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!

Harvest Season Vacation

My vacation this year was taken primarily in the kitchen over a hot stove. Pressure canning!  Doesn’t sound like a dream vacation does it?  It didn’t sound that way to me, but the reality is very far from the experience.  I love canning, I love harvest season, I love spending time in my kitchen, I love good fresh food, and I loved having Attila around and about the place, sometimes helping me, sometimes off puttering in the garden or the garage.  Most of all I love to get my teeth into an activity, tackle it, and accomplish a goal.

Here are a few pictures of my canning adventure.

canning assembly line in kitchen

This is the canning assembly line in the kitchen. There were no meals cooked during the canning days, all available space was used for at least 12 hours each day, and usually deep into the night.

Jars of Tomatoe Red Pepper Sauce

The first 23 jars of Tomato Red Pepper Sauce cooling on the table. Pressure canned jars need to sit undisturbed for 24 to 48 hours, before moving them into storage.

tomato puree

Cooking the tomato puree, in the 16 quart pot. The smaller pot was used for boiling water to sterilize the jars, rings, lids, attachments, for canning.

jars of tomatoes on kitchen counter

The results of the canning marathon! 12 Litre jars of Tomato Puree. And there is my All American Pressure Canner, resting after all its hard work.

dehydrating tomato skins and seeds

After making tomato puree with the food mill, the skins and seeds were spread on silicon sheets and placed in a 200F oven for an hour or so, this was done several times.

Jar of powdered tomatoes, with three layers.

The dehydrated tomato skins and seeds. Multiple methods of dehydration were used and can be seen in the layers in the jar. The bottom layer was air-dried, then put in the blender to create the light coloured tomato powder. The middle layer, a little darker in colour, was baked briefly in shallow baking pans, then powdered. The darkest layer, the top layer, was baked on silicon sheets in the oven, then powdered.

large pot of applesauce

The apple puree in a 15 quart stock pot. The half bushel of apples had the blossom ends and stems cut out, were quartered, boiled till soft, then put through the food mill. This was a lot of applesauce, and the pot was almost too heavy for me to lift myself.

jar with apple skins and seeds and botto of apple cider vinegar

The skins and seeds, taken from the food mill and placed in a 1 1/2 litre mason jar. To this I added 2 tablespoons of sugar dissolved in water, 2 tablespoons of
apple cider vinegar, and water to cover all of the skins and seeds, which almost filled the jar. It is sitting a dark cupboard for two weeks now, with a coffee filter covering it, held down by the screw top lid. This may or may not yield apple cider vinegar.

9 jars of applesauce

The applesauce made from 1/2 bushel of Paulared apples. The jars were pressure canned, and they all sealed as they should.

comsumers mason jar

I have been canning for decades. This was one of my first set of canning jars, a Consumers Mason jar. I have only a few of these now. I don’t remember where the others ended up, probably given as gifts, filled with some canned delight.

Atlas Mason jar

This Atlas mason jar is one I acquired somewhere, no idea where. It is an American Quart, rather than a litre.

Douglas Mason jar.

I have five or six of the Douglas Mason jars in my collection.

Dominion Mason jar.

The Dominion Mason jar, I have a few of these as well. I originally had a dozen each of the Consumers Mason, Douglas Mason, and Dominion Mason jars. I don’t remember ever having broken a jar, so I suspect I gave the missing jars away, filled with food.

different varieties of tomatoes on a plate

In the summer of 2018 we grew four varieties of tomatoes.
Upper Left: big round Pink Girl
Upper Right: one short oblong Health Kick tomato
Middle: elongated tomatoes, San Marino
Bottom: Amish Paste tomatoes
I would not grow the Pink Girl tomatoes again, they were nice but not outstanding and took a long time to ripen. The others were very nice tasting, and were wonderful for canning.

The beat up chest freezer.

And finally, the poor old thing!  This is the little second hand chest freezer I bought years ago. It was only meant to be a temporary solution to keeping frozen foods at Mist Cottage before we moved here. But when we sold the Country House, the buyers wanted our bigger, new freezer, so we had to let it go. Now this is the main freezer. It is not energy efficient, and it is very beat up, that is why I got if for a song. It works, but it doesn’t provide as much storage as we need. That is why I am canning and not freezing during this harvest season.

Worldly

Weather

13°C
Date: 1:00 PM EDT Monday 10 September 2018
Condition: Light Rain
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 12.6°C
Dew point: 11.4°C
Humidity: 92%
Wind: ENE 10 km/h
Visibility: 13 km

It was less than a week ago the humidex was hitting 40C! Look at that high today 13C! The weather people say warmer weather is on the way. That will give the garden a chance to yield lots of produce before the first frost hits.

