Canned Coleslaw and a Bit of Advice

Five jars of canned Coleslaw and a pan of Strawberry Rhubarb Squares. There were six jars of Coleslaw, we ate a jar of it for dinner last night.
Note the experimental Tattler Canning Lids, and the one lone Bernardin one-use used metal lid, on the jars.
The Strawberry Rhubarb Squares were made with the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling I canned last spring, with our garden Rhubarb, and the strawberries we picked at a pick-your-own farm.

At our house, the lastest thing since sliced bread is canned coleslaw. Wow!

Attila chopped the vegetables, and I took care of everything else from there. Canning projects are so easy with two people, not only does the job go quicker and easier, but there is also a sense of connection in sharing the tasks, connection to each other, and connection to our food, for both of us. If I were to give away some of the canned products, I think I would also feel a connection to those people who would be eating my creations. Of course, we struggle, and will have to struggle harder from here on, to ensure we have enough to eat, so we aren’t giving away any food, that would mean we would go without.

Coleslaw is something I have not tried to can before, so the whole concept was new to me, the recipe, and the techniques used. Since the coleslaw would be consumed within a week or so, and the jars would not be going into longer term storage, I decided it was the perfect time to experiment with the Tattler lids I purchased a few years ago. The Tattler lids were a big disappointment, the learning curve is very, very steep. I was confident I could master the skill, but alas, after many failed jars, I realized I had met my match. I gave up and went back to the the 100% reliable one-use, tried-and-true metal canning lids. In four decades of canning , not one metal lid has failed on a canning jar, no food has been lost, not even once. The Tattlers were 80% failure. Experimenting with them was put off until a suitable project presented itself, a project like Canned Coleslaw.

As I sit here writing the jars of coleslaw are waiting on the counter, as they must for at least 12 hours after being removed from the canner. Of course, one was consumed for dinner last night, and it was delicious. Also, the Tattler lid on that jar had sealed, yes! But it must be remembered that many of the Tattler lids in the past sealed, only to loose the seal after a week, two weeks, a month, meaning the jars on which they were used had to be constantly checked every few days. Checking lids every few days is far too labour intensive. But since this coleslaw will be sitting in the cupboard in the kitchen, the task will be easily performed, and is a part of the experiment.

The other experiment in the project was the reuse of a previously used metal canning lid. It sealed! So reusing metal canning lids for products that will be eaten within a few weeks is something that is viable at our house. Of course this is NOT RECOMMENDED practise, I am saying that up front, because it is definitely not considered a safe practise. Still, when needs must, metal one-use lids are expensive, and right now are not even available. I will be keeping a very close eye on that one jar with the used lid!

The really, really important aspect of the project is that we LOVE the canned coleslaw. It tastes great, so we will eat it. Other considerations are: cabbage is cheap, the vegetables are all good for us, we leave out the salt so it is sodium-free, it is an instant vegetable side dish or entre, it is easy to preserve, we can grow all of the vegetables required in our small yard, and all of the vegetables are grown in Ontario, so they might be readily available going forward in the new economy.

I will tweak this recipe in several ways. The salt is omitted. The syrup in the recipe was doubled. It was too sweet for us, so the sugar will be reduced, not drastically, but reduced. The important preservative in this canning recipe is the vinegar, so that ingredient stays the same no matter what.

Taking a break from writing, I am just now back from the kitchen. The rings on the Coleslaw jars were removed, and all of the jars sealed. That was good news! The jars were washed to remove any sticky remnants of syrup around the lids or on the jars, and all of the jars are still sealed. That was good news! The jars are lined up at the back of the counter, where I can check the seals on them every day. If a seal fails the jar will go into the refrigerator and if it smells and tastes fine, will be eaten within 24 hours. It is hoped none of the seals will fail. Time will tell.

If I were to give advice to people who are new to canning, this is what I would relate.

