Today I had the pleasure of browsing through my bookcase, and a special book caught my eye. It was a gift.
One of the significant contexts of my life was Graduate School. I met some truly wonderful people during those years. One of them was Jeremy. He was funny, smart, kind, and a kid compared to me. I was much older than all of the other graduate students in the department, at that time. He had grown up in England, his father an Anglican priest, his mother a woman of colour born in Jamaica.
Jeremy’s graduate research took him to Jamaica, the birth place of his mother. He used to send me postcards from Jamaica, I still have a few of them. One year, when we resumed classes, he brought back a book for me, called Lionheart Gal: Life Stories of Jamaican Women, by Sistren with Honor Ford Smith (1987). I treasured the book, it was meaningful to Jeremy, a connection with his Mother, who was a Jamaican woman by birth.
A year or so ago I was chatting with an old friend from that period of my life, catching up on the news. It was then I discovered that Jeremy had passed away. What sad news that was. Apparently he had contracted a serious but curable disease, I can’t remember which one, but decided to self-treat with herbal remedies. They didn’t work, and he lost his life.
But when I hold this book in my hand, I do not think about how Jeremy left us, I think about how wonderful it was to have known him, enjoyed his humour, his company, and a wee bit of his heart.
Date: 1:00 PM EDT Thursday 26 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.6 kPa
Dew point: 16.1°C
Wind: W 19 km/h
Visibility: 24 km
“The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” Elisabeth Foley
When canning I seldom experiment beyond what sounds good to me. No failures to date, all the things I have canned we have loved, either as a food, or as an ingredient.
But all these Zucchini needed attention! Today!
I have enough relish, more than 24 jars, and only I eat it, so really, I don’t need more relish. So, I can afford to make a batch of relish a little differently. If I fail to produce something I like with this zucchini, well, it wouldn’t be the end of the world as I know it, now would it.
So I decided that this morning it was time to experiment with Liquid Stevia as an alternative to sugar in high-acid canning, relish in this case. I could have chosen pickles, but I prefer cucumbers for pickles, and I eat those raw as fast they are harvested. So relish it was. Liquid Stevia was substituted for the entire amount of sugar called for in the recipe: 2 1/4 cups of sugar translated into 2 1/4 teaspoons of Liquid Stevia. The Liquid Stevia was used in the recipe in the very same way that sugar would have been.
A few interesting things were noted. One is that the vinegar/stevia/herb mixture was not sticky, as it is with sugar. This meant that none of the herbs stuck to the sides of the pot during the cooking process. The other interesting thing is that Liquid Stevia does not cut the taste of acid the way sugar does, and that came as a surprise. The batch of relish was much tangier than those made with sugar.
All in all, the experiment could be considered a success. The taste is tangier, but that might be pleasant. All five jars sealed.
My other early morning project was to cook chick peas, one batch for hummus tonight, and three batches to be frozen for future hummus. Attila always feels wealthy when he has cooked beans, and chick peas, cooked and ready create his favourite second suppers.
In the early 70s I was teaching food science in the public school system in Toronto. One of the indulgences I gave myself was the purchase of a commercial grade Cuisinart food processor, the DLC-X. Well here I am, over 45 years later, and this appliance is still used three or more times per week. It has seen a lot of use! The appliance was made in Japan, but in the early 80s the company was sold, this appliance went out of production, and the quality of their food processors changed, not for the good. Replacement parts for the DLC-X appliance are no longer made.
A few months ago I noticed it was not working as well as it used to. I found that the plastic bowl, which I had replaced in the 1990s, had a broken piece. I thought that might be the problem, so began to search for a replacement bowl. I didn’t find one, I am still looking.
Then I happened to notice that the grips on the original chopping blade, where it attached to the base of the food processor, had worn away to almost nothing. Aha. I found a new blade, a company in Vancouver had a few of them left, so I ordered it. It was costly, $80, but you cannot buy a new food processor of this quality anywhere in the world, they just are not made anymore, so $80 seemed reasonable to keep the old girl going. And it works like a charm!
