Experimentation

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!

Worldly

Weather

18°C
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Wednesday 25 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 17.8°C
Dew point: 16.8°C
Humidity: 94%
Wind: S 23 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The cruelest lies are often told in silence.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
1850 – 1894

Nowhere more true than in politics.

Squirrels with Nuts

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:

  • Cherry Tomatoes,
  • Beefsteak Tomatoes,
  • Black Russian Tomatoes,
  • Roma 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
Scraps in the steam juicer, on a hotplate, on the table, on the back porch. Also harvest bowls of Scarlet Runner Beans, Zucchini, Ground Cherries, Tomatoes, Tomatoes.

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.

The Pressure Canner at 10 lbs. pressure, in 35 minutes the canned peppers will be done, the burner turned off, and the wait will begin for the gauge to fall back to zero pressure.
Six 500-ml jars of pressure canned Red Shepherd Peppers, all sealed. These will sit undisturbed until tomorrow morning, when I will remove the rings, wash the jars, write the contents and date on the lids, and carry these babies down to the basement to begin their new life on a dark shelf. I’ve not tried canning peppers before, so it will be a learning experience, and I hope we like them!

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!

Worldly

Weather

22°C
Date: 5:00 PM EDT Sunday 22 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 22.2°C
Dew point: 21.4°C
Humidity: 95%
Wind: S 15 km/h
Humidex: 31
Visibility: 19 km

Quote

“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”
Henry Ford
1863 – 1947



Roasting Peppers

Who knew!

Well I did, really, but still, what a great discovery.

I knew that peppers could be roasted. My friend Joannie is a chef, and I had seen her roasting peppers over a gas burner, decades ago, then it was new information for me. I assumed I needed a gas burner to do it, and never thought about it again, until last week. Last week I bumped into a video that demonstrated roasting peppers in the oven. Well heck, I can do that!

Yesterday I purchased a half bushel of Red Shepherd Peppers, and went to work as soon as I got them home. I decided to roast only two pans of peppers, to see if I could do it, and if I could, to see if we liked them.

We don’t just like them, we LOVE them!

So this morning I am roasting the rest of the peppers. It will take two baking sessions, using four baking sheets. I am placing the peppers on silicone mats on the baking sheets, because the clean up is so very easy.

I got the instructions from a well researched, accountable web site called Healthy Canning. It has good, reliable, safe, tested, information, with specific instructions for roasting peppers here. If you are going to preserve food this is one of the good sites for information. Another is the National Centre for Home Food Preservation, all USDA tested recipes, and USDA recommended techniques. The NCHFP is affiliated with the University of Georgia and the USDA. Canada has very little to offer when it comes to home food preservation information, but the US information is available online, so that is what I follow. I don’t rely on youtube videos for anything but ideas when it comes to home food preservation. I rely on resources that take the consequences of the advice they give as their responsibility. Cooking, well the sky is the limit with creativity there, but not when it comes to food preservation, botulism kills.

I have chosen to freeze the roasted peppers, rather than can them. I freeze them on cookie sheets, on waxed paper, then place wax paper between the frozen peppers and freeze them in heavy plastic bags. It is a time consuming operation, but I anticipate we are going to really enjoy the flavour kick these peppers will provide this winter!

So that is what I do for a good time on a long weekend at the end of the summer. I am also canning a lot. I canned 5 jars of tomato sauce yesterday, and five jars of zucchini relish. The zucchini relish will not last long, as I’ve discovered it gives a real flavour kick to sandwiches, and on meats etc., which is particularly appealing since I don’t use any salt at the table, or in cooking. And I don’t use salty condiments like mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, etc. No no-sodium relish is something I will really appreciate. Today I am also canning more Cherry Bomb Tomatoes, to make two dozen jars for Attila.

Attila is out in the garden. I don’t really know what he is doing out there, but I do know I like it. Every day he brings in bowls of food for me to preserve, and for our dinner. So whatever it is he is spending his time doing out there, it is time well spent. Attila loves his garden. My raised beds get a little bit of attention from him, he waters them for me when he waters the gardens, but all the rest is his playground.

And here we are, the first day of September already. And all of my windows are open. A beautiful day!

