Cancation

There are vacations, staycations, and I have just decided that what I had… was a cancation. I stayed home and canned for a week. And I enjoyed it. Attila stayed home and enjoyed being home, low-key, low pressure, he loved it. And I, and Attila, will enjoy the results of the cancation for months and months to come.

In total, I have canned over 100 jars of food since the first weekend of September. I am now perfectly comfortable using my All American pressure canner. There are only one dozen empty canning jars left in the canning supplies, so another dozen were ordered on sale from amazon, to arrive sometime this coming week. Canning lids were a reasonable price at the local dollar store, so a season’s supply were purchased, ready for next year’s cancation.

And still, apple season is just getting into full swing, so there may be a bushel of apples needing to be canned in the near future. The canning equipment is on standby.

Also, somewhere in the deep dark of the chest freezer lurks a large bag of beef bones, that were part of the quarter of grass-fed cow that we purchased quite a few years ago now. That needs to be turned into bone broth for soups, which will be pressure canned.

It will be a few weeks yet before canning season is over for 2018.

Since the cancation involved no financial outlay for entertainment or travel, no eating out, no drinking out… well, it didn’t cost a cent. So Attila and I both agreed that an indulgence was in order. We bought a 15 cubic foot chest freezer! It doesn’t sound like an indulgence I know. But we could limp along with the banged up, small, used chest freezer that in use at the moment, bought for a song quite a few years ago. It still works well. That is why this is an indulgence, a new chest freezer is not actually NEEDED, but it will certainly improve the quality of life here at Mist Cottage.

The new chest freezer was delivered last week, and installed by the delivery fellows. They were quite helpful, installing the casters for me, setting it up where I wanted it, plugging it in, making sure everything was tickety boo. The all-summer heat wave was still clinging to us at that point, so I made sure they parted with cold beverages in hand.

I have decided to take exclusive responsibility of the frozen food here at Mist Cottage. It is beyond Attila, who works full-time, and has other areas in the house to keep organized, like the garage.

My first step was to measure the interior of the new freezer, then head to the Dollar Store. Stackable baskets with handles were purchased to aid in keeping like items together and easily accessible. Wish me luck with that.

The next step, the one currently underway, is to slowly remove items from the old freezer, and place them in the appropriate baskets in the new freezer. This is a slow process, because there are many surprises in the old chest freezer. For instance, Attila thought he had found all the frozen tomatoes last year, for me to stew and freeze. Well, he missed a few, two big bags of them actually. So my efforts were diverted into dealing with the tomatoes, which were stewed and ended up in last night’s dinner, Lebanese Beef and Green Bean Casserole, in the Instant Pot of course. Then there was the bag of pineapple, with the missing tag, open to freezer burn. That was stewed as well, taste tested, Attila approved, then pureed as an ingredient for muffins. Today, a small container of chopped turkey breast was rescued from the freezer, and it will become tonight’s dinner, Mongolian Turkey, in the Instant Pot of course. So you can see how this freezer organization is going, slowly but surely.

So here I am, inventing ways to make dribs and drabs of vintage food palatable. It is my ongoing fantasy (decades of dreaming) that the chest freezer will be organized, and that food will be easily identified and used in a timely manner. I can dream can’t I!

Attila has been dehydrating cayenne peppers from our garden, a work in progress. I have dehydrated three 500 ml jars of tomato powder, which is the skins and seeds of the tomatoes, dehydrated in the oven, then put through the blender to powder. The real dehydration coup though, is the onion tops, walking onions, which Attila dehydrated, and are amazingly tasty. These onion tops would have been composted, but now they are going to a welcome addition to many soups, stews, and casseroles.

A project under consideration is freezing chopped onions. They can be purchased cheaply in the autumn in large 10 pound bags, chopped and frozen on cookie sheets, then taken out of the freezer throughout the winter for soups, stews, and casseroles. I don’t mind chopping onions every day for cooking, when they are freshly harvested and crisp, it is actually enjoyable. But as the winter progresses the onions available are decreasingly fresh, and become more and more difficult to chop; that is when frozen chopped onions will seem like a great idea.