But now I am seeking the plastic parts for the DLC-X, wish me luck with that. Each model of the Cuisinart food processors has a unique sized bowl, so the bowls that look a bit the same won’t actually fit. It has to be exact model of bowl to fit the DLC-X. I have scoured the internet, and come up with an obscure, at least to me, company that seems to have some old stock, including the parts I want. It might be a web site that has not been updated. The big issue, if they actually do have the needed parts, is the cost. Well over $300, yikes. But we are considering it. This food processor has been in constant use for over 45 years, and I am sure that if we get new plastic accessories for it, it will serve another 45 years without any issues. And at my age, that means it will last me the rest of my life! Unless of course I become a contender for the book of world records for longevity.
Well, here it is, lunch time! What to have! I think raw diced cucumber and pepper rings, dipped in an onion and roasted pepper dip, would hit the spot!
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Wednesday 25 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Dew point: 16.8°C
Wind: S 23 km/h
Visibility: 24 km
“The cruelest lies are often told in silence.” Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894
Sauerkraut, home fermented Sauerkraut, is a wonderful experience!
Early in August I started a batch of Sauerkraut in a one litre mason jar. A week or so ago we opened it up and WOW! It is amazing, soooo good. As an added bonus it was made with a cabbage right out of our garden in the back yard. We only grew two cabbages, so there are no more to make Sauerkraut with. We will buy some now though, and get a few batches bubbling, while cabbage is in season and fresh from an Ontario farm. I found it to be too high in sodium for regular consumption, but I can still have a wee bit as a treat now and again.
I am also fermenting Jalepeno Peppers, but they need more time, so we, mostly Attila in this particular we, haven’t tried them yet. They are looking good though, no sign of mold or any issues.
Today I cooked pinto beans in the Instant Pot, so easy to do. I kept one portion in a container in the refrigerator for soup, and filled two more containers that went into the freezer. I need to cook some garbanzo beans as well, for hummus, we love our hummus. But I think that will have to wait until tomorrow, I’ll add it to my to do list, along with cooking down tomatoes, making and freezing pizza sauce.
Tonight Attila and I are blanching and freezing more beans from the garden, and preparing more tomatoes to make pizza sauce. I am still thinking about what to do with all of the zucchini though, so many things to choose from… but my mind keeps wandering back to brownies.
The weather is still very warm, no need for even a sweater out there. This means the garden keeps offering up more bounty. Yesterday we even ate fresh strawberries from the hanging planter, in September, who would have thought!
Today I am making Taco Soup for supper. If there is any left by tomorrow, and I don’t hold out any hope of this, I will pressure can a few jars.
I treated myself to another basket of Ontario Peaches, the season is almost over, the offerings in the grocery store looking a little more ragged every week. But I love peaches, so into the cart they went. I did can some peach sauce, for a lovely summery topping on ice cream, on a cold winter’s night. My favourite way to eat a peach is to make a smoothie with 1% milk, just peaches and milk, oh so good! When I am feeling really adventurous, I wash the peaches thoroughly, then use both flesh and skin in the smoothie, which provides a more intense peach flavour.
I think I will feel a little bit lost when harvest season winds down completely, until I find another project to focus on! I am already thinking about a few sewing projects that I might tackle, and of course, my crocheting is always waiting for me, right beside my easy chair.
“Mountains inspire awe in any human person who has a soul. They remind us of our frailty, our unimportance, of the briefness of our span upon this earth. They touch the heavens, and sail serenely at an altitude beyond even the imaginings of a mere mortal.” Elizabeth Aston 1948 – 2016
The first day of autumn, yesterday, was warm and sunny, a high of 24C here. Today it is hot and sunny, and humid. Not at all like autumn.
Attila is working on finishing the new storm door, which of course needed a frame built for it. Renovating an old house is full of unusual and interesting adjustments.
Here at Mist Cottage, we are like a couple of squirrels gathering nuts for the winter.
The garden loves this weather, and the harvest continues to be bountiful.