First, learn the difference between high acid and low acid foods, this is fundamental to safe canning. The method of canning is different, depending on the acidity of the food you want to can.

High acid foods are most fruits, and canned items like jams, jellies, pickles, and relishes, and can be steam or water bath canned.

Low acid foods are most vegetables, meats, beans and legumes, fish, and many other foods and MUST be pressure canned.

Reliable canning books and online resources have information on what foods are high acid and what foods are low acid, and how to can them safely.

For people canning for families of three or more, intending to can a substantial amount of high acid foods, this larger, stainless steel Victorio Steam Canner is what I would recommend. It Handles 8 pint or 7 quart jars, for canning, AND can also handle 20 quarts of liquid if you use it as a stock pot. It is easy and simple to use, and does not use a lot of water.

For people canning for one, or two, intending to can small to medium amounts of high acid foods, this smaller, lighter and easy to handle aluminium Victorio Steam Canner is what I would recommend. It handles and processes up to 7 quart or 8 pint jars of high-acid foods at one time, does not work as a stock pot, but does allow people with most mobility issues to can with ease. It uses very little water, and does not require lifting jars out of the top of a large pot. I love mine, because I can use it for small batches of the foods I forage, like dandelion blooms, and small batches of jams, jellies, pickles, and relishes.

For people on an extreme budget, or who just want to try out high acid food canning to see if it is for you, low-budget water bath canning may be the way to go. You may already have a pot in your kitchen that will work for water bath canning, as long as it is deep enough to cover the jar lids on a rack with 2 inches of water, and there is a rack or means of keeping the jars from sitting on the bottom of the pan, e.g. use canning rings.

Low acid foods require a Pressure Canner (not a pressure cooker). There are two pressure canners that I would suggest. The first I have not used, but have interacted with dozens and dozens of seasoned canners who rely on it, the Presto 23 Quart Pressure Canner. It is apparently easy to use, and very reliable, and has a relatively reasonable price point, it does require a gasket that needs to be replaced occasionally, and has a gauge that needs to be tested annually. The other is the All American Pressure Canner, which is relatively expensive, will last for generations if it is used as recommended, has a metal on metal seal with no gasket required, and can operate with the weight and/or the gauge. Gauges need to be tested regularly to rely on them, but the weight is a piece of metal that does not require upkeep to be deemed reliable. There are NO ELECTRIC PRESSURE CANNING appiances that have been deemed safe for pressure canning by the USDA, in particular no model of Instant Pot should be used for low acid pressure canning, they have been tested and deemed unsafe, despite statements by the manufacturer.

Now, to talk about knowledge. To learn how to can safely, the books by Ball, Bernardin, or Kerr are the way to go, or the free online resources The National Centre for Home Food Preservation, the University Extension Service sites, or the Ball, Bernardin or Kerr web sites, are up to date and reliable sources of information on recommended techniques, and tested recipes.

Always use tested recipes until you evolve into an expert canner, which takes years of experience and study. Botulism can permanently maim or kill, carelessness in canning can be unforgiving, but there is little risk (I feel no risk) unless you fail to follow reliable techniques and recipes. Do not rely on Pinterest, Youtube, or personal blogs for canning techniques or recipes (that includes my blog by the way).

Note that this entry is based on a recipe that is not tested by reliable sources, so use the recipe at your own risk. I am a seasoned canner, and consider myself an expert canner. This is my personal reasoning in using the recipe. It is a pickled product, so if it spoils I will immediately smell it is off. Pickled products will not harbour botulism, the only undetectable danger in the world of canning food. I will trust it is safe unless I detect an off smell or taste, and even then it would probably not hurt me if I ate it, there is no danger of botulism in pickled products, but I wouldn’t eat it.

Well there you have it, brief, unasked for advice. I love canning, just as I love all aspect of food preparation and food preservation, so writing about it delights me.

Stay safe dear friends!

