Herbal Smudge Sticks

 Hello friends,

I have an abundance of herbs as the growing season is slowly coming to its Autumnal finish.  

Today I am making herbal smudge sticks. These are simply dried bundled herbs that are lit, the flame is extinguished and the dried bundles smolder. The smoke from smudge sticks is often used ceremonially, medicinally, or simply as an air freshener. 

White sage smudge sticks, are the most popular. Personally, I just use it for the fragrance so I use some decorative flowers and assortments of botanicals.   Genuine white sage is often considered sacred by Native Americans and those who smudge for ceremonies. 

I like to create my own herbal smudge sticks from plants that I grow or native harvest from the fields and woodlands surrounding my home.  This way it is sustainable. If you are smudging for ceremonial purposes, you can research which plants are believed to provide the desired results.  I am not schooled in this aspect of smudging so I will leave that to the experts.

All you need is clipped herbs, greens, flowers and a natural twine like cotton kitchen string or garden sisal.  While sage is gold standard, there are many suitable herbs and plants that work wonderfully:

Sage, rosemary, lavender, pine, cinnamon bark, rose petals, cedar, juniper, sweetgrass, marigold, ginger root, frankincense tears, bayberry, mints, chamomile, red willow, bay are a few that work well.

Gather your small bouquet and using a cotton thread tie a knot tightly at the base. I tie a loop for hanging and weave the string up the bundle.  

You want to pull it tight to secure the plants as the herbs will shrink as they dry. Once you get to the top you can end it if you feel the bundle is tight enough or you can cross over and go back down to be sure it is good to go.  Tie it of with a simple knot.

Hang the bundle in open air out of the sunlight as it dries.  It takes a month or so to dry properly.  The herbs must be complete dried before lighting for best results.  Once mine dry I trim the top and bottom so you get a nice flat surface which makes it ideal for lighting. 

 To light your smudge stick, use a candle, match or lighter to light the end of the stick. Let it catch fire then lightly wave out or blow out the flames, leaving the stick to smolder. Place the smoking smudge stick in a fire safe dish, pottery or vessel.  Tradition smudging is often placed in an abalone shell. 

 You can move about the home to smudge the various spaces.  Often a large smudging feather is used to disperse the fragrant smoke emitting from the smoldering smudge stick. I use a naturally shed turkey feather that we found in our yard.  

 Once you are through, stamp out the burning stick being sure it is completely extinguished. Do not use water so you can reuse it. Note: if your stick does not light easily, it is either not completely dried or too tight.  You can leave it to dry longer or gently loosen the ends to allow for easier lighting.

Be careful: use caution when handling the burning smudge stick, never leave the burning stick unattended and use only plants and botanicals that you know are safe and properly identified.  

Bundle up those herbs and give smudging a try.

Thanks for visiting,



Dilly Beans

Hello friends,  

Today I share a family favorite recipe from Aunt Mildred Bartley - Dilly Beans!
These are delicious and make a nice elegant addition to party trays and a well appreciated home made gift basket for the holidays, a step up from the usual pickles.

I process these using standard canning methods so they can be stored longer but you can also make them in a “refrigerator” version. If you do the refrigerator version, just blanch the beans before you pack them in the jar by submersing them in boiling water for 3 minutes them plunging them into ice water to cool quickly.  Then proceed with the usual recipe.  After you add the hot brine and place the lids on the jars, allow it to cool a little and refrigerate.  Allow them to sit for a few days and they are ready to enjoy.  They will last several weeks in the refrigerator.  If you want longer storage, use safe canning procedures as detailed below the recipe directions.

Beautiful dill fresh from my herb garden.

I have also used this recipe for refrigerator veggies - cauliflower, carrots, cukes, peppers, onions etc.  

Soapsmith’s Dilly Beans

Makes 4 pints – you can easily double the recipe

4 properly cleaned pint canning jars
Canning lids and rings
Canner with rack
A jar lifter is handy if you have one
Wide mouth funnel & ladle

I use water bath canning method as described below the recipe.