Quote

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
Bertrand Russell
1872 – 1970

What I did on my summer vacation.

Our first summer vacation in over two decades came in the summer of 2016. We were very excited! My brother had a heart attack and died that week. In 2017 our second opportunity for a summer vacation came up, and we spent it at our Rideau Camp. That week a neighbour destroyed a corner of our property with his tractor, and a property dispute ensued, in which I ended up having to involve the police to prevent the individual from continuing to damage the property, it was not fun, and certainly not relaxing. In addition to that miserable process, it was cold and rained the whole time we were there,

So, this year, when an opportunity for a summer vacation came along, I decided to pass. God only knows what misery would befall me on a third attempt at leisure and pleasure.

Attila had last week off. The first Saturday began as hot and humid as it had been all summer, being outdoors was not bearable. It was the Labour Day long weekend in Ontario. I thought perhaps it might be fun to drive out to a few local farms, who advertised on the internet. I was looking for tomatoes, and although several farms indicated they sold tomatoes, none of them offered any information on availability. I called their telephone numbers, only one farm line answered. He was quite unpleasant, told me he wanted $75 a bushel for his tomatoes, that there were none left, and I could put in my order for next year with a deposit. I politely declined. So we chose the nearest farm in the listings (not the unpleasant fellow) and set out.

There was a bad accident on a nearby highway, and all of the long weekend traffic was rerouted through our small area. It took over an hour to get out of town and to the first farm. They had clearly gone out of the business of selling to the public, the stand partly demolished, nor was there any sign of farming activity. I wish they had taken their listings off the internet, but I know how time-consuming that can be, so I don’t really blame them for not seeing to it.

Conclusion: the internet is not a good way to find local goods and services.

It took another hour to get back through town, which took us by a grocery store, so we popped in for a few things. And there they were, Roma tomatoes by the 25 pound box, and Red Shepherd peppers by the 20 pound box! The tomatoes were $8 a box, and the peppers were $10 a box. They were grown in Ontario, but not anywhere near where we live. We bought two boxes of tomatoes and one box of peppers. The outing to visit local farms and purchase local produce was abandoned.

So, I began to can tomatoes. I pressure canned batches of Tomato Red Pepper Sauce and pureed tomatoes right through until Monday, and spent at least 12 hours each day on my feet, getting it done. Attila helped a bit, sitting and turning the food mill, which helped a lot.

On Tuesday the heat wave was still going strong, and being outdoors was still going to be unbearable. So I thought it would be interesting to try again to buy local produce. This time I decided that an apple farm where we had purchased apples in the past, would be the place to visit. Attila liked the idea, so off we went for a drive in the country. It was hot and humid out there, but we were comfortable in the air-conditioned vehicle, and the long drive in the country was fun and relaxing.

We bought a 1/2 bushel of Paulared Apples. I also treated myself to a new paring knife, a Victorinox serrated knife, that was for sale for $9 at the apple farm store. A little vacation indulgence. Attila chose a plastic jar opener, for opening hard-to-open jars, as his little indulgence. We took our apples and indulgences and set out on the back roads towards home.

It was on one of those back roads that we bumped into a farmer selling produce out of her barn. She didn’t have a lot, but we did get six quarts of lovely new potatoes, and a large ripe melon.

We had a good time.

On Wednesday the day was spent turning the apples into applesauce.

On Thursday the applesauce was preserved by pressure canning.

Thursday was the last day of miserable hot and humid weather.

Friday dawned sunny and cool. At last! I decided to go “hiking” at a local park trail. Attila though that was a grand idea, so that is what we did. We weren’t sure just how it would work out, me with my arthritic knee, and Attila with his bad back and painful ankle. We chose the easy trail, not too long, and spent a lot of time sitting at the water’s edge just enjoying the sound of the waves lapping, and the birds calling.

Saturday dawned sunny and cool. Yay! I decided to go “hiking” again. Based on our success on the last “hike”, we chose a slightly more challenging trail, a moderate rated trail, two kilometres long. What a glorious time we had, again, sitting for a long time at the water’s edge. This time, as we were sitting watching the water lap against the rocks and submerged trees trunks, a beautiful mink ran across the shore in front of us. We were downwind from the water, so that it probably did not realize we were there until it was well on its journey. When it became aware of us, it scooted across in front of us and off into the brush. At another point in our walk, we stopped to watch a group of women in a small motorboat, who were out fishing. They caught our attention with their cries of excitement and amazement as one of them caught a fish. They were enjoying themselves so much, it was contagious. My knee, and Attila’s back and ankle, survived the experience without distress, we were pain-free and tired when we arrived back at the car. Out came the lawn chairs from the trunk of the car, cool beverages were fetched from the cooler in the back seat, and we set ourselves up in the shade to enjoy the breeze and the trees, while we rested from our adventure.