Worldly

Weather

20°C
Date: 11:00 AM EDT Sunday 1 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.6 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 19.6°C
Dew point: 13.3°C
Humidity: 67%
Wind: SSE 20 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Martyrdom is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability.”
George Bernard Shaw
1856 – 1950

I think politicians have disproved this.

Moseying Along

When the humidity is high, I am not comfortable.

I spend time in the garden in the early mornings, before the heat of the sun makes for steamy conditions. There is surprisingly little weeding to be done in my raised beds, and I have no trouble at all keeping ahead of unwelcome weeds.

Life is full of small pleasures at the moment.

Canning, and the Garden

Part of this year’s canning activities are intertwined with garden activities. Attila brings in produce from the garden every evening. There is never a lot, all at once, but after a few days there is usually enough to warrant a day of canning. Yesterday I canned 3 500-ml jars of No-Sodium Zucchini Relish, and 3 500-ml jars of Hot Cherry Bomb Tomatoes. The steam canner has been a game changer in my canning life. It sits on the stove almost all the time, at the ready. It will can 7 1-litre jars (quarts) or 7 500-ml jars (pints) at one go, or just one jar. My Steam Canner is the lighter, smaller aluminum model, the stainless steel model cans even more jars at one go. My little steam canner uses just two liters of water, easy enough to carry over, from the sink to the stove, in a large measuring cup.

Hot water bath canners are cheap and effective equipment for home food preservation of high-acid foods. But to fill the pot with water to 2 inches above the jar lids, well, that takes a lot of water! All of my life the quantity of water needed has been a deterrent to canning in small batches. Up until a few years ago, I did not know there were any alternative and equivalent methods. But then I watched a video on YouTube, in which a woman of Amish descent was using an old steam canner, and I was intrigued. It was disappointing to find out it was not a USDA approved method of canning at that time. But then it was officially tested, and approved by the USDA, and as soon as I knew that, I bought the Victorio Steam Canner. My hot water bath canner went to my youngest sister, and it is a great setup for first time canners. Now I can high-acid foods in small batches, every few days, as the produce from the garden accumulates.

The tomatoes are starting to ripen! I am making Tomato Sauce from the Romas, Hot Cherry Bombs from the Cherry Tomatoes, and eating the Beefsteak tomatoes. We have a few other varieties that Attila started from seed, and I look forward to tasting them too.

The pepper plants I planted in my raised bed are finally starting to bear fruit! So far one Red Shepherd pepper has grown to maturity and ripened. We had it in a garden salad last night for dinner, it was the best pepper I have ever tasted in my life! I have my fingers crossed that there will be more, but it doesn’t look to hopeful on the score.

My big garden surprise this year though, is Ground Cherries. I hadn’t even heard of them until I received a gift from Joannie B, a jar of Ginger Ground Cherry Jam. Yum! So we decided to plant them this year and see what they were all about. The plant is pretty, and there are plenty of ground cherries on it. I love them raw, they taste a little like a sweet rhubarb, at least to my palate. We don’t grow much in the way of fruit here, so the Ground Cherry will be a welcome addition to our garden. I’d like to see the whole front yard covered with these plants!

So nothing exciting really here at Mist Cottage, or even new, except the Ground Cherries, and fresh produce every day, and jars stacking up on the shelf. Ho hum, yum!

Worldly

Weather

16°C
Date: 8:00 AM EDT Tuesday 20 August 2019
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 16.2°C
Dew point: 13.1°C
Humidity: 81%
Wind: NW 5 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Nature has been for me, for as long as I remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, a companion.”
Lorraine Anderson

Chocolate Cherry Jelly… not exactly!

Have you ever had someone knock on your door and run away?

Apparently the Conservative party of Canada considers this technique a great way to make friends and influence people. When the candidate knocked on my door, I was in the kitchen. I walked ten feet from the kitchen to the front door, 4 seconds tops, opened it, and there was his back, as he headed off at speed, half way to the road. Obviously our little house was not someplace he wanted to make actual eye contact.