Worldly

Weather

6°C
Date: 11:00 AM EDT Tuesday 21 April 2020
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 99.5 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 5.5°C
Dew point: -1.8°C
Humidity: 60%
Wind: W 31 gust 55 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“I have found that everything wants to kill you. For some things, like fast food, or riding a bike, it just takes longer.”
Devin J. Monroe
1983 –

Eat your vegetables!!

Gingerbread Cookies

The weather has been kind, cold and kind. Since we have to be isolated here at Mist Cottage, how cozy it seems to hunker down in warmth and comfort while the wind roars around us. There is no temptation to venture out, or away from the property. This is a kindness on nature’s part, because when the weather turns mild and beautiful, our response will be to escape the bonds of our home, and get into the great outdoors. Since we have a yard, that is not going to be a hardship. But not everyone has a yard, so I am glad that these long weeks of self-isolation, for people in apartments, and other housing without an outdoor space, have been experienced sheltering from not only contagion, but from the wind, rain, snow, and cold.

On Tuesday, April 14th, our State of Emergency in Ontario, Canada, was extended until May 12th. I am grateful for this, as I suffer to think of all the people who have passed away from this awful contagion, and celebrate that we can prevent some of the death and suffering. I feel our species is now under advisement, from natural forces far more powerful than we are, to very carefully consider the terms of our survival.

I have been busy this past week, milling flour, baking bread, and planning meals around rotated storage items. The oldest food is being eaten first. At the moment this involves vintage frozen beets, and several heads of fresh cabbage. The beets were purchased more than five years ago, the date was not put on the packaging, so it is uncertain just how old they are. They were purchased fresh, in a 10 lb bag, cooked, peeled, then frozen in two-serving packets. There are only two packets left now, we have been roasting them, with fresh carrots, to provide us with our dinner vegetables. I am considering using the last of them to make a large batch of Borscht this week, as we like to have heat-and-serve meals at the ready.

Months ago, before the first cases of the virus were announced in Canada, I purchased a 10 lb. bag of sweet potatoes. I have been making Sweet Potato Fries with them, for my lunch. These delicious and nutritious fries are dipped in homemade Squash Sauce, and what a decadent all-vegetable treat they are, tasting like junk food, nourishing the body like real food. There is still a half a bag of those sweet potatoes, so I will be enjoying these lunches for weeks to come.

A recent experiment with No-Knead Bread was deemed a relative failure. Two loaves were baked. The first loaf Attila and I struggled to eat, it was dense and the crust was tough and rubbery. The second loaf, made with a yeast culture from the first loaf, two days later, resulted in another undesirable loaf. It was a sweet loaf, having added an egg, milk, and a bit of sugar to it. The loaf was extremely dense, and crumbly. That second loaf has provided me with breakfast for the last few days though, waste not, want not. I have been making French Toast with it, and topping that with homemade Apple Sauce, and Canadian Maple Syrup. Surprisingly, these breakfasts are very good indeed. But not good enough that I would consider baking that type of bread again.

And a bit of self-referencing trivia to end this post: On April 19, 1811, 209 years ago, across the years and ocean from me, as I sit here in my living room in Ontario, Canada, a baby boy was born, John Thomas, in Manchester, England, where he lived for the rest of his days.

John Thomas was one of my 16 Great Great Great Grandfathers. In the 1870s John Thomas’s grandson, Alfred, would travel across the ocean and settle in Ontario, Canada. Alfred died just a few years before I was born, so I didn’t get to meet him, more is the pity, I have heard he made the BEST Gingerbread Cookies ever.

Worldly

Weather

6°C
Date: 2:00 PM EDT Sunday 19 April 2020
Condition: Light Rain
Pressure: 100.4 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 6.3°C
Dew point: 4.8°C
Humidity: 90%
Wind: SW 25 gust 35 km/h
Visibility: 10 km

Quote

“It is better to sleep on things beforehand than lie awake about them afterward.”
Baltasar Gracian
1601 – 1658

Sunshine

The sun is shining today, at last! The weekend offered very dreary weather, cold, below freezing at night, cloudy, rainy, and extremely windy. It is still windy and cold, but the sun is brightly shining. We are loving it.