Once rested we headed for the Rideau Camp. Once there I heated up a pot of chilli for our supper, while Attila started a camp fire, over which he cooked grilled cheese sandwiches. We enjoyed a quiet meal, then sat around the camp fire for a few hours until the light began to fail. The fire was doused and then we were on our way home. It was a another lovely day.

Mouse Tales

Mice invaded Grace the trailer over last winter and have been a nightmare this summer. Three weeks ago, while applying Mouse Free to the undercarriage of the trailer, with a paint brush, Attila discovered a gap tucked behind the siding at the front jack. That opening, and another we found in the rear, were then filled with steel wool, then painted with Mouse Free. This was all done in hope of preventing more mice from entering.

BUT there was a high possibility that there were remaining mice in the trailer. Snap traps were being turned over and raided without catching the mice. When a mouse was caught in a snap trap, it was a pretty gory affair to clean up. So I got a 5 gallon pail, filled it with about 10 inches of water, smeared a bit of peanut butter horizontally for a few inches, just above the water line, and placed a 1×2 board up to the lip of the rim as an entry ramp for the mice. We caught six mice. Yesterday, after leaving the trailer for a week, there were no mice in the trap. There were no new droppings anywhere in the trailer.

That brings us to today, the last day of the “vacation”. Today nothing is planned. Attila is doing a lot of little things he wants to get done before he goes back to work. I am puttering, my usual kind of puttering about, going from one little task to another, like a bee wandering from bloom to bloom.

This may or may not have solved our mouse issues. I live i hope.

Worldly

Weather

14°C
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Sunday 9 September 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.7 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 13.8°C
Dew point: 4.0°C
Humidity: 51%
Wind: NE 19 gust 33 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The more we do, the more we can do; the more busy we are the more leisure we have.”
William Hazlitt
1778 – 1830

Canning Odyssey

Well, I didn’t stop pressure canning with two batches of canned tomatoes, and two batches of Tomato Red Pepper Sauce. A trip to an apple farm, an outing, tempted a purchase of a half bushel of Paulared apples. I don’t like them for eating, they are too tart for me, so applesauce was their destiny. They are an early variety, the varieties I prefer for eating will ripen later in September.

A shout out to Wendy and Bex here! Wendy, when I last made applesauce you suggested using a food mill! Bex, you also recommended a food mill! Great suggestion. My new food mill is definitely the way to go with tomato sauce and applesauce, it is a game changer, with a little help from my friends.

Yesterday I made 9 1/2 litres of applesauce, and pressure canned 9 litres of it. Another 12 hour marathon. The down side of doing this on a weekday is that the low-peak hydro prices aren’t in effect until 7:00 p.m., so that I can’t start the pressure canning until then. That means I have to stay up late at night to complete two canning sessions, as the canner only holds 7 one litre jars at a time. It was a late night last night. The result was 9 litres of tart, delicious applesauce.

The advantage to canning is that it stores without electricity. I love freezing, but our second-hand, beat-up, smallish freezer doesn’t allow for much in the way of bulk storage. Canned goods can sit on the shelves for a few years, needing no equipment or electricity to keep them viable.

If we ever had a prolonged power outage, you would find me in the back yard with my propane camp stove, pressure canning the contents of our freezer. Mostly fruits and vegetables, and a bit of meat. Hopefully that never happens.

So, the only canning left on my itinerary is pressure canning our garden tomatoes, all organic, all non-gmo. As they ripen they are washed and frozen whole. When the growing season is over, and all of the tomatoes have ripened and have been frozen, it will be time to can them.

I can’t think of a better way to wait out a heat wave, which broke this morning. I’ve been canning since last weekend, and it has been hot as hades here. But I’ve indulged myself by working hard in an air-conditioned house, which is even kept cool in the evenings when the pressure canner is sputtering away on the stove!

Worldly

Weather

22°C
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Thursday 6 September 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 21.5°C
Dew point: 17.9°C
Humidity: 80%
Wind: NNE 19 km/h
Humidex: 27
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The first time I see a jogger smiling, I’ll consider it.”
Joan Rivers
1935 –

This reminds me of a trip to Costco… I’ve not once seen a smiling face on a customer in there! The staff however, are extremely pleasant and smile a lot, for which I give them credit, considering the dour lot that shop there.