Before seriously considering this onion chopping project, an experiment was conducted. Two onions were chopped, then frozen, then used to create last night’s dinner. They sautéed very nicely, and there was no noticeable difference in the dish, compared to using freshly chopped onions. So the decision was made to chop onions for freezing.

Now, if you chop onions, you know it is a sad affair, lots of tears. After reading a lot of advice online, for chopping onions in quantity, I decided to purchase an onion chopper, which will arrive sometime this week. The amazon ratings aren’t all that high, but the personal accounts I read online were more glowing. I chose this unit because of the personal anecdotes I read, the price, and the size. Storage is an issue here at Mist Cottage, and this item has a relatively small footprint. I hope to use it to chop onions for daily use, when frozen chopped onions are not available. This little unit should be easy to clean, in the sink or dishwasher. I could use the food processor, but I don’t like the inconsistent size of the onion pieces, and the cleanup is not something I would tackle on an onion a day basis. We shall see if my reasoning and plans for the onion chopper work out the way I hope they will.

Wordly

Weather

9°C
Date: 8:00 AM EDT Sunday 30 September 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.8 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 9.1°C
Dew point: 5.6°C
Humidity: 79%
Wind: W 10 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

It was 7C outside this morning at 6:00 a.m., and 21.5C in the house. The heating system has not been turned on yet this fall, so we are maintaining our comfortable indoor temperature due to heat retention from body heat, cooking, and sunshine through the windows. This feels pretty good.

Quote

“We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.”
Thomas A. Edison
1847 – 1931

Mind boggling but true, in my opinion. What this means to me is that life is never boring. I feel it is cowardly to think you know everything, and foolish to think you are an expert at anything.

Kitchen Magic

I have always loved the kitchen. I love everything about the kitchen, acquiring food to put in it, preserving food, storing food, preparing food, baking, cleaning, organizing, the list goes on. I’ve always been this way, ever since I can remember. My Aunt had a picture of me, at age about five, sweeping the kitchen floor at our farm, and the caption reads, “Mother’s little helper”. That about sums it up, I liked my mother’s kitchen, I liked doing things with and for my mother in the kitchen, it was my favourite room in the house. It was a farm kitchen, and my mother always was a good cook, who liked to cook, and to preserve the produce we had fresh from our farm. I grew up thinking that canning, jam and jelly making, baking, freezing, and all kinds of other kitchen and food related activities, were normal, and fun.

In addition to Mom’s kitchen, the was Granny’s kitchen. That wondrous place where the wood stove represented wonderful meals. There wonderful things happened when we brought home fresh picked wild fruit, choke cherries, raspberries, black raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and high bush cranberries. My Granny and Grandpa had a magnificent garden, so there was always fresh vegetables during the growing season. My Grandpa loved to fish, as we all did, so there was fresh fish to fry in farm fresh butter. And the highlight of the culinary delights at Granny and Grandpa’s house was the homemade maple syrup, which they made every spring from the trees on their property. Oh the pure joy of a small bowl of maple syrup with homemade bread and fresh butter!  Heavenly.

Kitchens are magic.

It wasn’t surprising that I pursued my first degree in Food and Nutrition. The chemistry (and politics of food) behind the workings of the kitchen opened up another realm of information, and more magic.

*************************************

Has it really been a week since I last posted! Time is flying by. This is not surprising, as it is autumn, and harvest season.

The Instant Pot is still in daily use. I haven’t used the range or the oven for anything but food preservation ever since the Instant Pot came into the house. Last night I made up a new recipe that Attila loved. It was basically a hamburger gravy cooked in the instant pot with fresh green beans from the garden, and a chopped onion. I thickened it after it was cooked, on saute, then served it over small new potatoes. It was lovely. Tonight it will be chicken, although I won’t know what recipe I am going to make until five minutes before I begin meal preparation. A shout out to Teri, thanks for sending me a yahoo link to a great many Instant Pot recipes, I will have fun there.