Today Attila is reassembling the welding face shield, as we are gearing up for the grocery store pickup challenge. We had to wait days to get a time slot, in March, and it is likely we will not have another go at getting groceries until the middle of May, or later, so I have made this order a big one. Then there is the added challenge that the items you indicate you would like might not be there at all when the grocery store employee fills your cart, so what you get could potentially fall way short of what one would need to last four weeks or so. I order a bit more than we actually need, so that when items I have ordered are deleted from my grocery list as unavailable, I will end up with something. Online shopping is a hit or miss experience, but it is the only option.

Today I am going to mill flour, it is time to make bread again. The bread will be baked tomorrow or the next day, as milling flour is an all day affair.

When the flour has been milled, the steam juicer will come out of storage, to make vegetable broth from the accumulated vegetable scraps in the freezer. That project always feels great, because the bulky scraps are cleared out all at once, making it much easier to find other items in the freezer.

The temptation to venture out onto the porch is strong, the bright day is so inviting. Attila was out working in the garden, and he assures me this is not a day to sit out on the porch. So I will satisfy myself by sitting in the pool of sunshine that beams onto my chair in the living room. Because the blue skies are such a novelty right now, the indoor sun bathing will suffice.

Life is stirring in the garden. All the radishes have come up, and the rhubarb is about four inches tall now. The Heliopsis is poking up, and the stalks on Granny’s Rose are greener with each passing day. The leaves on the strawberries, that were transplanted into the new second Hugelkultur bed, are unfurling.

Our yard, which consists of garden beds and a native plant “lawn”, is only green in certain spots, where the earlier native plants are coming up. But the neighbours surrounding us, who have drug addicted grass yards, are showing off vibrant green lawns. Their yards have received weed killer and chemical fertilizers over the last week, just before the welcome rains.

Our provincial state of emergency was extended today, until May 12, 2020. It might be extended again, one does not know how things will evolve, we can only hope for the best. Attila and I are surviving our time of “staying home to flatten the curve”. I am just beginning to notice that I haven’t been out and about since February 27th, just over 6 weeks of self-isolation. I am really looking forward to the arrival of milder weather. When it arrives I will be out on the back porch again!

Worldly

Weather

5°C
Date: 6:00 PM EDT Tuesday 14 April 2020
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.6 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 5.1°C
Dew point: -7.2°C
Humidity: 41%
Wind: SW 23 gust 40 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Thank God men cannot as yet fly and lay waste the sky as well as the earth!”
Henry David Thoreau
1817 – 1862

Our skies are clean again, because we live in interesting times, the Chinese curse is upon us.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone, may this wish find you safe, happy, and healthy!

The COVID-19 virus has reached Attila’s extended family. We had a lovely chat with his Mom today, she is well, and is staying at home thank goodness. Attila’s step-father’s niece was one of the people who died on the cruise ship the MS Zaandam, and her partner is now hospitalized. Attila knew her, but I had not met her, or her partner. It is sad news.

Here at home, we keep ourselves busy, and as far out of harm’s way as we are able. Last week I got out my sewing machine, which is 51 years old this year. I know how to sew. I am good at sewing. I taught sewing in the public school system. I dislike sewing. When I was younger I would force myself to remain positive and focused to accomplish whatever sewing project was at hand, be it clothing for me, or for my children, or mending. But as I have “matured” I have become a lot less willing to spend time doing things I dislike, and sewing is right up there with bookkeeping on my hate-to-do list. But needs must, and we need face masks, so the little sewing machine came out of the storage box.

