In the beginning...

Home Ec Hudson Valley began one Fall morning when Gregg asked my mom, "Will you teach me how to pickle?" My heart leapt, a smile spread across my face, and all the childhood memories of my mom in her kitchen came rushing back...

Gregg and Mom, the first day of pickling - Oct. 22, 2012

Let me give you a bit of backstory...


My mom, Carla Brooks, was raised on a farm in Kamas, UT (near Park City), and loves pickling, sewing, bottling, drying fruit, making salsa, smoking jerky, quilting, baking, working in her garden, etc etc etc...


So many of my childhood memories revolve around moments with her being creative in our home making food, bottling food storage, and preparing for holidays - everything homemade. For Thanksgiving everything was from scratch, and she made everything for Christmas -cookies, chocolate covered cherries, sugar houses "the Candyland," sewing our Christmas pajamas, making ornaments, and even went as far as insisting we only gave gifts we made by hand. She'd sew our Halloween costumes, hand dip chocolates for Valentines Day, use onion skins and madder root to dye easter eggs, and when spring rolled around, we'd always have fresh flowers inside from her garden. With the change of every season, some old family tradition would emerge, and when Summer rolled around? Get out of her way!


My mom was a public school teacher, so when Summer arrived nothing would get in the way of her canning (except our family vacation). I remember watching TV and hearing from the kitchen, "Baaarrrtonnn?!? Would you go to the basement and find the pint jars and bring up my canning pots?" At that time my heart would sink - here we go again. Bottles would come up from the basement (I still remember the sound of them clanking together as I trudged them up the stairs), and I knew that my 'carefree' summer would change to my 'working' summer. It would now be weeding the garden, picking fruit from the orchard, and having cucumbers in the swamp sink, and being covered in layers of clothes to prevent scratches picking blackberries in Veyo. There would be a pillowcase stuffed full of cooked grapes hanging on a broomstick over a wash tub in the kitchen - her twisting, wringing, and knotting the pillowcase every hour to squeeze out every last drop of juice. Although she did most everything herself, we'd stand near the hot stove wearing rubber gloves and pull out jars, and do whatever she asked. I look back now with such admiration, fondness and love for all those moments - the smells, sounds, early mornings, and the heat in the kitchen. She was a one woman factory!


Woodstock - the perfect place for pickling and crafts...


We bought our home in 2012 - a historic stone house on the outskirts of town - the kind of place you'd picture in a fairytale... Stone walls that are two feet thick, curved oak country doors, and steeped in beautiful history - to read about the house and see more pictures, read the blog post "Goodbrooks." Living in an old home, it basically begs you to bring back traditions from the past, and after years of living in NYC, we finally gave into the country life - raising chickens and all.

The simple question of, "Will you teach me how to pickle?" is how Home Ec Hudson Valley actually began...

So when Gregg asked Mom to teach him how to pickle? It seemed like fate stepped in, and her response still makes me laugh - "Pickle what, Gregg?! Cucumbers? Carrots? Celery? We could do tomatoes? We can make salsa? Do you have jars? Where can we buy jars? Shall we go to Adams to get vegetables and jars? Do you want to do fruit? We could do fruit leather? Do you have a food dryer?" What's on right now? Are peaches still on? We don't have peaches at home anymore.. What would you like to START with?" I sat on the couch looking at the wall - just waiting for her to say, "Barrrrrtonn! Can you go to the basement and get some jars?" At first I panicked, but my childhood memories came rushing back and merged with the present, and I couldn't have been happier.


So, with Mom in Woodstock and a willing student? This was going to turn into a thing. Gregg loves doing things with his hands, building chicken coops, cooking, etc - so I knew that starting to pickle would be opening Pandora's box for both of them - and it has. We started pickling carrots and celery, cucumbers, dilly beans, garlic, and then she eventually started baking and teaching us her bread recipes and making jams. We even went to Paris to learn pastries, and then to Rome to learn pastas and sauce! Every time she comes to town it begins, and now we're teaching her things - like cheesemaking!


We soon learned that many friends also wanted on the jam wagon, and started fielding requests, "I want to learn jam!" "Teach me how to make cheese!" We had friends from Utah, California, Europe, and NYC all wanting to do a class or two, so the idea expanded even further! Home Ec Hudson Valley could be local with friends, and with technological advances like Zoom, we could do Home Ec from the Hudson Valley with everyone, everywhere!


We'd love to have you join! Learn from our instructors, be part of our community, teach us something, and get to Home Ec class - because anyone can find calm and joy by going back to basics...


"Will you teach me how to pickle?" A simple question my mom had been waiting to answer for years...and with that, it all began.