I put filtered my apple cider this past week, removing the mash from the liquid.  It is now in the final step, which can take many weeks, as the apple cider slowly turns to vinegar.  I have had to remove a wee bit of mold from the top, but from what I read online, this is not something to be concerned about.  The blackberry mash and water are still in the first phase of the process, slowly turning into cider.  I wonder if cider is right word to use with this, blackberry cider.  Hmm.

Since Monday I have canned 14 litres of tomatoes. The tomatoes are from our garden, and were frozen whole as soon as they reached their peak of ripeness. It has been quite a job, thawing them, boiling them down, putting them through the food mill, boiling them down again, then pressure canning them. I love my All American pressure canner! The last five litres are just now cooling on the kitchen counter. Tomorrow I will test their seals, then pack them into the box with the rest of the canned garden tomatoes, and put them into storage in the basement. When I consider that the current price for organic canned tomatoes, in a glass jar, is $8.99 per 680ml, well, we couldn’t afford to eat this quality of food if we hadn’t grown and preserved it ourselves. To buy the equivalent amount of canned organic tomatoes in jars that I canned from our garden, would have cost $185, and generated 20 empty glass jars to be recycled. As it was this year, the garden tomato plants cost less than $10, with free fertilizer from the compost bins. What we saved in dollars was made up for with time, sweat equity. Attila gardened, I canned. Of course, there is the added bonus of the powder I make from the dehydrated skins and seeds from all of these tomatoes, it is very tasty, and I don’t see such a product available in any of the grocery stores I frequent.

Attila renovate and gardens, I administer and preserve food, and in this way we keep our heads above water. Attila is on board with this approach, he has always been on board with this approach, even when he was set on moving out on his own, he was on board with this approach. It isn’t glamorous, newsworthy, unusual, or noteworthy, it is just how we do things, as individuals and as housemates.

mason jar, with coffee filter on top to separate liquid from mash.

Making Apple Cider Vinegar: This is the setup I devised for filtering the apple skins and cores out of the apple cider. First I placed a sterilized wide mouth mason jar on the counter. Then I placed a stainless steel wide-mouthed funnel in the far. Then I placed a coffee filter in the wide-mouthed funnel. Then I place the sterilized jar ring in the coffee filter, to prevent the filter from falling through the funnel. Once this setup was complete, I poured the liquid from my apple cider jar into the coffee filter, so that it passed through the filter and into the mason jar below.

sieve of apple mash draining on coffee filter

Making Apple Cider Vinegar: After pouring as much liquid as possible from the apple cider jar into the mason jar, the mash was placed in a sieve, which in turn was placed on the coffee filter, to allow the remaining liquid to drain from the mash.

bakset of frozen tomatoes

This is half of the frozen tomatoes from our garden.

The frozen tomatoes were place in a 16 quart stock pot over a low heat, to thaw and simmer.

Stock pot containing tomato sauce, with reflection of Maggie's legs.

The tomatoes were simmered in the stockpot, put through the food mill, then returned to the stock pot to simmer. And here you have, as a little extra bonus, a stealth picture of me taking the picture. Mrs. Tomato Head.

canning jars in a pressure canner

And here are the jars of canned tomatoes, ready and waiting to be canned in the pressure canner, then onto the counter, where they will cool for 24 hours, before testing the seals and storing them away.

groceries with total cost of 95 cents, includes 3 frozen turkeys, socks, green peppers, red peppers cilantro and two packages of English Muffins.

Another little bonus shot. Attila watches points when we shop. He loves numbers, and his passion for numbers is put to good use with points. This was our grocery haul this week, total cost, cashing in points, 95 cents.