Fresh Green Beans (or yellow beans) about 2 pounds

4 heads of fresh dill weed 
(or 4 sprigs of fresh dill weed or 4 tsp dried dill seeds)

4 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup pickling salt

2 1/2 cups white vinegar

2 1/2 cups water

1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Wash the beans, snap off ends and if needed cut to fit the jar length.
Pack each jar with beans length ways as tightly as you can get them. If you tip the jar sideways it is easier to pack them in nicely.

Add to each jar:

1 fresh dill head, (or 1 sprig of fresh dill weed or 1 tsp dried dill seeds)
1 garlic clove
1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper.
 (If you don’t like the heat you can skip the cayenne, I always use the pepper)

Note:  You can use any spice options you prefer - pickling spice mix, mustard seed, pepper corns etc.  Just add a little to each jar to your liking.

Combine the vinegar, water and salt to make the pickling brine.  Bring to a boil in a stainless steel pot and be sure the salt is dissolved.  Ladle the hot brine into each jar leaving ¼ inch space at the top.  If your beans are really tight in the jar, make sure there are no bubbles of air – you might need to move them around a little with a small silicone spatula or spoon handle to make sure there are no air pockets. 

Wipe the rims clean so you will get a good seal with the canning lids.  Follow safe canning procedures as detailed below. Process for 10 minutes. If you use different size jars you need to adjust the processing time and also make altitude adjustments if needed (check the instructions below for more info on safe canning)

Directions for Hot Water Bath Canning

Fill your canner about one third full of water. Heat the water while you are preparing your recipe.  The water needs to be hot but not boiling before you add the jars. 

Wash your jars and keep warm. Jars can be washed by hand or in the dishwasher. Keep jars hot until ready to be filled.  Place the clean jars upside down in a large skillet with 2 or 3 inches of hot water. Bring to a boil and turn off heat. Leave the jars in the water until ready to be filled

  Also warm the canning seals in a small bowl with boiling water.  Just put them in the bowl and when you are ready to use them they are ready to go. You don’t have to keep the water boiling as they will be sterilized in the canning process.  This just warms them and rinses them so they will make a good seal on the clean jar lip.

Prepare and pack food according to instructions in your recipe.

Fill the hot jars leaving the recommended head space.

Wipe the rim of the jar clean with a damp towel. Place seals and rings on jars. Tighten finger tight, they just need to be snug.

Place jars in the canner rack. The rack will keep your jars off the bottom and will also keep them from hitting each other. 

Lower the rack gently to the bottom. The jars must not sit directly on the bottom of the canner, or touch each other as they may break during processing. Water needs to flow around each jar. Add hot water if needed until the jars are covered by at least 2 inches.

If you don’t have a canner, you can process jars in any pot deep enough to have jars fully covered in boiling water. You will need to put something under the jars to keep them off the bottom, maybe a rack or tea towel would work. Water bath canners are the easiest to use but you can certainly improvise. 

Cover and return to a full boil. Once the pot is at a full boil you start your timing. Keep the pot boiling for the entire time required by your particular recipe. Also keep an eye to be the water level stays above the jars, you may need to add some boiling water if needed. 

NOTE: If needed, be sure to adjust processing time according to your altitude.  This is important for food safety!

Altitude Adjustments for Boiling Water Bath Canner

Altitude in Feet- Increase processing time

1001-3000- increase 5 minutes

3001-6000- increase 10 minutes

6001-8000- increase 15 minutes

8001-10,000- increase 20 minutes

Once you processing time is reached, carefully raise the rack and jars up and hook it on the sides of the canner. Using a jar lifter,  remove the jars and set upright on counter or table on a thick towel or rack to cool. Be sure they are in a draft free area and leave 1 to 2 inches of space in between so air can circulate. Allow the jars to cool naturally. One of my favorite sounds is the “plink” as each jar cools and the seals are pulled down - satisfaction.

After jars have cooled, you may press on the lid to check the seal. The seal should be sucked down and not pop up. If you find a jar that did not seal, put the jar in the refrigerator use the food within a few days.

Wipe the jars before storing.  Some people prefer to remove the rings before storing just in case they rust but you can decide if you want to do that. Label the jar with the food type and date.  Store your jars in a cool, dark, dry environment.

