Warm, Spicy Aroma of Cinnamon — Good Witches Homestead

The warm, spicy aroma of cinnamon wafting from baked goods and hot apple cider is one of the first and welcome signs of autumn. An ancient and beloved spice, we have long valued cinnamon to enliven cuisine, create exotic perfumes, and as a staple spice rack remedy. Though many species of cinnamon exist, the most […]

via Warm, Spicy Aroma of Cinnamon — Good Witches Homestead


Really Good Dill Pickles

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We began trying to can our own Dill Pickles six years ago, and every recipe fell short. They were either soggy, tasted weird from commercial “pickling spices”, or were just plain flavorless. I grew up eating the delicious dill pickles my Grandma made, and the memory of their flavor and texture was burned into my taste buds. Nobody in the family had held onto my Grandmas’ pickle recipe.

By some miracle, I recently found what I think is my Grandmas’ recipe for dill pickles. It was tucked inside a pastry booklet I had inherited from her. Eureka! The first batch we made turned out fantastic. These are really, really good Dill Pickles. They are easy to put by and have fewer ingredients than the recipes you’ll find in the official Ball or Kerr canning guides. They are zesty, crunchy and perfect, at least to our taste. The recipe is simplicity itself. You don’t need to buy pickling spices or crisping additives.

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You will need to buy a box of canning salt because it helps the liquid in the jars stay crystal clear during the canning process. Here’s the recipe.

11 cups distilled water
5 cups white vinegar
1 cup canning/pickling salt
14 lbs. pickling cucumbers
9-18 heads of dill (one to two heads per jar)
18 cloves fresh garlic
9-18 fresh or dried cayenne peppers

Bring water, vinegar, and salt to a boil. Boil gently 10 minutes. Pack pickles, dill and spices into hot jars as tightly as possible, forcing them in.

Carefully ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars over the pickles, leaving a half-inch headspace. Remove the air bubbles on the sides of the jars. Add a little more liquid if necessary to maintain the correct level of the liquid.

Screw bands on till just fingertip tight, but don’t wrench on them to tighten them down. Process jars in hot water bath or steam canner for 15-20 minutes. I usually process 15 minutes.

When time is up, remove jars to sit on a towel until they cool to room temperature. Label and date each jar. Store in pantry. Don’t open for at least 4-8 weeks to give flavors a chance to develop.

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First, if you don’t grow your own pickling cucumbers, hie to the nearest farmer’s market and get at least 14 lbs., which is enough for one batch, or 12-13 quart jars. Buy a large bouquet of fresh dill, too, fresh garlic and cayenne peppers. We bought the cucumbers last year because we weren’t at all sure they would grow well in our garden.

Purchase a dozen wide-mouth quart mason jars with shoulders, not the straight kind, as they help the pickles to stay submerged in the liquid.

Run the jars through the dishwasher and pull out one or two at a time so you can fill them while they are still hot. We place 2 peeled cloves of garlic in each dry quart jar, and one cayenne pepper, dried or fresh. You can use a half teaspoon of flaked cayenne in a pinch (the kind you sprinkle on Pizza), but a whole one looks and tastes better. It just barely adds a hint of heat. The vinegar subdues it somewhat, so it is not overpowering. Next, you will add a whole head of the dill and then pack the jars tightly with the washed and scrubbed cucumbers. The easiest way to get the cucumbers fully packed in the jars is to lay the jar on its side while doing it.

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This year we grew several dill plants and planted four cucumber pickle plants in a hill. It was lucky for us that only one plant survived, as each plant provides tons of cucumbers! Check for new cucumbers every day, as sometimes the cucumber fairy shows up in the dead of night and turns them into giants. Place the cucumbers in the refrigerator bin as they become ready, and when the bin is full, you’ll have almost enough. I find anywhere from 4 to 8 cucumbers every day. I usually fill an extra bowl in the fridge, just to be sure we have enough cucumbers.

It felt very satisfying that we grew the cucumbers, the garlic, the cayenne and the dill this year. We are making another batch of pickles next week and won’t have to go to the store for anything. I like that. I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe! Happy fall.


What a joy this busy summer has been! I feel very grateful my shoulder is doing well enough to harvest pickling cucumbers and herbs, can salsa and dill pickles, and do a little quilting. I have taken on some new endeavors as well. I began to meditate over a year ago while recovering from my broken shoulder. It was something I had always meant to do over the years, but I never managed to follow through for more than a day or two when I worked full time. This time it stuck.

After meditating for about two months straight, I noticed a dramatic increase in psychic images, meaningful dreams and occasionally hearing from spirits whom I didn’t recognize and wasn’t related to. That hadn’t happened since I was a child. It became clear to me that I had two choices. I could just stop meditating and it would eventually all settle down, or, run with scissors and learn to take charge of it. I chose to learn more about it.

I’ve seen and heard spirits and had random psychic experiences ever since I was a child. I spent years trying to fit in with this or that person or group by keeping quiet about things that were not mainstream or normal. Family members in spirit who had passed on always managed to get through my psychological barriers and contact me, but I did not talk about spirits to anyone. I kept a private journal about my dreams and experiences since I was 16, but there were very few people I felt comfortable sharing that part of my life with.

In my early forties, I  sought Jungian Analysis, to see if there might be something wrong with me.  After nearly four years of analysis, the shrink told me that the very qualities I had tried to disown all my life were the gold in me.  Because my husband and I were raising a family and working full time, while living in a conservative town, I still kept quiet about my interactions with spirits, though it was definitely validating when my shrink quipped that I was dangerously well and coming into being more of who I am, not crazy.

For the past year, I’ve taken mini-courses on mediumship from mediums who teach so I could learn to navigate my psychic stuff and experiences with spirits. The mediums I have met, and the fellow students earnestly trying to improve feel like my tribe. They get me, and I get them. It feels like coming home. I can’t imagine why I waited so long to do this.

One of the workshops paired random students together, and it was like musical chairs with no way to predict which partner one might end up with. It was a large class, maybe 25 people. The idea was for each partner to give a twenty-minute practice reading to one other classmate, starting with a psychic reading. After that, we were paired with a different partner for the mediumship challenge. I didn’t even realize either activity would be part of the curriculum until the class started, and I was pretty nervous as were some of the others. I had huge doubts I could even do it, as I had never tried to do any of it on purpose before.

The instructor suggested we would have the best success if we could enter the challenge playfully, not take it too seriously, and speak without even thinking about it first. To my great surprise, after what seemed a long, blank moment, the pictures and information started to flow as I spoke them, and the information turned out to be mostly accurate. The same thing happened during the mediumship segment. I had sweaty hands and a blank moment.  The spirit of my group partner’s Grandfather showed up and communicated verifiable, specific, evidential information to me through visuals and feelings.  His personality was tearfully recognized and verified by my group partner. It was an amazing experience.

I hope to be able to refine my skills to the point that I am a comfortable, accurate messenger for spirit so I can offer evidence to those missing deceased loved ones that they still live.