Worldly

Weather

16°C
Date: 2:00 PM EDT Thursday 27 September 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 15.5°C
Dew point: 8.9°C
Humidity: 65%
Wind: S 14 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

OK, here is the thing! When I went to bed last night the temperature in the house was 22C. The heat is not turned on. Last night I forgot to close the windows, and the temperature outside went down to 10C overnight. Yikes!

And you know what? When I woke up this morning, the temperature in the house was still 21C! It only went down 1C degree! The attic insulation is doing an amazing job. Who knew! Well, I sorta knew, but I didn’t realize it would be this good.

Quote

“A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures.”
Daniel Webster
1782 – 1852

The Blessed Cool: Autumn

Yesterday was hot and humid. I didn’t go outside very much because my body does not tolerate heat and humidity with grace and ease. The hot and humid weather appeared in June, and only let up for a few days through the whole summer season, until today. So here it is the 19th of September, with autumn about to enter the scene in a few days, (9:54 p.m. on Saturday, September 22nd). Suddenly the temperature has plummeted from 22C at this time yesterday morning, to 14C this morning.

I am wearing socks! And long pants! And shoes with toes in them! And I am comfortable! Being almost naked has its moments, but I prefer to be clothed for the most part!

This morning’s breakfast consisted of two Turmeric Breakfast Cookies, and a cup of coffee (50% chicory 50% coffee) with a teaspoon of maple syrup and a few tablespoons of almond milk. The cookies are a big hit with me! The first batch I made using squash puree, the last two batches were made with my canned applesauce. I keep them in the refrigerator because they disappear only two at a time, and are quite moist, so I want to prevent spoilage.

On the weekends Attila likes to BBQ chicken and sausages for himself, which he will share with me if I so desire, but I seldom do. Last weekend my food of choice was a recipe I made up myself, for the Instant Pot of course! I call it Spinach Quinoa ala Maggie, and I love it! It isn’t pretty though, something about brown quinoa and dark green spinach that doesn’t soar visually. Just the same, I have found a dish that I can make for myself that feels like a treat and is still healthy.

Attila continues to wander into the garden when he gets home from work, emerging with ripe tomatoes and Scarlet Runner beans which he brings to me in the kitchen. The bean harvest is providing enough beans to eat daily, and the tomatoes are mostly going into the freezer for canning later. Some of the tomatoes being are being set aside to make sandwiches.

Attila is getting physiotherapy for his back and ankle, thank goodness that has started. He is slowly getting better, but if he stays on his feet for very long he begins to limp. He limps by the end of his workdays.

A recent visit to the doctor revealed that my blood pressure is higher than last year, lower than the last time I visited the doctor, and borderline on needing further intervention. The upshot is that the only thing left for me to do myself to keep it where it is, is more exercise. I do get exercise, I move around all day. The doctor and I talked about that, and the thing is, she explained, that I should get my pulse up to 100 or 110 for 20 minutes at least three times a week. Well, despite the fact that I am up and about quite a bit in a day, I doubt I get my pulse up that high for twenty minutes at a time. This is where the elliptical machine comes in. I haven’t been using it over the summer, to hot, too humid, and much too busy with other interesting things to to do. It is easy to just ignore it.

Another influence that has had a negative effect on my habitual use of the elliptical machine is the incessant public commentary on how people should exercise 20 minutes EVERY day. If I weaken and listen to that, which I occasionally do, after a week or two I begin to avoid the thing, and shortly after that I find that I completely ignore it. Better some than none, and three times a week is a schedule I can follow without getting discouraged and/or overwhelmed. So much of what is in the media encourages us to PUSH, PUSH, PUSH for MORE, MORE, MORE, when in reality slow and steady usually wins the day. Everything in moderation makes for a more balanced life.

Also, recent medical test results have revealed that I do not have any aneurisms, how great is that! This past year I have had many medical tests, and my health is excellent, I should be good for a good many years to come. It is nice to hear the doctor say that!

Today our oil heating system was inspected, as required by law. It passed with flying colours. Thank goodness. In ten years it will require another inspection, and we are pretty sure it will pass that one as well.