But I caught him, and he smiled, and he suffered through the routine question, “do you have any questions?” Of course I did, and he answered every one of them with a pat statement that didn’t address my question. I let him do that, because really, I knew, and he knew, that he didn’t give one %$#^ what I thought about anything. He ended by asking me who I was going to vote for. Undecided, I said. Then he asked me who Attila would vote for. Undecided, I said. He typed that into his cell phone. If we are lucky, that will mean that there will be no more knocks on my front door from the Conservative party representatives. What a total waste of everyone’s time. If we are not lucky, it could mean that we will be treated with even less consideration if this party comes into power.

Today I had 4 pounds of zucchini from the garden to preserve. They were collected over the last four days, so just as fresh as anything I could purchase from a retail establishment. I decided to make another batch of Organic Low-Sodium Zucchini Relish. I had canned this recipe twice already, but only half batches, because both times I only had 2 pounds of zucchini.

This time I could can a full recipe of the Relish. I made a mistake that cost me some time. When making a half batch, 2 pounds of the zucchini were chopped to perfection in the food processor. I knew better, but took the lazy route and attempted to process 4 pounds of zucchini in the food processor. I should have chopped it in two batches. The result was that some of the zucchini was chopped to mush, and some of the zucchini was almost whole slices. I had to fish the large pieces of zucchini out of the cooking pot, and chop them up by hand. The other change I made to my recipe was to add two tablespoons of Clearjel, which should make the relish less runny. I made 5 1/2 500-ml jars of Relish. I processed them in the Steam Canner, all the jars sealed.
,
There is a little story to tell before I describe my second canning project for the day. Attila and I took a little jaunt to a bulk food supply company, to purchase our wheat berries at a more reasonable price (half price for the same product). While we were there we found other interesting things to buy. We purchased dried beans, popping corn, spices, dried fruit, and a 1-litre bottle of Black Creek Cherry Juice. It was a great little outing for us.

The Cherry Juice was a particularly wonderful find, as it is not available near where we live, at such a reasonable price. So this afternoon I canned 7 250-ml jars of Chocolate Cherry Jelly, but really it is Topping. I deliberately did not cook the “jelly” as long as was needed to reach the gel stage, which left the mixture somewhat runny, a topping. When I used the Sweet Cherries we purchased just a little while ago, I made Chocolate Cherry Jam, and it has become my favourite way to eat chocolate. It is wonderful on vanilla ice cream, and sinfully good on chocolate ice cream.

I’ve been canning in dribs and drabs this spring and summer, a few jars of this and a few jars of that. It adds up, fast. So far I’ve canned over 70 jars of food, and my original 500 ml jars are all full. I’ve had to buy another few boxes of jars! The canning season hasn’t even begun in earnest in my part of the world.

Tonight Attila brought in about 4 quarts of Roma tomatoes, which went directly into the freezer for canning later. When I think I have enough to can 7 1-litre jars, then I’ll process them.

From mid-June until into October our little house is all bustle. Canners, canning pots, jars, canning equipment, juice making equipment, dehydrating equipment, it all takes up lots of space. I think in the past I might have regarded the space here as extremely cluttered. Now it looks resplendent with promise to me, symbols of prosperity everywhere I look.

Attila is taking vacation days from time to time. We have decided that since Tank is in no condition to pull Iris the trailer, trips away are not feasible. So vacation days are used for things like our excursion for wheat berries, visiting the Camp, and gardening, mostly gardening. We haven’t had very good luck when it comes to taking a week vacation, the few we’ve had have been spectacular failures, with unpleasant circumstances that were beyond our control. So the occasional day off is what we will be doing, staycation, gardencation, renocation, shopcation… variety is the spice of life.

I have to say that the flowers in the garden here at Mist Cottage, are a source of joy. From my chair on the porch I see Dianthus, Gladiola, Chamomile, Tomato Blossoms, Echinacea, Nasturtium, Scarlet Runner Beans, and Cosmos, all in full bloom. A riot of colour, haphazardly placed and beautiful.

Worldly

Weather

24°C
Date: 8:00 PM EDT Monday 12 August 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.9 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 23.8°C
Dew point: 18.9°C
Humidity: 74%
Wind: SW 15 km/h
Humidex: 30
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.”
Voltaire
1694 – 1778

Isn’t is wonderful that this is virtually impossible!