be on the safe side.
Anyhow, as you can see in the photo above, despite the move on to the bench and the fact that the weather has been very warm/humid lately, the padaek has still remained in “hibernation” mode. The green lid padaek also shows little sign of change/movement/progress, compared to its previous marked level. I will post a photo update for it on the 8th. As the days and nights continue to be consistently warmer/balmier, I do hope that the weather will soon somehow cause some sort of chemical reaction with the padaek and make it progress/ferment faster/properly. One can only wish for such a thing.
Perhaps a new update photo with water views will help. Oh padaek, when will you change, if ever?
Note: #12 indicates December. As I walked back to the house, carefully cradling the jar of padaek in my arms, I intercepted a family and nonchalantly greeted them. Looking back, it was a real log lady from Twin Peaks moment and I wonder what the family were thinking. Also, in case you give a damn, this is the longest time that I haven’t shaved off my mo and to be honest, I’m quite ambivalent about it. It looks nice/OK and all – mature, rugged and sophisticated ( in a bushy/shaggy kind of way), but some of the hairs have the most odd way of growing. The mo is thin so every hair counts and stands out, and there’s two right in the middle that are neither growing left nor right, but forward. Also, the hair on the left side are growing longer than the right. It’s weird, I know. Movember is over but I’m going to leave it on to see how long the other half can handle it. Sorry, no photos – not that you want to see it anyway.
claws and fangs cut into flesh
crimson blood dripping