A big discovery around here was unearthed by Attila. Our “walking onions” suffered from some kind of strange mildew this summer, which killed all the green tops. The plants were assumed dead. But then new shoots began to reach out to the sky, green and vigorous. Attila picked many of them, and put them in the dehydrater. It took days for them to dry, running the dehydrater in the evenings when the hydro was off-peak. The flavour is WOW, amazing, outstanding. Who knew! Next summer’s garden will include a lot of these onions, and the dehydrated onion will become a major flavouring in our cooked dishes. You know when there is a big discovery at Mist Cottage, it usually involves tasty food!

Attila and I are finding enjoyment in each other’s company, and in life.

Worldly

Weather

14°C
Date: 8:00 AM EDT Wednesday 19 September 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.6 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 13.8°C
Dew point: 11.8°C
Humidity: 88%
Wind: N 18 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“How beautiful maleness is, if it finds its right expression.”
D. H. Lawrence, Sea and Sardinia, pg 62
1885 – 1930

Well, I agree, and wish that every little baby boy was born into an environment that helped him find his own right expression.

Whoa Nellie!

After the brief relief of some cool weather last week, the heat and humidity have returned. September 15th and still the almost unbroken heat of summer is with us. Luckily I am comfortable indoors, but it does curtail my outdoor activities, and has all summer long.

What to do with the vintage blackberries Attila brought up from the freezer!?!

1 !/2 jars of Blackberry Syrup, and one jar of future Blackberry Vinegar.

1 !/2 jars of Blackberry Syrup, and one jar of future Blackberry Vinegar.

The basement is now an ongoing project, as Attila has begun to move materials out of the basement and into the garage. Yesterday Attila was getting something out of the freezer and bumped into five small containers of wild blackberries. We picked them when we were living at the country house, just down the country road from our property. They are at least four years old, but I think they are probably older than that. I became aware of them when Attila said in passing that he was throwing out some old blackberries from the freezer. To Attila they were ewwww!

Whoa Nellie!

I don’t think so! I requested that he bring them up to the kitchen so that I could have a look at them. A bit of freezer burn, a bit of ice accumulation from the move from the country house to Mist Cottage, but otherwise sound.

Last night, about an hour before bed time, I got started on the great blackberry project. I emptied the blackberries into a large saucepan, removed as much of the accumulated ice as possible, and put them on a low heat to come to a gentle boil. They were boiled for 15 minutes, then mashed with a potato masher. Next, a cotton rag (gross, this was a portion of an old pair of cotton underpants that has worn out, was cut into pieces, used many times and washed many times, very clean now) was placed in the large sieve, placed on a 4 cup measuring cup, and the straining process began. I helped it along by pressing with a metal spoon from time to time, and stirring it. Overnight a plate was placed over the mash in the sieve, and a weight put on it (a full jar of peanut butter).

This morning, a wide mouth mason jar, and two saved commercial jars were sterilized in boiling water. The metal spoon was used to transfer the mash to the mason jar. A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar was added to the mash, then filtered water to cover the mash. I stirred it all together, let it settle a bit, and dropped in the new pickle pebble. The pickle pebble sank a bit into the mash, so I gently added bits of water until it was all was covered by water. A coffee filter was put over the top of the jar, and a canning ring screwed down over it to hold it in place. A label was applied noting the contents and date of creation. This will sit for two weeks, then be strained again (mash to the composter), and left to make vinegar… at least that is the plan, no recipe, so results may not be according to plan.

The juice that had been strained from the berries was placed in a large pot, there was just over a cup of juice. A cup of sugar and a tablespoon of lemon juice were added to the juice, it was simmered for five minutes, poured into the waiting sterilized jars, the lids were applied, and there were a jar and half of Blackberry Syrup.

When the jars of Blackberry Syrup cooled, they were labelled and will be stored in the refrigerator for immediate use.

What fun!