Today Attila harvested:
Black Russian Tomatoes,
another variety that I haven’t poked around to see what the seeds said they were,
Scarlet Runner beans to eat,
Scarlet Runner Beans that had gone to seed for planting next spring
two large Zucchini
a quart of hot peppers, Cayenne, Jalapeno, Serrano, Habanero
a pint of Ground Cherries
one English Cucumber
The tomatoes will go into the basement to finish ripening, then will be made into pizza sauce. The only other produce harvested in a quantity suitable for preservation are the zucchini, and I am thinking about what to do with the zucchini!
We went early to the grocery store to pick up a few supplies this morning. Oh dear, the Red Shepherd Peppers looked amazing, so I had to buy a second half bushel, I had roasted and frozen the first half bushel. Once I got it home I washed all of the peppers in a cold water and vinegar bath, then sliced half of them into strips, which I laid on a tray and placed in the freezer. The tray took up the last few available inches in the freezer!
With no more room in the freezer, I had to find some other way to preserve my peppers. I decided on pressure canning them in water, and after quartering them all, removing seeds and stems, I blanched them for three minutes, and drained and packed them into 500-ml canning jars. To each jar I added boiling water and one tablespoon of vinegar, then pressure canned them at 10 lb. for 35 minutes. I canned six jars of Red Shepherd peppers.
When we prepare all of this bounty for preservation, or right away for our meals, we save the scraps in one quart bags in the freezer. Today, with all of the red pepper scraps, I decided I had enough to justify a steam juicing session. I added the two quarts of pepper scraps, and six quarts of other vegetable scraps, to the the basket in the steam juicer. I set it up outside on the portable electric burner, where it steamed away for a few hours and produced about a quart of vegetable broth. The remaining scraps were cooled and added to the compost.
All of this food preservation going on, and apple season is just getting going! I will be canning apple pie filling and apple sauce when Northern Spy apples are available.
Yesterday though, we decided to take a break from our squirrelly ways. We took a drive out to the camp to check on things there. Everything looked fine, although we could tell someone had been on the property from the tire tracks they left. I guess they were just having a look, nothing had been interfered with.
I was thrilled that there was no sign of mice in Grace the trailer!!! Nothing in the trap, and no droppings anywhere. Wonderful.
We enjoyed the sunshine, the breezes, and the two deer that wandered by, paying little attention to us. I even saw the biggest millipede I have ever seen in my whole life, it must have been three inches long. Attila and I watched it as it made its way across the campfire area, and carried on into the bush.
Attila cut grass, and used a leaf blower to clear the driveway. He also applied spray foam to a few of the small openings we found on the underside of Grace the trailer. We keep trying to keep those critters out!
I burned brush. Since we were last there quite a few small branches had fallen out of the trees, so I gathered those up, and built a camp fire.
For our lunch, we roasted wieners over the coals, and enjoyed hot dogs on homemade bread, topped with garden tomatoes and Vidalia onions. We stayed until Attila began to feel hungry again, then off we into the sunset, home.
We had such a good time!
Date: 5:00 PM EDT Sunday 22 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Dew point: 21.4°C
Wind: S 15 km/h
Visibility: 19 km
“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” Henry Ford 1863 – 1947
Well, I honestly thought that by this time of year I would not be so very busy with what is coming in from the garden! Every other day I am making pizza sauce with our tomatoes, blanching green beans for the freezer, and making something with zucchini. We have enough tomato sauce canned now to last us until next years tomato harvest, so I’ve begun to make pizza sauce with the tomatoes, which I am freezing, because I am including the tomato skins in the sauce.
The no-sodium Zucchini Relish jazzes up so many dishes for me, so that I am happy to have already canned over 24 jars of it. Two more jars of Zucchini Relish were canned this afternoon, and a half jar went into the refrigerator for immediate use. Another thing I tried today with zucchini was Zucchini Brownies, didn’t sound the greatest, but they are delicious! Nothing like a little bit of veg in your indulgences.
Today is a renovation day. I know we weren’t going to do any renovations this year, except to fix the foundation wall along the garage, which Attila did early in the summer. But the stars aligned perfectly, so I decided to seize the day on this one!