I saved many scraps of fabric over the years, so luckily I have the scraps I need to make a few face masks. I do not however have elastic. No matter, I found two old headbands that were 12 inches long, they would have to do. It has been a while since I last sewed, a decade or so I guess, so I am a bit rusty. I cut the material for my mask incorrectly, which means I have to devise a way to work around that error. So I decided to start with Attila’s mask, because the material for that one was cut correctly. It took me all day to drag out all the equipment, set it all up, make the mask, and put everything away again.

Attila’s new face mask, 3 layers of high thread count cotton.

Much to my dismay, my trusty little sewing machine had a problem, for the very first time in 51 years of use. It now will only sew a zig-zag stitch, no more strait stitches. So the mask was made using the zig-zag stitch. The results were acceptable. The second mask, my mask, will have to wait until next week, when I will gather resolve to drag everything out again, and create a mask for myself.

When we lived at the country house, I had taken up clay and pottery as a hobby. I didn’t get very far with that, as our power supply was only 100 amp and the kiln stretched that to its limit. But I still have all the equipment. And guess what, I have one used NIOSH N95 non-medical grade mask, and a used welding face shield, both needed for sanding and working with slips. They are still good, so Attila can use them when he has to go to the grocery store to pick up our groceries, later this month. That is good news. He will look like an alien, but he won’t care one bit.

Yesterday I baked a loaf of sweet bread, with raisins and cranberries, also a dozen sour cream raisin muffins. These are our Easter treats. Today Attila is roasting a small chicken, with garden vegetables, carrots and our very own Brussels sprouts. Something to look forward to!

Meanwhile, in the garden, the radishes Attila planted are coming up, and small rhubarb leaves are beginning to unfurl. Everything is turning green, and even though the weather is gray and dreary and cold out there, the green is very cheerful, and hopeful.

Worldly

Weather

10°C
Date: 5:00 PM EDT Sunday 12 April 2020
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 101.4 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 10.3°C
Dew point: 0.5°C
Humidity: 50%
Wind: SSE 15 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“We can’t take any credit for our talents. It’s how we use them that counts.”
Madeleine L’Engle
1918 – 2007

New Skills

Well, after much complaint and contemplation, I found a store that delivers, put in an order, and received the delivery! It all went smoothly, they delivered to the front porch, no contact, on the same day I put in the order.

The catch is, all the food was frozen food. Which does not fulfill all of our needs, and is therefore a partial solution.

So how do you sanitize plastic packaged frozen foods!?! Well, this was my first time through this, so I used cold soapy water, and scrubbed the bags in that, using a rag to rub vigorously. Then the items were rinsed under cold water. Then each was placed on a towel and dried. Then they were placed in the freezer.

BUT, one of the bags had holes in it, and I didn’t notice, soggy potatoes, soggy soapy potatoes! Next time I’ll probably place the items on a rack and wash them down above the water, not immersed in the water. We are working on these things, learning new skills as we go.

It was a cloudy, breezy, chilly day out there today. It didn’t slow me down though, my laundry is hanging on the clothes line on the the back porch, for the first time this spring! How wonderful. Of course it will not be completely dry tonight, I will have to bring it into the living room, setup the drying racks, and finish the process indoors. But it is such a boost to hang the laundry out once again!

Food preparation here revolves around cabbage at present. It is great in the Instant Pot, as the main ingredient in Cabbage Roll Casserole, and an ingredient in other casseroles, oh so good. Cabbage is a delicious vegetable. My favourite way to eat it, is boiled, then smothered with butter and sprinkled with salt. But these days the butter and the salt are strictly off limits, so Cabbage Roll Casserole it is. No salt is added to our recipe, but we do indulge in a few tablespoons of brown sugar.

Stay safe dear friend!

Worldly

Weather

5°C
Date: 7:00 PM EDT Wednesday 8 April 2020
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.4 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 5.2°C
Dew point: 3.5°C
Humidity: 89%
Wind: S 15 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Women want mediocre men, and men are working hard to become as mediocre as possible.”
Margaret Mead
1901 – 1978

We do have our high achievers.