Quick and easy sun pickle version:

I also make these using the same process as my sun pickles.  Using this version means the finished jars have to be kept refrigerated as they are not preserved for shelf storage but they are just as delicious and very simple to do.

Just use the same recipe up to the point of the hot water bath canning instructions.  Once you have the jars packed with the beans, spices and brine, simply close up the jars and place them in the sun for an afternoon.  Then move to the refrigerator.  Allow them to sit in the fridge for at least several days (a few weeks is better) to complete the pickling process.  As long as you keep them in the refrigerator they will last a long time.

I hope you'll give these a try.  They are really pretty simple and scrumptious,  Enjoy!

Thanks for visiting,


Garden Tomato and Pancetta Pasta

 Hello Friends,

Today I want to share my favorite summer pasta with garden tomatoes, basil, oregano and pancetta.  So delicious!

My container gardens produce lots of delicious home grown tomatoes.  There is nothing like the sun kissed, sweet and tangy goodness of fresh off the vine tomatoes.

I patiently wait these summer delights every year.  There is no comparison to those awful supermarket so called tomatoes.  Toasted Tomato Sandwiches,  Caprese Salad, Bruschetta, Tomato and Cucumber Salads, Stuffed Peppers, Vegetable Soup and Golumpki (stuffed cabbage) all benefit from top quality tomatoes and nothing beats home grown.

Soapsmith's Fresh Garden Tomato and Pancetta Pasta

This recipe is very forgiving so you can easily substitute items to your tastes. See the notes below the recipe for suggestions.

One pound pasta 
8 ounces of Pancetta
4 cups of peeled fresh garden tomatoes
1/2 to 1 cup of fresh good quality Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 to 1 cup liquid to deglaze the pan - white wine, pasta water or stock
Fresh herbs - basil and oregano
Garlic, Shallots or Onion
Olive Oil
Balsamic or red wine vinegar
Red Pepper Flakes
Sea Salt

Cook chopped pancetta until nice and crispy, remove from the pan and drain. Reserve a few tablespoons of the drippings to sauté the garlic and shallots/onions.

Peel the tomatoes (immerse in boiling water for 15 seconds then shock with ice water to easily remove the peel without cooking)  Finely dice the fresh tomatoes removing any excess seeds.

Add some good flavorful sea salt, fresh grind of black pepper and a few splashes of vinegar and olive oil to season the tomatoes and allow to marinade while you prepare the pasta.  Season lightly, the highlight of the dish is the flavorful tomatoes and you don't want to overwhelm them.

Chop the garlic, shallots or onion to your taste.  I use a few tablespoons total for a nice subtle seasoning so you don't overwhelm the fresh tomatoes. Using the pan from the pancetta, gently sauté the shallots/onions/garlic with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes in the drippings.  If needed, you can add a little olive oil. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid.  White wine, pasta water, vegetable or chicken stock are all good options.

Chiffonade a few tablespoons of the basil with a nice thin chop. I like to use fresh basil and oregano from my herb garden.

Cook the pasta al dente as per the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta in case you need to add moisture to the finished dish.  Drain, do not rinse.  Add the hot pasta to the fresh tomatoes, add the pancetta, grated cheese and sautéed veggies with liquid and toss until nicely distributed.  If it seems dry you can add a little pasta water to loosen it up as needed.

Garnish with the fresh herbs and shavings of parmesan cheese. Enjoy!


Use your favorite pasta:   Campanelle, Orecchiette or Fettuccini for a nice sturdy pasta, Angel Hair for delicate, Linguine or Spaghetti - regular or whole wheat.

You can use pancetta, bacon or prosciutto.  I also make it without any meat. You can vary the cheeses.  Clean out the fridge - leftover shredded chicken, pepperoni, veggies - whatever you like.  I like the tomatoes to be the star of the dish.

Herbs - basil and oregano is the classic but you can sub parsley, sage, rosemary, dill.

Liquids - white wine, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, lemon juice even a little heavy cream if you prefer.

What ever you use, be sure to splurge on the best quality. A dish is only as good as its individual ingredients and it really makes a difference.

Savor those summer garden harvests!

Thanks for visiting,