Attila took a vacation day on Friday last. We planned, at my suggestion, a visit to a local art museum. We had the schedule, the parking, and what we would eat, all planned out. Friday came and off we went to the city. On a bit of a whim we stopped by Home Depot, I wanted to look at doors, front entrance doors to be specific.
Now let me just say, at this point in my story, that Attila is not a fan of “going out”. He will do it, at my insistence, but were it not for my initiative he would not do it at all, ever.
I looked at doors, chose one that was in stock, and a storm door that was in stock. Our vehicles won’t transport anything as large as doors, so my plan was that we could order the doors for delivery, and install them sometime before the snow files. I hoped to talk Attila into this project.
The salesperson suggested that it would be less expensive to rent a van from Home Depot, and take the doors home immediately. Attila lit up like a Christmas Tree! Take the doors home now, spend the weekend installing doors and not have to go the museum, it was a no-brainer for Attila! He watched me carefully, not willing to suggest such a thing, since I had planned the museum outing. But hey, I’ve been sitting in the living room every winter since 2014, with the wind blowing in through the drafty front door, despite the fact that I always tape it shut. If Attila was willing to install a new energy efficient front door immediately, well, there was “no time like the present”.
So we rented the van, brought the doors home, and Attila has spent the rest of the weekend removing the old doors, and installing the new. It is a nightmare project.
The first oh-no moment occurred when we realized that we had purchased 34 inch doors, but the present door was only 32 inches wide. OOPS!!
We panicked at first, another truck rental, another day spent transporting doors, yikes. But Attila insisted he could install the new doors we had purchased. Go for it Attila, I thought. And he did. And it was just our good luck that the old 32 inch door was installed in an opening for a 34 inch door. So the 34 inch door would fit, if Attila took apart all the gerryrigging done for the old door. That took time, and it paid off. The 34 inch door fit perfectly, in the end. Last night Attila got the new door in, with handles and locks, before we went to bed.
Today he is working on fiddly bits with the entry door, mostly with shims, which I had to take two trips to the lumber yard to purchase, one bundle wasn’t enough. After having completed the insulation around the door, Attila is now tackling the installation of the new storm door. It is raining off and on, but Attila carries on. What a challenge, he has to add a frame around the door. Everything about Mist Cottage is wonky.
Mist Cottage was built by a builder who used materials removed from other buildings that were being renovated. Most of the materials are quite old, and mismatched. But here is the thing, in those days they used wood, real wood, so even used materials were of high quality.
There is little consistency in the construction of this house. For example, every single interior door is a unique size, and none are a standard size. What this means is that every renovation here is first a journey of discovery, to see what has been done, and then a journey of creativity, finding a way to use modern building supplies to renovate what is worn out.
Date: 2:00 PM EDT Sunday 15 September 2019
Condition: Light Rainshower
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Dew point: 14.7°C
Wind: W 9 km/h
Visibility: 24 km
Coat of Many Colors Dolly Parton “Back through the years I go wonderin’ once again Back to the seasons of my youth I recall a box of rags that someone gave us And how my momma put the rags to use There were rags of many colors Every piece was small And I didn’t have a coat And it was way down in the fall Momma sewed the rags together Sewin’ every piece with love She made my coat of many colors That I was so proud of
As she sewed, she told a story
From the Bible, she had read
About a coat of many colors
Joseph wore and then she said
Perhaps this coat will bring you
Good luck and happiness
And I just couldn’t wait to wear it
And momma blessed it with a kiss
My coat of many colors
That my momma made for me
Made only from rags
But I wore it so proudly
Although we had no money
I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
So with patches on my britches
And holes in both my shoes
In my coat of many colors
I hurried off to school
Just to find the others laughing
And making fun of me
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
And oh, I couldn’t understand it
For I felt I was rich
And I told ’em of the love
My momma sewed in every stitch
And I told ’em all the story
Momma told me while she sewed
And how my coat of many colors
Was worth more than all their clothes
But they didn’t understand it And I tried to make them see That one is only poor Only if they choose to be Now I know we had no money But I was rich as I could be In my coat of many colors My momma made for me Made just for me”