How we came to be...

Home Ec Hudson Valley began one Autumn morning at our home in Woodstock 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 and grandma in their kitchens came rushing back...


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

Let me give you all a bit of backstory..


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


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


My mom was a public school teacher, so when Summer arrived nothing other than our family vacation would get in the way of her canning. I remember watching TV and hearing her from the kitchen, "Baaarrrt?!? 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, and having cucumbers in the swamp sink with a block of ice to crisp them before putting them in the jars. There would be a pillowcase stuffed full of 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 the jars, and do whatever she asked us to do. She was a one woman factory! I look back now with such fondness and love for all those moments - the smells, the sounds, the early mornings, and the heat in the kitchen - but as


Then a few summers ago, she was visiting us in the Catskills - enjoying a beautiful fall day in Woodstock - and just about to head to the store.

I was in the living room, and I heard Gregg say to my mother in the kitchen, "Will you teach me how to pickle?" and that's how Home Ec Hudson Valley actually began...

My beautiful Autumn in the Catskills was being overtaken! Mom was going to crack the whip again! It would be canning, jamming, washing fruit, boiling bottles, peeling vegetables - my lives were merging, and I couldn't have been happier...


Woodstock...

We bought our place in 2012 - a historic stone home on the outskirts of town - the kind of place you'd picture in a fairytale. It was a communal home of artists before the depression, and based on it's proximity to Bearsville Studios, was a crash pad for people like Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, and eventually became the full time home of Robbie Robertson from the Band. He wrote many of their hit songs on the piano in the living room.


We found it on a spontaneous trip upstate - it had been for sale for years, abandoned for over a decade, left to the elements and forgotten about, and was derelict and overgrown. Squirrels were living in the oven, windows were broken, leaves were blowing through the kitchen, and wisteria had grown through the soffits into the living room. BUT, it was our perfect project - our dream home - and we knew we could breathe life back into it..


My mom loves it here, and it was on one of her first visits (that fateful summer morning), when I heard Gregg say, "Will you teach me how to pickle?" I started to panic because I know her and I know Gregg - this was going to turn into a thing. Gregg loves doing things with his hands, building chicken coops, cooking, etc - so I knew that question was just opening Pandora's box for both of them. It was a battle I knew was going to lose, but when I saw both of their faces, the panic of "I don't want to wash jars and I don't want pillowcases of grapes in my kitchen!" started to disappear.


"Will you teach me how to pickle?" My mom looked over and her eyes lit up, and her mind started turning (oh no)... "Pickle what, Gregg?! Cucumbers? Carrots? Celery? We could do tomatoes? 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 out here? Are peaches on? We're just getting peaches at home.. What would you like to START with?" Crap. Here we go.


One simple question that my mom had been waiting years to answer - and so it all began.

We started pickling carrots and celery, cucumbers, garlic, and then eventually started baking her breads and teaching her ours, making jams, and even went to Paris and learned pastries, and Rome to learn pastas and sauce.


My mom had a willing student, Gregg had an eager teacher, and I stood nearby and cheered them on. We started realizing all the things we didn't know and wanted to learn - so we bought books on cheesemaking, and desserts, and slow cookers, and beer and gin, and our curiosity in learning skills our grandparents once had just kept growing. We even started raising chickens (now an obsession), and after years of living in NYC, we really got into our new country life.


The one thing that was REALLY lacking was our lack of community. We had some good friends in Woodstock, but we really wanted to share our new country experiences with our city folk friends, and started the Facebook/Instagram requests..."Anyone want to make jam?" "Who wants to pickle?" we were overwhelmed with the response, and everyone basically gave the same feedback - making stuff is amazing - it's fun, communal, and almost meditative...


My mind started spinning - how do I do this with my friends from home in Utah? We all want to remain connected and have time together, but how? and so, the idea expanded.. Home Ec Hudson Valley could be local with friends and guests, and now with new technological advances, we could do Home Ec from the Hudson Valley with everyone, everywhere. So, here we are.


We'd love to have you! Join a class, learn from our instructors, become part of our community, teach us something, and get to Home Ec class - because everyone can find some calm and joy by going back to basics..