Fermenting is completely new to me. There is much fun to be had trying new things.

Plate of ripe tomatoes, four varieities.

The garden is still giving us lots of Scarlet Runner Beans and Tomatoes! Shown here are Pink Girl, large and round, San Marino (long), Health Kick (one, five o’clock), and Amish Paste (small).

Worldly

Weather

23°C
Date: 11:00 AM EDT Monday 17 September 2018
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 23.3°C
Dew point: 20.5°C
Humidity: 84%
Wind: S 22 km/h
Humidex: 31
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The world is full of women blindsided by the unceasing demands of motherhood, still flabbergasted by how a job can be terrific and torturous.”
Anna Quindlen
1953 –

Turmeric Breakfast Cookies

Wednesday already!

My Brother-The-Middle-Boy, some years ago, told me about the benefits of Turmeric. At the time I couldn’t find any recipes I liked that included it as an ingredient, and eventually lost interest in looking for one. And there the matter stood, until last week. I got it into my head that including Turmeric in my daily diet would be a good thing, so I began anew to search for appealing recipes. I found one, but it didn’t quite meet my criteria for a healthy recipe, too much sodium, too much sugar, and too many “fussy” ingredients, like using soaked flax seeds instead of an egg. So I tinkered with it. My version of Turmeric Breakfast Cookies is low sodium, low sugar, and full of oatmeal and a vegetable or fruit, depending on what options I choose at the time. I enjoy one of these cookies in the morning with my coffee. They are very spicy, so eating them as a snack before bedtime was not a good idea, heartburn!

This morning I arose at 5:30 a.m., which is normal on a weekday. I get up with Attila, who has to get ready to go to work. Immediately I began to putter in the kitchen. I was out of Turmeric Breakfast Cookies, so a batch was soon underway, and the first cookies were in the oven before Attila left for work. Today’s dinner will be Baked Beans (Instant Pot, recipe to be discovered) with “wieners”, Yves vegetarian copies of the real thing. Navy beans had been soaking overnight, so they were set to cook in the Instant Pot, 9 minutes and done to perfection. Everything was baked or cooked before 7:00 a.m., when the price of hydro went up to mid-peak prices.

The habit of taking ACV (apple cider vinegar) daily slowly faded away, after discovering that it really was beneficial in controlling blood pressure, at least in my case. Yesterday I read that this combination would reduce heartburn and deter the acidic taste: 1 cup filtered water, 1 tablespoon ACV, 1 teaspoon baking soda. Whoa!! Undrinkable in my opinion, down the drain it went. Then I tried 1/2 cup filtered water, 1 tablespoon ACV, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Well that was a bit better, but the baking soda is full of sodium (315 mg in 1/4 teaspoon), so it really isn’t a solution for anyone on a low sodium regime; at least I am not wasting any part of my daily quota on something that tastes so vile. So, the conclusion is that 1/2 cup filtered water, 1 tablespoon ACV, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, is the recipe of choice at Mist Cottage. Attila, well he just drinks the stuff straight up… I get tears in my eyes and my throat closes up just thinking about that!

turmeric breakfast cookie

Turmeric Breakfast Cookies, stored in a glass dish, with the layers separated by waxed paper. I love these cookies!

navy beans and mason jar of frozen water

Cooked navy beans in the Instant Pot inner pot, and a jar of frozen vegetable cooking water. The cooking water is being thawed to use as the liquid in making Baked Beans.

Yesterday’s harvest from the garden: Scarlet Runner Beans and three varieties of tomatoes: Amish Paste, Health Kick, and San Marino. The beans will be refrigerated for a meal this week, and the tomatoes will be frozen to process into tomato puree and pressure canned when the harvest season is over.

Worldly

Weather

22°C
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Wednesday 12 September 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.6 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 21.5°C
Dew point: 18.6°C
Humidity: 83%
Wind: SE 10 km/h
Humidex: 28
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”
Henry Ford
1863 – 1947

Times change!